Every May when I was a kid, my dad used to pay me to dig dandelions from our front lawn. Something like a penny a plant. But only if I got the whole root.
There were a lot of plants but it always seemed like I worked the whole day in the hot sun (and probably no sunscreen at that point) for $2. It was damned hard work.
I came to hate those yellow flowers.
Then came the years where I traveled around the world, taking odd jobs doing things like cleaning hotel rooms or waitressing. I didn’t notice dandelions for a long time.
When I did, I thought they were pretty. Fields of happy yellow flowers covering fields that hadn’t grown up around them yet.
When I really got interested in herbal medicine, I remember a teacher saying, “Weeds are just plants that we don’t know the uses for yet. Every plant plays a part in the ecosystem.”
And guess what? I believe she was right. I know that dandelions have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced. It's true that plants make vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants for themselves, but it turns out they're really beneficial to human health and skin too.
Dandelions are good guys-both for your body and your skin.
Dandelions are medicinal powerhouses.
As a beginning student of Chinese herbal medicine, I was amazed to learn that the lowly dandelion had so many healing properties for body and skin.
Known as Pu Gong Ying in Chinese herbal medicine, dandelions are said to clear heat and toxins from the body. Pu Gong Ying supports liver health, promotes healthy digestion, benefits normal fluid balance, promotes bile secretion and benefits the urinary system.
In western herbalism, dandelion leaves and flowers are eaten in the spring as a liver tonic and they’re super nutritious.
Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins. They also contain a generous helping of minerals-iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Dandelion root is rich in the carbohydrate inulin, which is a type of fiber found in plants that supports the growth and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome.
Dandelions are chock full of antioxidants, especially beta-carotene and polyphenols.
They also may help fight inflammation, control blood sugar and blood pressure, balance cholesterol and triglycerides (animal studies), support a healthy liver, fight cancer, boost your immune system, and promote healthy digestion and combat constipation.
Not bad for a lowly weed.
AND… dandelions are good for your skin.
As a Chinese medicine dermatologist, I use Pu Gong Ying (dandelion leaves, stems and flowers) along with other herbs in internal formulas (always a combination of herbs that work together for a better effect-just like skincare). It can treat problems like acne, lumps and bumps, red itchy rashes. Along with the other herbs in the formulas it works wonders.
Western herbalists will often use a tincture with dandelion to treat acne and other skin irritations too.
It can also be applied topically for acne, skin irritation and rashes.
Dandelion extract can do even more great things for your skin. I knew from the start that I wanted it in some of SunWindSnow’s skincare products. Dandelion extract, also labeled as taraxicum, is now an important part of DewDrops, GloDrops, SnowDrops, SunUp, and SunDown.
Dandelion extract is soothing and refining. It reduces skin inflammation and irritation. It increases skin hydration and boosts collagen production.1
As we age, the production of healthy new skin cells slows down. At age 25, it takes about 28 days for a new skin cell to reach the outer surface. By age 60, it could take 60 days. Dandelion seems to be able speed this process up.
One test tube study showed that dandelion extract increased the generation of new skin cells.2
Dandelion is especially good for older skin and outdoor people
By now you’ve heard (at least once) that 90% of the signs of aging skin are due to photo-damage (sun damage). While sunscreen is your first line of defense against sun damage, dandelion (along with vitamin C, antioxidants, retinol, and others) may help too.
In another study, extracts made from dandelion leaves and flowers protected skin cells from UV radiation (sunlight) and damage when applied both before and after UV exposure. It also helped to protect the cells from oxidative damage.3
I don’t know about you, But I’ll take all the protection from UV and oxidative damage that I can get.
I feel a little guilty about all the vicious digging, cutting, and swearing at those yellow beauties I did all those years.
But I'm grateful that I’ve seen the error of my ways and that cheerful spring dandelions are forgiving and generous. They give us something pretty to look at in May and help with great skin year round.