According to an ancient Irish legend, a long time ago, at the origin of the world, when human beings had not yet appeared, the gnomes and fairies were free to run in the meadows and woods. But everything changed when the humans arrived. The fairy creatures, to escape man's thirst for conquest, had to seek refuge in the woods, among rocks and bushes. But for the fairies it was different, with their bright clothes they certainly couldn't think of hiding! And here's the magic, the fairies turned into a flower with a strong stem and petals as yellow as the sun. Humans could step on the plants but they would always rise. In this way they could be outdoors all the time, in the meadows, without fear of being discovered. However, the fairies remained free beings, how could they always remain in the same place? No sooner said than done, the magic thought of this too. The beautiful yellow flower gave way to a tuft of white hair that could be carried by the wind. This is the legend of the dandelion. But the fame of the dandelion is not limited to myths and stories, in fact, every part of the plant, both leaves, flowers, stems and roots, is appreciated for its health properties.
Dandelion leaves are harvested before flowering, preferably in gardens and lawns away from sources of pollution. The leaves are a source of potassium, are rich in polyphenols, which are valuable antioxidants useful in fighting free radicals but also in supporting the immune system (Wirngo et al, Rev Diabet Stud, 2016 - Clare et al, J Altern Complement Med, 2009). Not only that, the leaves of the dandelion possess diuretic, antidiabetic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, lower cholesterol and stimulate the work of the liver (Wirngo et al, Rev Diabet Stud, 2016). The leaves can be eaten raw added to salads. As an alternative to using it internally, it is also possible to prepare a herbal tea of leaves to be used as a cosmetic for washing the face. Bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from heat and add a tablespoon of dried leaves or a handful of fresh leaves of dandelion, let it sit for ten minutes, then strain. Once cooled you can use it as a compress, by applying a gauze soaked in tea on the skin, useful against irritation, inflammation, acne but also sunburn since the extracts of dandelion leaves have been shown to protect the skin from UV damage (Yang et al, Oxid Med Cell Longev, 2015).
Dandelion flowers are antioxidants, thus counteracting aging processes and free radical damage, and support the immune system (Hu et al, Phytomedicine, 2005 - Sun et al, Toxins, 2020). Very famous is the dandelion syrup, the recipe given by Maria Treben in her book Health Through God's Pharmacy. In a saucepan, pour a liter of cold water and add four generous handfuls of dandelion flowers. Bring everything slowly to a boil, remove from heat and let it rest overnight. The next day, filter the liquid, taking care to mash the flowers with a spoon. Add 1 kg of brown sugar and half a lemon cut into slices. Put back on very low heat so as to evaporate the liquid without boiling, then remove from the heat, remove the lemon and pour into jars. The syrup can be enjoyed spread on bread.
As suggested by the well-known herbalist Maria Treben (Health Through God's Pharmacy), consuming five to six dandelion stems a day, collected during flowering but taking care to remove the flower, helps the work of the liver, it is useful in case of chronic hepatitis but also diabetes. Not only that, the dandelion stems are tonic for the body, useful in case of asthenia and continuous fatigue but also to counteract rashes, skin itching and gallstones.
Dandelion roots contain, among other substances, carotenoids, mucilage and inulin, which is a type of fiber that helps eliminate pathogens from the gastrointestinal tract and promotes a healthy microbiota. Not only that, dandelion roots also contain phytosterols and other substances with antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory action (Wirngo et al, Rev Diabet Stud, 2016). Finally, recent research has observed that aqueous extracts of dandelion roots also have anticancer properties, since they help induce apoptosis, that is, the programmed death, of diseased cells (Ovadje et al, Oncotarget, 2016). Dandelion root tea is detoxifying, digestive and diuretic. Let a cup of water and a teaspoon of dried roots sit overnight. The next day bring everything to a boil, then remove from the heat and filter. Once warm, sip after breakfast.
Dandelion is generally well tolerated and considered safe. However, it could cause allergic reactions and contact allergies in predisposed people (Wirngo et al, Rev Diabet Stud, 2016). Pay attention and ask your doctor for advice if you are taking diuretics and drugs to keep blood sugar under control as interactions may occur (Rodriguez-Fragoso et al, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol., 2008).