It's time for salads enriched with dandelion leaves and … lots of health! In fact, this vegetable, which is easily available even in your own garden, is packed with mineral salts, vitamins and antioxidants and is capable of protecting the heart and kidneys, as emerges from two very recent studies, which we will discuss today. But first let's see the general properties of the dandelion.
Dandelion, what it is and properties
Fields, meadows and gardens are being covered with yellow flowers with thick petals, the flowers of the dandelion, scientific name Taraxacum officinale. But the dandelion is not only pleasant to admire. Its leaves can be added to salads and thus enrich our diet with precious health-promoting substances. In fact, dandelion leaves bring antioxidant substances, such as apigenin, luteolin and chlorogenic acid, but also beta carotene, even more than carrots. Not only that, dandelion brings phytosterols, which are characterized by an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and hypoglycemic action, vitamins, such as A, C, E, K and B, minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron and above all potassium, which confers a diuretic action. Chicoric acid, present in all parts of the dandelion, but especially in its leaves, is antidiabetic.
Dandelion for heart health
Studies have shown that dandelion leaves protect the heart and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These studies have been collected, compared and analysed by a very interesting review, which appeared in the journal Nutrients (Olas et al, Nutrients, 2022). Dandelion leaves, as emerges from research, thanks to their content in chicoric acid and other antioxidants, such as luteolin, counteract the formation of thrombi. Not only that, the high potassium intake helps keep blood pressure under control. In addition to these properties, the intake of dandelion leaves allowed, in four weeks, to reduce the values of bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Chicoric acid is considered the active ingredient behind this beneficial effect.
Dandelion for kidney health
Recent scientific research, conducted in the laboratory on a population of mice and appeared in the journal Dose Response (Badr et al, Dose Response, 2019), showed that taking extracts from dandelion leaves is able to protect kidneys damaged by nephrotoxic drugs. It is believed that this action is due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of dandelion leaves, capable of counteracting the increase in free radicals induced by medicines. Not only that, dandelion leaves have been shown to protect kidney cells from apoptosis, which is the programmed death induced, in this case, by the intake of drugs toxic to the kidneys.
Dandelion, intake and warnings
Dandelion leaves can be collected directly from lawns and gardens. The leaves should be harvested before the flower opens, so that they can show all their properties. If you harvest dandelion leaves not in your garden or balcony but in fields or meadows, make sure you collect them from plants that are not exposed to pollution or pesticides. You can add dandelion leaves to your salads, 4 to 10 grams per day. Dandelion, if consumed in moderation and without excesses, is generally considered safe. However, be careful in case of acute gastroenteritis and acid reflux. In fact, the bitter character of dandelions can worsen these conditions (Kania-Dobrowolska, Foods, 2022). Not only that, dandelion can interact with some drugs, such as blood thinners, hypoglycemics and some antibiotics, so ask your doctor for advice if you are taking any medicines to make sure there are no interactions.