Healthy Hero with a Bad Rap

 

 

The dawn of summer is one of my very favorite times of year. The weather is warm, the sun is shining and all the plants are alive and thriving. A yearly summer ritual of mine is to scope out a chemical/pesticide-free area, grab a couple bags and my ipod, and head out on a dandelion harvest excursion!

Needless to say, most people think I am crazy. At first glance, any random passerby might think that my hippie-love-child ways had possibly gotten the best of me; I must admit that I rather enjoy the waves of childhood nostalgia that flood over me while I pick through the yellow flowering tops and the small leafy greens. With earthy fingernails and grass-stained jeans, I dig through my bounty like it is pure, found gold. This is about the time my adult mind kicks back into gear. Smiling proudly at the day’s harvest, I take comfort in knowing that the simplicity of my actions will reap a multitude of healthy results.

The Many Benefits of Dandelion Leaf:  Dandelion Leaf (Taraxacum officinale) 

  • Acts as a blood purifying agent, thereby taking the stress off your liver so that it can remove toxins more effectively
  • A mild laxative for constipation symptoms
  • Contains the antioxidant luteolin
  • A natural source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and iron
  • Provides the vitamins A,B,C and D
  • Stimulates urinary function to help flush out toxins (diuretic)
  • Promotes optimal digestive function (stimulates a sluggish digestive system)
  • Supports normal bile production (cholagogue)
  • Stimulates a sluggish gallbladder (aka: if you have a tough time digesting fats, often leading to diarrhea)
  • Nourishes and boosts overall liver (hepatic) and gallbladder performance
  • Helps to maintain normal blood glucose levels by preventing the liver from having to remove excess glucose from the blood. Dandelion Leaf also contains a special sugar called  inulin that promotes the healthy growth of intestinal flora, discouraging the growth of harmful bacteria.

Dandelion Leaf also serves to protect the liver from damage, which is why so many people use the herb to cleanse their liver after drinking excess amounts of alcohol or after eating unhealthy foods. When taking prescription drugs such as antibiotics, Dandelion Leaf may flush them out of your bloodstream at a faster than normal rate; therefore, you should be aware of any potential conflicts (known as contraindications) between this herbal ingredient and medications.

Contraindications of Dandelion Leaf:

  • Consuming it may increase side effects of bipolar medications such as Lithium.
  • It may interfere with the absorption of a class of antibiotics known as quinolones.
  • Some individuals develop allergies to the leaf and therefore should not ingest any part of it.
  • People with endocrine impairment should use caution while taking it, as it may increase urinary function.

How to Incorporate Dandelion Greens into your Diet:

(Try googling edible dandelion greens and you will be amazed with what you come up with!)

I personally LOVE making a fresh salad out of dandelion greens with a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I also enjoy drying out the leaves and grinding them to make a tea, (which one can make out of the root as well, although this has more of a positive effect on the kidneys rather than the liver and gallbladder) which I then use all throughout the year. It’s also possible to make sautéed dandelion greens with garlic and onion, dandelion pesto, dandelion wine… the possibilities are endless!

You can also use the yellow flower tops to easily make a warming muscle rub or a personalized massage oil to ease sore and aching muscles.

Dandelion Greens with Honey Balsamic Dressing

Tips for picking Dandelion Leaves:

-Before you do anything else, make sure that whenever you are harvesting your dandelion greens from has not been previously sprayed with any chemicals or pesticides. This is a sure-fire way to get sick!

– Although edible all season, picking the small, tender leaves in the early spring or late fall will garner you less bitter leaves. If possible, avoid dandelion greens that have already bloomed (without the yellow blossoms).

To Store:

Rinse well, wrap leaves in a damp paper towel and refrigerate. If the towel is kept moist, the greens can usually last up to one week.

To Freeze:

Wash greens thoroughly and cut off woody stems. Blanch (plunge into boiling water) for 2 mins and chill quickly in ice cold water. Drain off excess moisture and package in freezer bags.

 

 

It’s time to put a stop to the massive societal hate-on that we have for dandelions and start bringing back the love! If our liver, gallbaldder, kidneys and blood could speak, they would surely tell us to do so in thanks and appreciation.

 

 

 

 

 

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About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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