- Summer, August in particular, is traditionally a time for excesses.
- During the holidays, we tend to overeat and drink, and this can take its toll on the body, particularly on the liver, gallbladder and kidneys.
- This is why this month we bring you one of the most beneficial plants when it comes to detoxing the body: dandelion.
- Read on to learn more about its benefits and ways of consumption.
Also known as puff ball, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) belongs to the family Asteraceae, and despite being believed to have originated in Europe, nowadays it grows along paths and in meadows all over the world.
Considered by many to be a weed because it grows wild on roadsides and often also in gardens, the plant is really easy to identify thanks to is distinctive morphology:
Leaves: Dark green and serrated, the leaves grow virtually from the roots. This is because the stem is very short - almost inexistent - the plant falling into the category of acaule.
Flowers: The flowers are yellow and easily recognisable.
Fruit: This is the part of the plant that usually comes to mind when talking about dandelion; a ball-shaped cypsela containing feathery bristles that are dispersed by the wind.
Therapeutic uses of dandelion
- Detoxification: Dandelion is an excellent body cleanser that promotes the elimination of toxins accumulated through an unhealthy lifestyle - poor diet, physical inactivity and the like. Containing vitamin A, B and C, folic acid, iron and tannins, it is particularly indicated in cases of hypertension, gout and skin problems.
- Diuresis: The diuretic effect of dandelion further contributes to the elimination of toxins. You can use the plant to detoxify your body with the change of seasons or after a period of overindulgence. Also, as it helps with fluid retention, it mitigates the effects of alcohol.
- Liver protection: Dandelion helps protect the liver and the gallbladder by naturally stimulating their functions. The effects of stress, overindulgence and certain diseases can overload the liver, affecting not only physical but also emotional health. According to traditional Chinese medicine, an unhealthy liver can lead to irritability, stress and depression -a particularly stressful period can take its toll on the liver, which, not being in the best of shapes, can in turn increase anxiety levels leading to a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. This is why the protective effect of dandelion greatly contributes to a healthy liver, being particularly helpful in cases of fatty liver and hepatitis.
- Healthy functioning kidneys: Dandelion helps prevent cystitis and urethritis.
- Appetite stimulation: Dandelion stimulates the secretion of bile promoting good digestion. Plus, it is a perfect remedy for loss of appetite.
- Healthy skin: Besides promoting wound healing, dandelion can help with treating acne, urticaria and psoriasis.
- Source of iron: Dandelion is rich in iron, which is essential for fighting anaemia.
- Improved blood flow: The soothing properties of dandelion can be used to treat limb circulatory problems, particularly spider veins and haemorrhoids.
How to consume dandelion
There are many ways in which you can benefit from the therapeutic effects of the plant:
- Tea: Particularly suited for detoxifying processes, dandelion is generally consumed as tea. You just have to boil the leaves and the roots or purchase the ready-to-use bags in a herbal shop. The recommended dose is up to three cups a day for one to three months depending on your needs.
- Extracts: Extracts contain a higher concentration of the active ingredient and can also be purchased in herbal shops. Just dilute the extract in water and have regular sips throughout the day.
- As an ingredient: Dandelion leaves are perfectly edible, so they can be added to salads, omelettes and the like. They can be a bit bitter when tasted alone, though, so we recommend that you mix them with other leaves such as basil, rocket and corn salad, which will add a delicious touch to your dishes.
- As a coffee substitute: The roasted and ground roots of dandelion can be used as a healthy alternative to coffee, as it contains neither caffeine nor other stimulants. Usually marketed under the name of chicory coffee, it is the perfect substitute for those who are not willing to give up their favourite flavour - chicory tastes very similar to coffee - but need to cut down on their intake to avoid side effects such as tremor, sleep disturbances, headaches and dizziness. Plus, chicory coffee is rich in inulin, a prebiotic fibre that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
- Poultices: The crushed leaves of dandelion have a soothing effect on a number of skink conditions. Apply it directly on the affected area and leave it on for 30 minutes.
- Baths: You can use a decoction of the leaves to combat problems associated with poor circulation - i.e. spider veins and haemorrhoids.
Contraindications of dandelion
No matter how beneficial, the use of dandelion is not indicated in the following circumstances:
- Allergy: Some people may have allergic reactions to the plant.
- Gallstones: Despite it helps detoxify the liver and gallbladder, dandelion may cause episodes of biliary colic in people suffering from gallstones.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Dandelion should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.
- Concomitant use: This is something that needs to be considered as the diuretic effect of dandelion may interfere with the absorption of certain drugs.