Harvesting and Using Dandelion Roots

Harvesting and Using Dandelion Roots - The best time to dig dandelion roots, preserving dandelion roots, dandelion root home remedies.

When Should I Harvest Dandelion Roots?

Dandelion roots are best harvested from late fall through early spring, when the plant is dormant and has stored up energy in the root.  For medicinal use, most sources say fall harvest is best.   This is because the levels of inulin (insoluble fiber) are higher and the fructose levels are lower.

The freezing of winter converts the inulin to fructose, which makes spring roots more palatable for eating.  Spring roots will be less bitter and chewy – just make sure you dig them before the plants start to blossom. Spring roots are also higher in taraxacin, which stimulates bile production.

What’s the Best Way to harvest Dandelion Roots?

To dig roots, use a dandelion digger or a sturdy fork.  You want to break/damage the root as little as possible so you don’t lose much sap, which is where the medicinal properties lie.  Deep, rich soil will produce the thickest, easiest to harvest roots.  I always let a few dandelions go in the garden, as they are great for reaching deep into the soil to bring up nutrients.  Make sure to harvest from areas that have not been sprayed/treated with anything noxious.  Select large, vigorous plants – small, spindly plants will have small roots that are not really worth harvesting.  One session of garden digging produced the root in the photo at the top of the post.

How should I preserve dandelion roots?

Dandelion roots can be used fresh for cooking and medicine.  For long term storage, drying works best.   Roots should be well scrubbed before cutting.  Thick roots should be sliced lengthwise into strips of uniform thickness to decrease drying time and encourage uniform drying.

slicing dandelion roots

Preparing dandelion roots for drying

Use a commercial dehydrator to dry the roots at 95 degrees F  until brittle.  Alternatively, spread on a screen and place in a cool, dry location with good air flow, and dry for 3 to 14 days (until brittle).  Dried roots will keep for about a year.

dehydrating dandelion roots

Dandelion root in the dehydrator

How do I Use Dandelion Root?

To extract the medicinal compounds for the roots, they must be decocted or tinctured. To make a tincture, place dandelion root in a jar and cover with 80 proof (40%) vodka.  Cover tightly and allow to steep 4-6 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain out plant material and store in a dark glass bottle.  Label and date.  (Susun Weed has a lovely post listing a variety of tincture options and their uses at Be Your Own Herbal Expert – Part 4.)

To make a decoction, place one ounce of dried roots or two ounces fresh roots (by weight) in a pan with one pint of water.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain and compost the spent roots.  (From Dandelion Medicine.)   Root decoctions can be used to make simple healing teas.

*Note: Dandelion root should not be used if you have irritable stomach or bowel, or if you have an acute inflammation. (source)

Dandelion root is well known as a detoxifying agent, but has also been used to treat everything from arthritis to hangovers.

The University of Maryland Medical Center states:

Traditionally, dandelion has been used a diuretic, to increase the amount of urine the body produces in order to get rid of excess fluid. It has been used for many conditions where a diuretic might help, such as liver problems and high blood pressure. However, there is no good research on using dandelion as a diuretic in people.

Fresh or dried dandelion herb is also used as a mild appetite stimulant and to improve upset stomach. The root of the dandelion plant may act as a mild laxative and has been used to improve digestion. There is some very preliminary research that suggests dandelion may help improve liver and gallbladder function, but the study was not well designed.

Some preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL, “good,” cholesterol in diabetic mice. But not all the animal studies have found a positive effect on blood sugar. Human studies are needed to see if dandelion would work in people.

A few animal studies also suggest that dandelion might help fight inflammation.

To make a strong herbal infusion tea, use 1/2 ounce by weight of dried leaves or one ounce by weight of fresh leaves per cup of water.  Place the ingredients in a glass canning jar.  Cover with freshly boiled water.  Put the lid on and steep overnight.  Strain and compost solids.  For medicinal purposes, drink 3-4 cups per day.  Alternatively, use a French press, or steep (covered) for at least 20 minutes before straining.

Here are two recipes from Dandelion Medicine:

I’m-Sick-of-Cellulite Tea

Help your body metabolize fats and improve elimination of wastes with these cleansing herbs.

Infuse

  • 1 part dandelion leaf
  • 1 part nettle (Urtica dioica)leaf

Decoct

  • 1 part dandelion root
  • 1 part burdock (Arctium lappa) root

Decongestant Tea

This tea helps the body to clear phlegm and open the lungs and sinuses.

Infuse

  • 1 part dandelion leaf
  • 1 part nettle (Urtica dioica)leaf
  • 1 part thyme (thymus vulgaris) herb

Decoct

  • 1 part dandelion root

I hope you’ll give this humble weed a second look.  It was the featured plant of Weeder Weeder #17.

Don’t have time to dig or a clean spot to harvest from?

bcart Mountain Rose Herbs stocks many of the herbs and plants featured on Wildcrafting Wednesday.  They also carry an assortment of bottles, droppers and other supplies – everything you need to make your own herbal remedies.  If you choose to purchase through my site, I receive a small affiliate payment.  Thank you!

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com
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Comments

  1. says

    I love the post on dandelions. This spring, once the young leaves and first flowers were picked, I just let the plants get mowed with the rest of the lawn. We don’t have a specific spot for them, per se. Keeping the uses in mind, I am going to leave a patch for fall harvest, too. Thank you for sharing these tips and for hosting this link-up!

  2. Beth Altman says

    I love reading everything on your site! Could you please tell me the difference in infuse and decoct? I’m interested in trying those for decongestion and cellulite tea…. but am not familiar with the terminology, so I’m not sure how to go about it.

    • says

      Beth, I’ve highlighted the start of the decoction and infusion instructions in the post. A decoction requires boiling, and is used for tougher materials such as roots, whereas an infusion uses boiling water poured over the material (basically tea).

  3. Jean-Guy Levesque says

    I love reading about ways to supplement food with wild plants….. I am encouraging my scouting friends to try wild plants as a survival plan… I enjoyed your review and will keep looking into bettering my knowledge on the subject… I already eat dandalion leafs in salads….they are very tasty …. Keep up the great reviews…..

  4. Rachel says

    I’m hoping to dig a few fresh roots here as soon as the first hard frost comes through. Fresh works best for tinctures, according to Susun Weed. She (and most other herbalists I’ve read info from) suggest 80-100 proof vodka or alcohol. 40 proof is only 20% alcohol, not enough to draw out the medicinal properties.

  5. Rachelle says

    I am thinking of investing in another dehydrator and am wondering what brand is yours, where you got it and what ‘extra’ pieces did you purchase with it, and most importantly given the chance what one would you purchase? Same one or a different one? (Right now we are doing apples with cinnamon and the whole house smells like apple pie!) Thanks for your time in doing all you do. Love the web site and ‘like’ you on FB!

    • says

      The one in the photos is an American Harvest Snackmaster, and it has been a good workhorse for many years. I bought extra trays, and mesh inserts, and extra fruit leather trays. I bought it at the local hardware store (FleetFarm).

      Recently, I bought a nine tray Excalibur, along with fruit leather sheets, from Amazon.com (free shipping). It dries foods faster and holds more, and you can culture yogurt in it in mason jars. If I had to only choose one and had the budget for it, it would be the Excalibur.

      http://commonsensehome.com/home-food-drying/

  6. says

    Thanks for this. I also have a homesteading type blog where I present our adventures as outlier suburban farmers here in North Texas, growing seasonal veggies and a wide selection of medicinal herbs.

    I have a bed dedicated to dandelions, and I’ve been tincturing leaves and roots all season. But now that we’ve had a couple of deep freezes, I was wondering whether to continue to harvest my 2+ year old roots, or wait til Spring.

    I get the sense that I’m best waiting til early Spring to maximize medicinal content.

    Thanks again and I’ll be a frequent visitor to your wonderful blog.

  7. J.o' c.onnor says

    During ww2 my uncle roasted the roots to make a coffee substitute. As I was a child I have no idea how it tasted.

  8. Rose Brown says

    My Mother used to dig up dandelion plants every year to make for us to eat. she would cook the leaf’s and drain them then she would take fried bacon and cut up hard boiled egg’s she would put them in a pot together. Then she would mix sugar and vinegar together and pour it over the dandelion it was very good. She also took the dandelion flower and she would wash them and then take and dip in egg’s and flour and fry them they are so good. My Mother was a good cook.

  9. Ann says

    Dandelion is my favorite herb! I roast the roots for a hot drink that’s better than coffee – and I love coffee! After washing well, I chop them in a food processor before drying. Once dry, spread them out in a roasting pan and roast in a 300 degree oven until quite dark, which can take awhile depending on the thickness of the layer. (I keep it less than a 1/2 inch thick) Be sure to stir occasionally. Simmer about a tablespoon to 2c water for 10 minutes or so. Adjust to taste. Serve with a bit of stevia and milk (or a nut milk)
    May I mention also that it’s thought that herbs grow where they are needed. As dandelion is a good liver purifier, is it any wonder is grows so profusely in this country? And may I suggest when harvesting the roots, do so with love, intent and gratitude. When I do that, they release their grip in the ground and come out whole when pulled by hand, as if they are giving a gift to me. Which they are…

  10. Carol Ann says

    You mention that they shouldn’t be harvested after they bloom. Is this just for flavour or are the medicinal properties reduced? Would like to harvest but mine are almost all in flower. Also we rarely get a freeze, never had one this year, would this mean that they would be the same or more similar to autumn roots. Thank you for a great article!

    • says

      Once they’ve gone to flower, most of the mojo has left the roots. They use up their sugar and nutrient stores to produce those bright yellow bumblebee magnets, and roots at this point will be woody and lower in medicinal value. Even without a hard freeze, the plants still go through their annual cycles, pushing nutrients up during flowering time, and packing them into the roots heading into dormancy. Without the hard freeze, spring roots would not be as sweet, but the medicinal value is still there – before they start putting up flower stalks. You could make dandelion wine with the blossoms: http://commonsensehome.com/fields-of-gold-its-dandelion-time/ :-)

  11. Thais says

    I’m interested in harvesting dandelions from our lawn. We used a lawn service a few years ago. How many seasons would you say a lawn needs to be “chemical free” before it is clear for harvest, or is it ever?

    • says

      Organic certification requires three years, but it’s hard to say exactly how long certain chemicals may persist. As strange as it might sound, you may want to consider dosing your lawn with some version of effective microorganisms, which effectively act somewhat like probiotics for plants. This will speed the growth of healthy bacteria and other soil “good guys”, which help break down and eliminate the “bad stuff”. You can read more about creating healthy soil in : http://commonsensehome.com/grow-tomatoes-organically/2/

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