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Herb of the week: Dandelion.

Photo: Taraxacum officinale 21. A short profile:

Latin: Taraxacum officinale. Note, some botanists want to split this up into hundreds of local species, depending on the size and shape of the bract ... however, this plant can self-pollinate, thus creating clones of itself, so counting hundreds of similar dandelions as separate species is to me simply silliness. It's T. off. (I do recognize interesting relatives like the white-flowering Japanese one, and the utterly bractless Japanese one as real dandelion species. But that there'd be hundreds of species in Finland alone? Snigger ...)
Family: Asteraceae, daisy family.
Parts used: Root; Greens; Flowers.
Taste: Root: bitter. Fall-dug root can be almost sweet. Greens: bitter. Flowers: nice, sweet, nutty, vanilla.
4 humors: The bitter parts are dry and cold, the flower could even be moist.


  • The bitter parts: diuretic. Digestive.
  • The flower: perhaps relaxing would be the correct word? It brings joy.

Food uses:

  • You'll find recipes like "Add the washed chopped-up roots (or flower buds) with butter to a frying pan, add some bacon and bread cubes and fry until the bread is crisp." My own experience of this is, the roots are left over when the rest is gone. We did a photo shoot for my wild greens booklet (in Swedish) in 2010, and there, too, the flower buds were left over. So if you want some bacon'n'bread in butter, go ahead, Yum! Just don't add dandelions ... they're bitter. Unless, of course, you have liver problems, in which case you'll simply love dandelion bitters.
  • People with various kinds of hepatitis (A, B, C, D, E, F, G ...) should eat dandelion salads every day, while dandelion leaf is available. They might say "do I have to?" at first, but they''ll soon come to crave their bitter salad.
  • The flower syrup tastes of vanilla and is a bit nutty. Yum! I haven't tried it as a mood lifter, but it sure is tasty on pancakes (if you like sweet things).
  • (Of course, bitters get a lot milder if you mix in something acid, like lemon juice or vinegar.)


  • The fluffballs are cool. Blow awaaay!
  • Dandelion flower wreaths. 'nuff said.
  • The sap will stain any cloth brown. Don't make that wreath in your best summer dress or in your best summer jeans ... they'll be ruined.
  • You can tattoo various designs with the sap, but you'll run out of sap halfway through your design without knowing it, and the tattoo will only show up the following day. So that fancy tattoo is in fact a tad awkward. Luckily, you can just rub it off with a wet rag.
  • Sometimes, I have weeded around the dandelions in my garden and then dug them up in fall (free herbs!), instead of just weeding them out.
  • (I love dandelion flowers in the lawn. The way the flowers hunker down down down everywhere the lawn mover reaches, and grow tall and proud everywhere else? Awesome!)


  • Diuretic. Not for people with low blood pressure, unless they also add salt to their diet.
  • A nice all-round bitter.
  • Christopher Hedley uses dandelion root + yellow dock root (or was it mahonia? I forget) for pretty much any problem requiring liver herbs. I've been taught by Michael Moore (the herbalist); he said that dandelion and burdock are for "hot" liver types (high blood pressure, no allergies whatsoever (gluten and dairy don't count), oily skin, can eat hammers and nails without problems, etc.), where mahonia and yellow dock are for "cold" liver types (low or normal blood pressure, allergies, dry skin, interesting digestive problems, problems digesting fats and proteins, etc.). Go ahead, just mix'n'match to your liking ...
  • I've given dried roots (sliced into 5x5x50 mm bits and then dried), 2-3 a day, to hepatitis folks, to chew on. I've given those same roots to people who work with solvents: hairdressers, car mechanics, painters, alcoholics, aromatherapists etc.
  • Hepatiters and solvent workers would also thrive on dandelion salads. Alas, it's not easy to get them to pick dandy leaf for their salads.
  • For the really lazy, there's coffee substitute. Quite a lot of the substitute coffees contain quite a lot of either dandelion or chicory. I see chicory as a pampered blue-flowered dandelion ... dandy and chicory are this >< close, herbally.
  • The flower essence brings joy.
  • The infused oil of the flowers will relax tense muscles, especially if they're tense from anger, frustration or similar.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Cristina Cromer:
    I find dandelion root nourishing in a way that other bitters are not. I give it to those who are depleted, especially due to digestive or emotional stuff.
    7 February at 12:15
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    That'd be the fall-dug root, not the bitter bitter root of summer, then?
    7 February at 13:21
  • From Cristina Cromer:
    Yes, Henriette: the Autumn root, which is full of sunshine and sugar! But the summer root seems to be nourishing too.
    7 February at 13:39
  • From Bj Bobbi Jo R.:
    I love treating dandelion flowers as if they are morel mushrooms. Like the mushrooms I soak the dandelion flowers in salted water and then rinse. After that I fry them up after dipping them in a batter. They kind of taste like morels too.
    7 February at 13:31
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    Cristina: cool, thanks!
    ‎Bj: salty fritters? That's a new one, I'll try to remember to give it a shot come dandelion time :-)
    7 February at 14:30
  • From Sheila Guarnagia:
    We use dandelion, Pu Gong Ying, in TCM to clear "toxic heat". It has a special affinity for the breast tissue. Very helpful for acute/chronic mastitis in nursing mothers.
    Do you find chicory as effective? I have access to a veritable acre of cichorium ...
    7 February at 14:52
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    Cool, Sheila! Is this the root, and is it processed in any way?
    Yes, chicory root or chicory leaf in salads is about equivalent to dandelion.
    7 February at 14:54
  • From Sheila Guarnagia:
    pu gong ying = whole, dried plant. Not aware if it is processed.
    And thanks for all the information you share!
    7 February at 15:09
  • From Cheryl Fromholzer:
    Has anyone used the milky sap for plantar warts?
    7 February at 17:34
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    Dunno, have you tried to help the kidneys + the liver for plantar warts? (Long ago I tried banana peel on a plantar wart. Didn't work ...)
    7 February at 18:12
  • From Cheryl Fromholzer:
    Yes, most definitely. I haven't had much success with the sap externally but other folks have told me it works for them.
    7 February at 18:20
  • From Leila B.:
    7 February at 23:11
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    That's a great link, Leila! Gotta try some of those ...
    8 February at 19:58
  • From Michael Tierra:
    Dandelion and burdock form the basis for most of my alterative teas. I think dandelion root is extremely effective for cancer as well as burdock root. It substantiates the fact that some of the most commonly occurring herbs like dandelion and plantain are among the most powerful -- especially for detoxification. Stands to reason since these occur on soil that needs regeneration with the long roots of dandelion reaching down to the subsoil to bring up the deep minerals to the surface.
    8 February at 17:17

From the EdibleWild fb group

  • From Wildman Steve Brill:
    I find them very tasty if you use young leaves you get in NY from late fall through early spring, sauté them with spices, then simmer them in a sauce. This gets rid of all the bitterness that otherwise concentrates when the cooked leaves shrink. I like using the leaves sparingly in salads too, and I make fritters and wine with the flowers. I avoid the roots, which are diuretic (if I run into the bushes during a foraging tour, 40 people follow me to see what I'm going to find!) Foraging teacher Mike Krebill cuts out the leaves' midribs, which is too labor-intensive for me.
    7 February at 18:37
  • From Maury Grimm:
    I blanched and froze and dried an over abundance of leaves and have been using them in my green pasta recipe (Spinach pasta)....a good way to sneak healthy greens to kids. Been using a lot of my very delicious Lamb's Quarters that way too....and in pesto.
    7 February at 18:40
  • From Laurie M.:
    Mine aren't incredibly tasty. I like the idea of eating dandelion greens but the reality is I've never reached for seconds.
    7 February at 19:16
  • From Janette C.:
    i eat younger dandelion roots in soups/stews. usually with wild carrot and burdock. they're delicious.
    7 February at 20:53
  • From Bill Lauterwasser:
    I never understood the people who walked around wearing the I Eat Raw Garlic pins until I started eating (and liking) raw Dandelion greens. Dandelions are my staple green, followed by Plantain and Blue Violet greens. When i let the grass in my yard grow tall, one of the benefits is the dandelions would grow large as well, so i would only have to pick 2 to 3 large leaves at a time rather than a handful of small ones (to eat raw). Steve i'll take a look at your dandelion recipes, maybe a couple un-raw ones will catch my eye. It won't matter neither to me bc i'm vegan. I only have 2 questions about eating Dandelions, 1) is too much Dandelion "bitter" bad for your body/health? I read Henriette's article about it and low blood pressure... Does anyone know of anything else? And 2) does anyone eat/cook the flower stems?
    8 February at 02:18
  • From Laurie M.:
    I've made similar recipes with dandelions I'm a pretty inventive cook (translation: I don't follow recipes) and worked professionally as a cook. But dandelion greens always taste unpleasantly bitter to me, a raw bitey bitter. And I'm more sensitive to bitter flavors than other people and don't take seconds of a number of other bitter foods either, including other bitter greens and grapefruit. Do I eat dandelions? Yes. But it's not a favorite food. Too bad because it's a favorite plant of mine.
    8 February at 03:51
  • From Henriette Kress:
    ‎Bill: if you eat strong bitters without eating food within the next 20-30 minutes you might get a blood sugar drop. Also, some latex sensitive people can't take dandelion. And the low blood sugar people get even lower bp with dandy. Other than that, shrug ... eat as much as you ever like.
    Ed: if you can't find dandelion greens, go for endives; they're dandelion greens, for all practical purposes.
    8 February at 08:49
  • From Vita Da Vivere:
    We live in Italy and here we harvest them regularly. We think they are DELICIOUS!!!! and the small young plants we clean well and eat raw in a salad. They are SO full of natural goodness and DELICIOUS!!!!!!
    8 February at 15:28
  • From Travis B.:
    your taste will adapt to the food you eat, bitter becomes enjoyable
    11 February at 02:55
  • From Maury G.:
    I was thinking that, people I introduce to wild (especially) greens have a hard time, I think, not only with taste (there is more!) but texture
    11 February at 16:02
  • From Prue B.:
    I have been living mostly on weeds and wild food now for 12 months and I find it hard to eat "normal greens" now, they are how can I put it boring and lacking in fiber and taste, I don't feel as nourished after eating them if that makes sense......
    12 February at 01:34

From elsewhere on fb

  • From Athena Jade D.:
    Do not forget their pollen makes excellent vandalism on movie theater walls :)
    7 February at 19:38
  • From Henriette Kress:
    Athena: that's a new one: how do you do that and what's the result look like? Thanks!
    8 February at 07:00
  • From Robin Klanott:
    Henriette, as kids we called it dandelion butter. We used to tease each other and rub the flower on a person and it would turn their skin yellow! Hard as ever to get off! The next generation one kid in the group of youngsters decided to quantum leap this idea and actually paint with dandelions. :) Mischievous. She had everyone fooled that it was real paint! Caused a bit of an uproar with some adults having no sense of humor.
    9 February at 00:32
  • From Athena Jade D.:
    You can draw with the pollen you just take the flower and well draw with's really not that complicated. Also we were spreading good things! We drew elephants on the black top then grew tired of that and drew on the wall peace signs and peace on earth..that's not too shabby and it was vandalism with a replenishable plant :)
    9 February at 01:37

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Renee
    Date: 2012 02 07 - 16:18:54 +0200

    In Texas we have the 'false dandelion'. It looks just like a dande, same shaped leaves, same seed head puff ball, but it is Pyrrhopappus carolinianus

    I asked if it could be used like a common dande but was told by an herbalist here that it can't because it's not a real dandelion.

  • From Sherry B.
    Date: 2012 02 07 - 16:30:14 +0200

    In Wisconsin we have tons of dandelion - I pick the spring greens and add to salads and also mulch it up to feed to my dogs - they love them. I have made dandelion fritters and dandelion wine and syrup and jelly - yum! I brew the root with my coffee all the time - love the taste of the root. Dandy's are one of my favorite herbs!

  • From Jennifer S.
    Date: 2012 02 07 - 16:46:21 +0200

    Dandelion reproductive biology is much more interesting than just self-pollination. Some Taraxacum species are, in fact, gametophytic apomictics - they reproduce without requiring pollination (the process is often called parthenogenesis). Most often, the species that are apomictic are also polyploid (hybrid species, most likely). In a manner of speaking, these species are clonal organisms. For some dense reading on this topic, check out: this pdf and this pdf -- Though, dandelions are not the only genus with this feature - about 400 other plant species share this ability. From a population viewpoint, apomixis creates tension between sex and … well… no sex. If a species relies on apomixis exclusively, then it also then relies exclusively on somatic mutations (mutations in tissues other than those that give rise to pollen and ovules) to mix up its genome. Sex with pollen and ovules in plants is a much faster way of mixing up the genome than through apomixis but sex is energetically expensive and, in some case, risky for the plant. So… both the literature is rich with studies on the sexuality / asexuality aspect of dandelions from various viewpoints: developmental genetics, ecology, population biology…

    Last summer while weeding out my garden, I was trying to uproot a rather large dandelion with a lot of small flower buds nestled within the basal rosette. I had this overwhelming sensation that a woman who wanted to become pregnant, but couldn't, needed to embrace dandelion.

    As for uses, we had a patient who was dealing with anger issues from a very damaging work-related injury in her lower back. At one visit last spring (2 years after the injury), she showed some liver tenderness on palpation and made reference to this anger. So, we made dandelion root tincture and a separate dandelion flower essence. We used the root tincture as a base for a root essence, then we combined a few drops of the root essence with the flower essence to create an almost-whole-plant essence. The patient felt major improvement -- dissipation of anger, most notably -- even though we didn't give details about why we were giving her the essence and even though we instructed her to use just 4 drops a day.

  • From Henriette Kress.
    Date: 2012 02 07 - 18:15:31 +0200

    > How do you make syrup from the flowers?

    Cover fresh flowers with water, bring to a boil, let simmer for 10-15 minutes, strain. Measure out 200 ml of your dandy liquid, add 420 g sugar, let the sugar melt on low-low heat until it's all dissolved (no crystals left). Pour into jars, label. (You get about 500 ml syrup from this amount).

    If you lose too much water during the sugar dissolving the syrup will crystallize pdq (pretty damn quick), so keep a lid on if you used a wide-bottomed pan. If you don't add enough sugar your syrup can ferment or grow mold, pdq, too.

    Or use any of the multitudes of herbal syrup recipes out there.

  • From Cathy in Oregon.
    Date: 2012 02 07 - 18:17:20 +0200

    I was reminded again this last week of the power of engaging Dandelion in conversation before harvesting her. I was pulling weeds to make room for some of the daffodils that are coming up now, and there were a few dandelions in the flower bed that looked tasty to me. I pulled at a couple -- no luck. "Wow... stubborn girls, you are." Then I thought of how rude and selfish I was being. I looked at the whole bed and admired all of it -- weeds and all. Then I told the dandelions that I would like to use their good energy in a tea. If anyone wanted to come along, I would love it.

    Without an ounce of effort, I pulled up a dandelion with a 2-foot long root system.

    I love this plant so much. Like you, Henriette, I love how the lawn looks when it's covered in dandelions. When my mother-in-law complains too long about my "weedy lawn," I serve her dandelion salads and frittatas and more. "What is this?" she asks. "Oh, they're dandelions, Loreen!" (and the yellow parts of the flowers look so pretty in the frittata, too!)

    Many people sauté dandelion greens in bacon and balsamic vinegar in order to work with the bitter flavors in the greens. I don't eat very much meat and have found that miso (any kind) and garlic sautéed with the greens creates a similarly satisfying umami flavor.

  • From Christophe Bernard
    Date: 2012 02 07 - 21:56:21 +0200

    The way we eat dandelion greens here (south of france) during the winter season is with lots of vinegar, fresh garlic and crushed anchovies. The very salted (anchovy) and very acidic (vinegar) helps a lot to deal with the bitterness. And garlic is just pure bonus. But I'm french so very biased with my garlic.

    I have also been taught by my grandma to always keep a bit of the root when I cut my dandelion greens. It adds extra bitterness and can be pretty harsh. But it does bring a pretty good cleansing effect. The rest of the root will regrow.

  • From Miriam
    Date: 2012 02 08 - 16:19:16 +0200

    Tincture of dandelion leaves and root is the best diuretic I know. But I love dandelion best as beer, again with any mix of leaves and roots. I no longer live where dandelions grow, but when I did (north of Israel, taraxacum syriaca), I had a bucket of dandelion beer fizzing away in a corner of my kitchen all the spring long.

    I have successfully grown dandelions in windowboxes, but more for the fun of it than for utility. There might be 4 or 5 dandelions per box. I cull some leaves and cook with the flowers, but to get enough to make a good, solid tincture I must travel up north and seek out the places where I know they grow.

  • From Chris H.
    Date: 2012 02 18 - 04:56:18 +0200

    I treasure Dandelion flower fritters each spring (and for as long as I can coax flowers!). My husband was a skeptic until he had a bite one year -- now he is as entranced as I am with how incredible the slightly bitter flowers taste when set off by the egg mixture. (and I throw in the whole flower, green included).
    Yes, we eat the leaves and I make tinctures and tonics and all manner of dandelion celebrations.
    It is officially "spring" for me though when I have my first dandelion flower fritter.

Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments!

Dandelion is in my book, Practical Herbs; the entry there is a tad different, though, with thorough recipes and so on.

Also see Yellow summer flowers: Dandelion - Dandelion fluffballs - Hot and cold liver.