Kombucha. Birch Sap. Maple Water. Bee Panacea. In case you aren’t clued into the wide world of wellness, these are just a few buzzy drinks health fiends are fond of obsessing over. And while they’re decidedly more unique than a cup of green tea, they’re pretty tame compared to the latest superfood craze: Dandelion coffee.
Yes, dandelions—the yellow flowers typically considered lawn weeds—have steadily been gaining attention for their nutritional value, especially in the form of instant “coffee.” Although don’t expect to see this concoction pop up at your local Starbucks any time soon. The caffeine-free herbal drink is made from a blend of roasted dandelion root, sugar beet, rye and chicory root—so no, it’s not really coffee—but fans claim the flavor is a pretty convincing stand-in.
Although it’s having a resurgence among the wellness crowd, dandelion—like kombucha and matcha—has been a health solution for centuries. In Chinese medicine it was used for detoxifying the liver, gallbladder and kidneys and for aiding inflammation. More recent reported claims of dandelions’ health benefits are extensive, including lowering cholesterol, fighting diabetes, suppressing appetite, balancing pH levels in your body, containing probiotics and giving that much-needed early morning or afternoon slump energy boost.
But does it really work? “The plant itself does contain vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium and zinc, but that isn’t reason enough to start chowing down,” said Amanda Foti, senior dietitian at weight management company Selvera. Foti explained that beyond Chinese medicine sources, “there’s insufficient human trials to prove dandelions’ efficacy. Some preliminary animal studies demonstrate dandelion to have positive effects on cholesterol panels, but we cannot jump to conclusions just from these studies.”
Based on her knowledge, Foti doesn’t recommend ditching your morning coffee for a dandelion blend permanently, and suggests instead turning to—you guessed it—water if you’re looking for a legit drinkable health boost. “The best thing I can recommend for a client to drink is water, water, water!” Foti said. “Most of us are chronically dehydrated so it’s important to drink at least 48 to 64 ounces of fluids daily.” It might not be as exotic as flowers and sugar beet, but it’s definitely more accessible.