Dandelions. The word alone likely brings images of stubborn weeds and fluffy wishes to mind. While the little yellow flowers—and eventual soft white plumes—aren’t technically weeds, they often get classified as such simply for being out of place in a yard full of grass or bed full of specific flowers. Another place dandelions seem out of place? Our diets. Of course, according to dietitians, the bright flowers can actually lead to a world of good for our health (when brewed into tea, that is).
To discover why you might just want to make room for dandelion in your routine, keep reading for 10 little-known benefits of dandelion tea.
Works As a Caffieine-Free Coffee Substitute
Look, we love coffee as much as the next person, but when it comes to the tasty beverage (or any caffeine-riddled drink, for that matter) late in the afternoon or even at night, the effect can be anything but pleasant—especially on our sleep. For that reason, functional medicine registered dietitian and founder of Titgemeier says that dandelion tea is a popular caffeine-free coffee substitute. Oftentimes, Titgemeier says that dandelion is mixed with chicory root to mimic the texture of real coffee. “This is a great option for those who are trying to lower their caffeine consumption but love the taste and texture of coffee,” she says, noting one caveat. “The common dandelion coffee substitutes do typically include barley and rye in the ingredient list but companies report that it is made from the water extracts of barley and rye and testing confirms levels of gluten less than five ppm which is deemed safe for anyone following a strict gluten-free diet.”
Can Boost Cognitive Function
Pitts says that, despite not being caffeinated, dandelion tea is a great option for folks looking for a brain boost to start the day or overcome the common mid-day slump. “Tea made with dandelion flowers also contains lecithin,” she explains. “Lecithin is a rich source of choline which gets converted to acetylcholine in the brain aiding in cognitive function and memory retention.”
Helps Support a Healthy Gut
Brain function isn’t the only thing that dandelion tea helps support. Titgemeier says that dandelion greens are rich in fibers and prebiotics called inulin, which work alongside probiotics to fuel healthy digestive cells.
Loaded With Vitamin A
Speaking of vitamin A, Titgemeier says that dandelion greens are abundant in the nutrient. And, given vitamin A helps to support vision and plays a critical role in immune health, drinking dandelion tea aids in the process. “In just 3.5-ounces of dandelion greens, you will get 14,000 IUs of vitamin A,” she explains. “While you’re consuming a smaller dose in tea form, you are still sipping on a beverage that stems from one of the richest plant-based sources of vitamin A.”
May Support the Liver
Dandelion tea also helps with liver function. According to Titgeimier, drinking an herbal tea that incorporates dandelion root can help to support your body’s ability to remove any unwanted environmental toxins. “Two reasons that it may be able to support your liver function are due to its high levels of chlorophyll and vitamin A,” she explains. “While there isn’t substantial research to support this, dandelion has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to help promote optimal liver function.”
High Concentration of Antioxidants
The entire dandelion plant—greens, roots, flowers, and all—are chock full of vitamins A, C, and K, along with a variety of phytonutrients, Titgemeier shares. “These antioxidants have been shown to help lower inflammation and neutralize free radicals,” she explains. “Sipping on dandelion tea is an easy way to consume an extra boost of antioxidants.”
Pitts adds to this, noting that dandelion tea is also loaded with the antioxidant beta carotene, which helps protect the body from cell damage caused by free radicals. “Free radical damage is connected to premature aging and cancer,” she adds.
Helps With Bloat and Water Retention
Now, don’t be surprised if drinking dandelion tea makes you have to use the bathroom more. According to Pitts, dandelion tea provides a natural diuretic effect by increasing urine output and removing fluid from the body through the kidneys. Since it works to minimize all fluids, Pitts adds that dandelion tea can help with bloating and water weight, too.
Can Provide Mild Constipation Relief
While we’re on the topic of restroom behavior, Pitts says that dandelion tea can also boost better bowel movements. “Dandelion tea promotes bowel regularity and helps to relieve minor digestive issues such as constipation and gas,” she says. “Dandelion increases bile production from the liver and adds water to the digestive system indirectly causing a laxative effect helping with constipation.”
Lowers Glucose Levels
According to a 2016 article published in The Review of Diabetic Studies, dandelion is a “key anti-diabetic plant because of its anti-hyperglycemic, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties.” As a result, dandelion is a promising option for anti-diabetic functional foods, as well as medications. That said, the authors of the article note that more research still needs to be done before it expands beyond traditional medicinal teas.
Supports Bone Health
Last but not least, Pitts says that dandelion tea might be your answer to better bone health. “With age, the skeletal system's bone density decreases as calcium deposits in our bones dissolve,” she explains. “The degenerative bone disease known as osteoporosis does not have a cure.” That said, drinking dandelion tea, which contains bone-supporting calcium and vitamin K, helps to slow the progression of osteoporosis.
A Final Word
While dandelion has myriad benefits, it also has some side effects. Namely, if you’re someone who experiences regular allergies—especially to related plants like ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies—dandelion might not be the best choice for you. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health points out that there is little known about large quantities of dandelion for those who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding.