Common Dandelion – Taraxacum Officinale: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the #1 Gateway Herb to Foraging Wild Plants

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In Chippewa, dado’cabodji’bik meaning dadocabo (liquid or milk) odjibik (root), common dandelion is a popular edible and medicinal herb. Dandelion is easily identifiable and is often the gateway plant to exploring foraging and herbal medicine.

Dandelion’s folk names include but are not limited to blowball, lion’s tooth (leaf appearance), priest’s crown, milk witch, and wild endive. Medicinal folk names include piss-a-bed (diuretic effect) and canker-wort. Among many folk magic uses an infusion of dandelion is said to promote psychic powers.

Edible Uses of Common Dandelion

Common Dandelion - Taraxacum Officinale
Common Dandelion – Taraxacum Officinale

The most obvious way to eat dandelion is as a nutritious leafy green addition to a raw salad. You’ve probably had it in salad mixes from the grocery store. The leaves are the least bitter before the plant is flowering.

My favorite way to eat dandelions is to batter them in pancake mix and fry them up. That potent taste you might remember from childhood (um, anyone pop one in their mouth as a kid, or is it just me?) is moderated a lot by cooking the flowers.

Here’s a list of edible ideas:

  • Dandelion wine (flowers)
  • Dandelion jelly (flowers)
  • Salad greens
  • Young buds prepared like capers
  • Fritters (battered flowers)
  • Used like carrots in stews et al or for pickling (tender roots)
  • Coffee substitute that tastes nothing like coffee (dried, powdered roots, harvested late fall; oft combined with roasted acorn and roasted rye in equal pts)
  • Tea (combines well with chicory or burdock root)

Rich in Vitamins A, B, C, Riboflavin and inulin, a dietary fiber that may improve gut health

Medicinal Uses of Common Dandelion

Dandelion is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Urinary

Medicinal tags include Alterative, Bitters, Circulatory, Cool and Moist, Digestive, Diuretic, Laxative, Lithotriptic, Lymphatic, and Urinary. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the rhizome and roots as a bitter tonic and mild laxative. I often use the roots for tea or add a tincture of dandelion root to my coffee to support my liver. The fresh juice is more potent.

Dandelion tea has been a popular cure for rheumatism and gout, used over the course of a couple months to release uric acid buildup from the body. And as a diuretic, the leaf also shows up in tea mixes for fluid retention. However, if your cleansing organs (liver, gallbladder, kidneys) are not healthy, consult your doctor before taking dandelion. Generally it should be avoided in that case.

You can also try using dandelion’s white milk/sap repeatedly on a wart to get rid of it.

Alternative Uses of the “Milk Witch”

It’s a helpful addition to compost. Here’s an article on using herbs incl. dandelion in compost @

The flower can be used to produce a yellow dye and the roots make a magenta dye.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails on Dandelions

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails on Dandelions

Growing Taraxacum Officinale

In the off chance your yard isn’t already filled with them – they’re easy to grow! The seeds can be sown directly in the fall for early-spring greens, or about 6 weeks before the last frost in Spring. Another option is winter sowing. While they’ll grow in poor soil, moist and rich alkaline soil is favored, with full sun. They also do well in raised beds and containers. Since dandelions aren’t native here, growing them same as lettuce is probably the best option. The wild real estate in your lawn can go to planting native plants, the real power house action for bees!

Despite the online buzz about dandelions being for the bees, they are a low quality and finicky nutrition source for them here. Willows and red maples are our first spring nectar sources for bees, followed quickly by many native spring flowers. It’s an easy step from leaving the dandelions to joining a native plant gardening group – then you’ll be making huge strides for local pollinators.

There are a handful of native dandelions you can browse on iNat – the ones without the pink IN/Introduced label. Rare finds, with lots of hybridization!


It’s a diuretic.

Some people are allergic to the milky latex of dandelion.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn’s Sourcebook Series) (Cunningham’s Encyclopedia Series)

Native Plants, Native Healing: Traditional Muskagee Way

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Forest Plants of Central Ontario

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