Coffee can be a tough habit to break, especially when you look forward to the heavenly, bitter taste of your Americano every day. Dandelions could be the answer to better vitality!
Although high quality, organic coffee beans are rich in antioxidants and offer certain cognitive health benefits, drinking too much caffeine can tax your adrenal glands, elevate your stress hormones, and mess with your sleep quality and digestion. In other words, the long-term effects of over-consuming caffeine can wear your body out.
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Now, if you’re a coffee junkie like me, one of the reasons you’re not overly stoked on giving up your daily roast is because you love the rich taste. The good news: here’s a caffeine-free herbal alternative to coffee called dandelion coffee. Let’s find out if it’s worth replacing your caffeinated brew for.
What Is Dandelion Coffee?
Dandelion coffee is simply the root of the dandelion plant that’s been roasted, dried, and ground. Although it may seem unlikely at first thought, the relentless “weed” on your lawn produces a powder that looks and tastes strikingly similar to coffee – complete with a smooth, full-bodied flavor.
You can make dandelion coffee on your own by roasting the root yourself (more on this in a moment), but many health food stores carry dandelion root coffee. When you purchase dandelion coffee, it’s already been picked, dried, ground and packaged for you. All you have to do is add boiling water and, if you’d like, a splash of your favorite nut milk.
The major benefit to swapping regular coffee for dandelions is that you reduce the amount of caffeine you’re consuming. However, dandelion coffee also has several health benefits that aren’t found in regular coffee.
6 Health Benefits of Dandelion Coffee
1. Dandelions Contain Vitamins and Trace Minerals
Some of the compounds in coffee can actually prevent you from absorbing essential minerals such as calcium, which is needed for healthy bones and teeth (1). Dandelion provides calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc, as well as vitamins A, B, C, D (2).
2. Dandelions May Improve Digestion
Dandelion is an herb that’s been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and parts of Latin America as a digestive tonic. It’s use has been documented in everything from loss of appetite and flatulence to gallstones, bile stimulation, a natural laxative, and a diuretic to help relieve bloating, especially related to menstrual cramps (ladies, take note!) (3).
In herbal medicine, bitter herbs are said to be favored by the liver and gallbladder, and as a bitter tasting herb, this could be why dandelion root coffee may help improve digestion. While regular coffee is a known laxative (which further prevents nutrient absorption), dandelions are suggested to help with elimination by stimulating the liver to produce more bile, which helps your body get rid of stagnant waste (4).
3. Dandelions Are Rich in Antioxidants
While it’s tough to do a dandelion root versus regular coffee face-off in terms of exact antioxidant content, there are powerful antioxidants in dandelion coffee that aren’t found in traditional coffee beans. One of these antioxidants is beta-carotene, which we convert into vitamin A (5).
Vitamin A helps boost immunity and keeps our vision and skin health in check. In comparison, regular coffee doesn’t score as high for immune-boosting antioxidants – in fact, it can actually suppress your immune system by elevating your cortisol levels (6)(7).
4. Dandelions Promote Longer Lasting Energy
If you want more out of your days than a quick jolt of energy followed by a 3 pm comatose, it may be time to replace coffee with a caffeine-free alternative, like dandelion coffee.
Caffeine can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which is why you initially feel a “buzz” after your first cup of coffee as your blood sugar levels begin to rise. But you know what they say: what goes up must come down, and soon after coffee number 1, you typically need another cup of coffee to stay energized as your blood sugar levels start to crash (8).
Since dandelion coffee is caffeine-free, it doesn’t impact your blood sugar levels the way regular coffee does. I like to think of dandelion coffee as a “hack” that allows me to still enjoy the rich, bitter taste of coffee, but without the negative side effects of a blood sugar rollercoaster. (Decaf Dandelion Cacao Lattes also happen to be amazing treat, any time of day).
Since dandelion is a source of vitamins and minerals needed for energy metabolism, such as B vitamins, it may also help increase energy production.
5. Dandelions Feed Your Healthy Gut Bacteria
Dandelion contains a type of beneficial fiber called inulin. Inulin is commonly taken as a nutritional supplement because it acts as a prebiotic, which means it helps feed your healthy gut bacteria, or probiotic (9). What does this mean for you?
Healthy gut bacteria regulate and promote healthier, more satisfying bowel movements (think: big brown bananas – that’s what healthy poop looks like), as well as a stronger immune system, because nearly 80% of your immune system cells are found in your gut (10). Rather than taking an inulin supplement though, you can easily get this fiber in your diet by sipping on a warm mug of dandelion root coffee.
6. Dandelion Coffee Supports Your Nervous System
If you want to feel more balanced throughout the day, removing stimulants from your diet is a great place to start. Since dandelion root coffee doesn’t contain caffeine or other stimulants – and also contains nutrients that support the nervous system, such as magnesium and choline – it doesn’t have a negative impact on your nervous system.
Do you ever notice how, after a cup of coffee, you can talk a mile a minute and have a hard time slowing your thoughts down? (Hello there, anxiety). Or perhaps you’re jittery and nervous, and wind up with panic attacks when your java is too strong. This is because caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, which means it can help you feel more awake and less tired, but can also overstimulate and worsen anxiety, nervousness, and panic disorders (11).
Obviously, these side effects aren’t pleasant. But on a deeper physiological level, the overstimulation from caffeine can put your body into fight or flight mode, which is a natural response to a perceived threat or danger. The problem with this is, over time, regularly activating your fight or flight response is taxing on your adrenal glands. Since your adrenals are in control of helping you cope and respond to stress, your ability to properly handle stress will slowly begin to decline, which can eventually lead to exhaustion and burnout (12).
Now, it may sound dramatic to say that drinking coffee is going to land you in bed, completely burnt out. However, we experience daily stress from so many different factors in our diet, environment, and lifestyle, that it can all add up and take a toll on your body. Therefore, swapping your coffee for an herbal, mineral-rich beverage like dandelion root coffee can have more of an impact on your vitality than you think. It’s one of those dietary changes where every bit of effort counts.
How to Roast Your Own Dandelion Coffee
If you live in a temperate or sunny climate where dandelion grows, you may even want to roast the dandelion root yourself. Here’s how to harvest and roast your own dandelion root coffee. All you need is a blender, saucepan, cast iron pan, and conventional oven (or a dehydrator if you have one).
- When dandelions are picked in the fall, they’re said to be less bitter and sweeter than the roots harvested in the springtime.
- The fructose in dandelion makes the root naturally sweet, so some find they don’t need a sweetener. However, you can always add a pinch of stevia, raw honey, or maple syrup. A splash of vanilla extract, raw cacao powder, and/or your favorite nut milk can make it even tastier.
Find your dandelion in a green space that’s safe to pick from, where it hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides, and isn’t in contact with high volume traffic (for example, a front lawn). If you don’t have any dandelions in your area, you can also buy them online.
Note: It’s important to know how to properly identify safe, edible dandelion. Check out this easy guide here.
Using a spading fork, gently ease the roots of the dandelion out of the earth by pulling slowly from the bottom. This is where you want to be extra careful not to break or snap the root. This will cause the root to lose sap, which is where most of the health benefits of dandelion root are concentrated.
Gently wash the roots.
Finely chop or mince the roots and dry them. You may want to use a dehydrator if you have one, especially if you live in a warmer climate.
Once your roots are completely dry, place a dry cast iron pan on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Take note of the color of the dandelion roots as you roast them. Once they turn a rich shade of chocolate brown, they’re almost done. You’ll also begin to notice the dandelion root’s aromatic smell.
Store your roasted dandelion root in a cool place in a glass, airtight container for up to 1 year. Once the dandelion is cooled, you can grind your roasted dandelion root in a coffee bean grinder to form a fine powder, which will serve as your dandelion coffee substitute. Simply steep in boiling water for 10-20 minutes, add your favorite nut milk and Paleo sweetener, and enjoy!
Note: To make instant dandelion coffee, all you need is an 8-ounce cup of boiling or cold filtered water (yes, you can also drink it iced) and 1 teaspoon of dandelion root coffee. If you prefer a bolder coffee flavor, you may prefer to increase to 1 heaping tablespoon. No steeping is required – just stir and enjoy.