Dandelion is a flowering plant and a weed that grows in many parts of the world. Its greens have been often used in Kashmir as a cusine particularly for lactating mothers in olden times. According to some ethanobotanists, the use of dandelion in medicine comes from 10th century by Arab physicians. It is known for having medicinal properties and has been used to treat myriad ailments including liver, digestive disorders, appetite stimulant and as laxative.
All parts of dandelion are useful in its own way, let it be root, flower, stem or greensand are most vitamin rich packs. Cultivated dandelion greens are a bit larger than their foraged counterparts.The greens are little bitter by nature, but smaller the leaf mild and tender is the flavour, best is to consume neither bigger nor smaller but medium leaves. Dandelion greens are packed with nutrients and have diuretic properties. It is a richest source of provitamin A, beta carotene and vitamin B9, besides all these dandelion greens are a source of vitamin C, iron, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, B2 and a high source of calcium with very little protein content.
The root of the dandelion is rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which is a soluble fibre that supports growth and maintenance of healthy bacterial flora in intestinal tract. As rich in beta carotene, which is a natural antioxidant, dandelion provides strong protection against cellular damage and oxidative stress. It’s also rich in some polyphenols having its highest concentration in the flowers that help in prevention of aging, certain diseases and reduces inflammation. It’s also a good source of bio active compounds i.e.Chicoric and chlorogenic acid, which help in reducing sugar levels, these compounds improve insulin secretion from pancreas and simultaneously improve absorption of glucose (sugar) in the muscle tissue.
Chicoric and chlorogenic acid also limits the digestion of starchy carbohydrate food, which is also another factor for increasing its potential ability to reduce blood sugars.In Russia, China, Turkey and Mexico dandelion was used for the treatment of diabetes, blisters, spleen, liver and gallbladder issues. It’s used as skin toner, circulation tonic, blood tonic and digestive tonic.
Dandelion has one more benefit, it helps in detoxifying certain organs, as it is having diuretic effect on the body. In western medicine, diuretic medications are used to rid the body of excess fluids, which in turn lower the blood pressure. Also, dandelion contains good amounts of potassium which also makes it effective in lowering of blood pressure.Dandelion has been used in traditional herbal medicine to treat constipation and other symptoms of impaired digestion, as it is a source of prebiotic fiber inulin. Inulin helps to reduce constipation and increase intestinal, movement
. Dandelion has ability to fight infection because of its antimicrobial and antiviral properties.Some studies in 2014, found that dandelions help limit the growth of hepatitis B in both human and animal cells in test tubes.A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2010)stated that a dandelion root extract experiencedasignificant slowing in the progression of liver scarring (fibrosis), the extract was able to inactivate the primary cells involved in fibrosis, called hepatic stellate cells and lifted the oxidative stress on the liver, allowing the liver to heal and slowly regenerate. Some researches also state that it has a controlling effect on pancreatic and prostate cancer. A cup of raw dandelion provides 279 micrograms of retinoid activity, the recommended dietary allowance is 700- 900 gms.
Dandelion flower extracts help to reduce skin damage, and prevent aging of skin because of its characteristic that it helps in production of new skin cells. In 2015, a study on skin cells showed dandelion could reduce the impact of one type of damaging UV light.
Last but not least dandelion greens are beneficial for the healthy bones because of two major factors one; it is a good source of calcium and vitamin K and the other is it promotes healthy gut bacteria which supports healthy bones through improved digestion is being done.More study and researches are being done regarding the medicinal properties and utilization of dandelion. The following nutrition information about dandelion green is as per one cup raw dandelion greens (100g). (USDA)
The author is an Associate Professor at Division of FST, SKUAST-K, Shalimar and can be reached at [email protected]