Dandelion tincture is a natural spring tonic that’s traditionally used to increase energy and cleanse the system after a long winter indoors. It’s often made as a simple dandelion root tincture, but you can also make a whole plant dandelion tincture to enjoy the benefits of every part of this medicinal wild weed.
After a long winter, dandelions are a welcome sight in the yard. Their bright sunny blossoms signal that spring has arrived, and their golden blossoms are food for the soul.
While some people hate dandelions and do their best to eradicate them, their determination and weedy growth habit make that all but impossible. But why would you want to destroy such a nutritious and beneficial spring weed?
Dandelions arrive just when our bodies need a little pick me up after a long winter of heavy foods. They’re a bitter tonic, perfect for cleansing the system and boosting energy so you can make the most of sunny spring days.
Every part of a dandelion is edible and medicinal, from the bright yellow petals, down the stem to the green spring leaves and into the soil with their long tap root.
The leaves make for delicious fresh spring salads, and the flowers make a tasty dandelion wine. Dandelion roots can be cooked like carrots, believe it or not, and they’re tasty in their own right too.
Beyond just eating dandelions in season, you can also preserve their medicinal benefits for use year-round as a simple dandelion tincture.
(Always consult your doctor or a clinical herbalist before trying any new herbal remedy, as there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences, allergic reaction, or interactions with other medication. If you’re harvesting wild plant material, make sure you’re 100% confident in your identification and consult multiple sources for your ID. The following is based on my research and experience, but I don’t claim to have any certifications that would qualify me to advise you on your health. Please do your own research and always verify with multiple reputable sources.)
What is Dandelion Root Tincture Used for?
Dandelion is a well-known digestive herb, and a few drops can be taken before meals to prevent gas and after meals for heartburn. It’s also known as a cleansing herb that supports healthy liver and kidney function. The same cleansing action is used as a blood purifier that can help reduce blood cholesterol.
As a gentle diuretic, a dandelion tincture is used as a treatment for UTIs and water retention.
Herbalists also prescribe dandelion tincture to promote healthy, clear skin. Traditionally, it’s also been used to help build energy and endurance, which can be helpful after a long winter indoors.
According to the herbalist Julie Bruton-Seal, a dandelion tincture is used for:
- Skin Problems
- Sluggish Liver
- Urinary Problems
- Fluid Retention
- Chronic Illness
Here’s where you can read more about the medicinal benefits of dandelion if you need more convincing.
Ingredients for Dandelion Tincture
Generally, a dandelion tincture is made either with just dandelion roots or as a whole plant tincture.
The roots have the most concentrated medicinal benefits when it comes to moving lymph and promoting healthy liver function, and if you buy dandelion tincture, it will almost always be made from just dandelion roots. Since dandelion roots are often roasted to make dandelion root coffee, you can often buy dried dandelion root online, which will help you make this tincture before your own spring dandelions arrive.
These days, however, herbalists are starting to use more whole-plant extracts to get a more balanced tincture that incorporates the medicinal benefits of the whole plant.
When you’re making a dandelion tincture, you can choose which parts to use, be it whole plant or just roots. If you do opt to use the aerial parts, be sure you include a lot well washed dandelion roots into the mix. (If you want something light and floral instead, you can make a dandelion flower liqueur, which is delicious…but doesn’t pack the medicinal punch of whole plant or dandelion root tincture.)
Beyond the plant material, you’ll also need what’s known as a herbal menstruum or extraction liquid, which is almost always a neutral spirit like vodka. I like to use a mid-shelf vodka, as the bottom-shelf brands can be a bit harsh and make it hard to take your medicine.
Vodka has a neutral flavor and really just works to extract the medicinal benefits from the dandelion plant and preserve them at the same time.
You can also use any other spirit you’d like, and whisky, brandy, or gin work well too.
Generally, tinctures need to be at least 20% alcohol for preservation, and nowadays, herbalists shoot for 25% for safety. Since the dandelion plant material contains a good bit of water when fresh, you’ll need to use a spirit that’s at least 60 proof (30% alcohol).
If you’re avoiding alcohol, you can make an alcohol-free herbal glycerite instead, and I’ll include instructions for that in the recipe card as well. *see below
Harvesting Dandelion for Tincture
Be aware that when you harvest dandelion for tincture, you’ll be harvesting the whole plant, including the root. For most plants, that means killing the plant, but dandelion is surprisingly resilient. If you leave just a tiny portion of the root in the soil, it can often resprout the following year.
To fill a quart jar for whole plant dandelion tincture, you only need 2 to 3 whole dandelion plants. If you’re using just dandelion root, you’ll need the big tap roots from about ten good-sized plants, and you can save the greens for salads.
On our 30 acres here in Vermont, we have enough wild dandelion to harvest several tractor-trailer loads each spring without really denting the population. We’re basically dandelion farmers.
For the most part, I leave them in place to feed the bees, but I do weed out my raised garden beds each year before planting time. I’ll “harvest” several wheelbarrows full of whole dandelions each spring in the process of weeding my garden beds, without even touching the acres of fields surrounding my house.
That’s more than enough for all the dandelion tincture I could ever want, plus every single dandelion recipe in the book! (Don’t worry, not a bit is wasted…)
How to Make Dandelion Tincture
To make a dandelion tincture, first, decide if you’re making a dandelion root tincture or whole plant dandelion tincture.
Next, harvest the dandelions from a clean, unsprayed location that’s far away from roads or other sources of contamination. If you’ve missed the season, you can buy dried dandelion root online.
You’ll need about 2-3 plants per quart for whole plant tincture or about ten good-sized roots for plain root tincture.
Thoroughly wash the dandelions, scrubbing to remove any dirt. While it’s true that you will strain out all the plant material from your tincture before using, any dirt that’s in there will impact the flavor. It doesn’t “hurt” you in any way, as they say, “a little dirt don’t hurt,”…but it doesn’t taste good either. And, if there’s a lot of grit in there, you should filter with cheesecloth rather than a plain fine mesh strainer so that you really pull it all out and just save the liquid in the end.
Once the plants are washed, chop them really thoroughly to aid extraction and then pack them into a jar. I’m using a quart jar, but you can use a pint or a half gallon, whatever suits your needs.
Pack the chopped roots into a mason jar, and cover them with alcohol. Ideally, the jar is about 2/3 full of fresh roots (or freshly chopped whole plant) and then it’s filled to within an inch of the top with vodka.
I like to use Smirnoff for my homemade tinctures because it’s relatively cheap, but not so cheap that the tincture is hard to take. For your own use, choose the cheapest vodka that you’d voluntarily drink.
Allow the tincture to infuse in a cool dark place, giving it a shake anytime you remember. The dandelion root tincture needs at least a month to infuse, but ideally, 6 to 8 weeks to gain full potency. If you need the tincture sooner than that, you can buy prepared dandelion tincture online to tide you over while your own dandelion tincture is infusing.
Once the tincture is finished, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, and store the tincture in amber dropper bottles.
Dandelion Tincture Dosage
The book Backyard Medicine offers detailed recommendations for dandelion tincture dosage:
- General Health Maintenance ~ 1/2 teaspoon twice daily.
- Acute Skin Eruptions ~ 10 drops in water frequently throughout the day.
- For arthritis, gout, eczema, psoriasis & liver trouble ~ 1 teaspoon 3 times a day in water.
- Indigestion ~ 10 drops in water every hour until resolved.
Dandelion Tincture Formulations
Often tinctures of more than one plant are combined to create herbal formulations, and the benefits of one plant can be enhanced by a complimentary herb that helps promote the same goals.
Dandelion combines well with other bitter spring tonic herbs to help encourage the movement of lymph throughout the system, and promote energy and vitality.
Burdock tincture is another bitter green that’s also a blood cleanser and diuretic, and it’s also made with wild foraged burdock roots harvested in the early spring. (You can also sometimes purchase burdock root in the grocery store, as it’s used in Asian cuisine where it’s known as “gobo.”)
If you’re interested in the science behind combining herbs to enhance their effectiveness, I’d recommend taking this online course in Mastering Herbal Formulations from the Herbal Academy. It covers the science of blending herbs into homemade formulations in detail.
Looking for more ways to tap into dandelion’s medicinal benefits?
A dandelion tincture is a homemade spring tonic that's easy to make with just a few ingredients. *Tinctures are usually made with vodka as a neutral spirit, but you can also use brandy, whisky or any other high-proof alcohol. Finished tinctures need to be at least 25% alcohol for preservation, and fresh herbs contribute some moisture to the mix. Be sure you use something that's 60-proof or higher. Never use denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to make tinctures, as it's unsafe for consumption. To make an alcohol-free glycerite tincture (glycerite): cover dried plant material completely with a preparation of 3 parts glycerin to 1 part distilled water (instead of alcohol). Dried dandelion root is available from herbal supply stores, and is often used in place of fresh. If using fresh dandelion, use all glycerine and skip the water. As the glycerite tincture develops, it will need to be shaken every day. Proceed following the same directions as if making an alcohol-based tincture. Yield The yield varies, but if you're using fresh plant material, you should expect to pull out ever so slightly more tincture than the vodka you add. If using dried roots, the roots will absorb some and you'll get slightly less than the alcohol added. The amount of vodka will vary based on how tightly you pack the jar, but you should need about 2-3 cups of vodka for a quart jar. Be sure the plant material remains submerged during infusion.
A dandelion tincture is a homemade spring tonic that's easy to make with just a few ingredients.
*Tinctures are usually made with vodka as a neutral spirit, but you can also use brandy, whisky or any other high-proof alcohol. Finished tinctures need to be at least 25% alcohol for preservation, and fresh herbs contribute some moisture to the mix. Be sure you use something that's 60-proof or higher.
Never use denatured alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to make tinctures, as it's unsafe for consumption.
To make an alcohol-free glycerite tincture (glycerite): cover dried plant material completely with a preparation of 3 parts glycerin to 1 part distilled water (instead of alcohol). Dried dandelion root is available from herbal supply stores, and is often used in place of fresh. If using fresh dandelion, use all glycerine and skip the water. As the glycerite tincture develops, it will need to be shaken every day. Proceed following the same directions as if making an alcohol-based tincture.
The yield varies, but if you're using fresh plant material, you should expect to pull out ever so slightly more tincture than the vodka you add. If using dried roots, the roots will absorb some and you'll get slightly less than the alcohol added. The amount of vodka will vary based on how tightly you pack the jar, but you should need about 2-3 cups of vodka for a quart jar. Be sure the plant material remains submerged during infusion.
Please use this as a jumping-off point, but always do your own research and verify anything you read with multiple sources.
It’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any medicinal herb, and plenty of people are allergic to even gentle herbs like chamomile. Always consult your doctor or a certified herbalist before trying any new medicinal plant. Often, they can have unintended reactions in combination with other herbs and supplements, and many herbs have side effects even when they are effective for their intended purpose.
If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of the online courses put out by the Herbal Academy of New England. Specifically, the introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses.
Herbal Tincture Recipes
Looking for more herbal tincture recipes to stock your herbal medicine cabinet?
Dandelions aren’t the only thing to harvest this spring, get outdoors with these spring foraging guides!
- Foraging Morels
- Foraging Dryad’s Saddle
- Foraging Chickweed
- Foraging Ramps (Wild Leeks)
- Foraging Fiddleheads
- 60+ Dandelion Recipes