It may be the arch nemesis of a yard-savvy homeowner, but dandelions aren’t without their redeeming qualities. As a matter of fact, these “weeds” are commonly used in folk medicine, and have been for quite some time.
When people talk about dandelion tea, they are largely talking about one of two different beverages: an infusion made of the plant’s leaves, or one made of roasted dandelion roots. Both are considered safe (so long as you haven’t sprayed your yard with herbicides or pesticides) and are used for a variety of purposes.
1. It Reduces Water Weight
If you’re feeling bloated, dandelion tea could provide relief because it acts as a diuretic and increases urine output. One study showed an increased urine output after two 1-cup servings of dandelion tea made from the leaves of the plant.
2. It Could Promote Liver Health
Dandelion root has long been held as a “liver tonic” in folk medicine. Preliminary studies suggest this is due, in part, to its ability to increase the flow of bile. While concrete findings on how this ultimately affects liver health are hard to come by, naturopaths believe it means that dandelion root tea could help detoxify the liver, help with skin and eye problems, and relieve symptoms of liver disease.
3. It Can Act As a Natural Coffee Substitute
You may be able to find this product of pre-prepared dandelion root at your local health food stores, but you can also harvest and make it from your own non-insecticide-treated, lawn-variety dandelions. The roots of young dandelion plants are roasted to a dark brown color. Then, after steeping in hot water and straining, it can be enjoyed as a coffee substitute.
4. Similarities Between Dandelion and a Weight Loss Drug?
A recent Korean study suggests that dandelion could have similar effects on the body as the weight loss drug Orlistat, which works by inhibiting pancreatic lipase, an enzyme released during digestion to break down fat. Testing the impact of dandelion extract in mice revealed similar results, prompting researchers to recommend further study on the possible anti-obesity effects of dandelion.
5. Dandelion Tea May Soothe Digestive Ailments
Dandelion root tea can have many positive effects on your digestive system, although much of the evidence is anecdotal. It has historically been used to improve appetite, soothe minor digestive ailments, and possibly relieve constipation.
6. It Could Have Future Anti-Cancer Applications
Recently, dandelion root has been studied for its cancer-fighting potential, and so far the results appear promising. A 2011 Canadian study showed that dandelion root extract induces cell death in melanoma cells without impacting non-cancerous cells, while another showed that it does the same to pancreatic cancer cells. While the anti-cancer effects of dandelion tea haven’t been tested, the potential is positive.
7. It May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Paired with another herb, uva ursi, dandelion roots and leaves may help prevent urinary tract infections. It’s believed this combination works because of anti-bacterial compounds in uva ursi, and the increased urination associated with dandelion.
How to Make It
Perhaps one of the most important facts about dandelion tea is that it’s easy to find and make. Just make sure the plants have not been treated with any chemicals before harvesting them. Also, harvest the plants when they are young, preferably. After cleaning and preparing the plant, pour hot water over the top of greens or roasted and ground roots, steep, strain, and enjoy!