Milk thistle and dandelion root both have a long history of being used as medicine and for food. Although they both have strong reputations for improving the health of the liver, they are very different herbs. If you are facing a choice between one or the other, read the following milk thistle vs. dandelion root SPICEography Showdown to get a better understanding of which to use.
How does milk thistle differ from dandelion root?
Aside from the fact milk thistle and dandelion are two unrelated plants, the most obvious difference between them has to do with which parts of each plant get used and how they are used. With milk thistle, you will be using the whole plant from the seeds to the roots. With dandelion root, you are using only one part of the plant. The result is that you can use milk thistle leaves to make tea, in salads or you can cook them along with the stems as greens. Dandelion root is edible and you can cook it like carrots, or you can use it to make a beverage.
Both milk thistle and dandelion root can be used to make a coffee substitute, but you will be using different parts of each plant to do this. With milk thistle, the seeds are what you will use. They are roasted and ground before being steeped. Dandelion roots are dried and roasted as well, similarly to chicory roots. You can grind them and use the powder as you would use ground coffee.
Both milk thistle and dandelion have a long history of being used to help with liver problems; however, their effects on the liver are different. Milk thistle helps the liver to regenerate itself, while dandelion root helps it to secrete more bile. In other words, milk thistle helps to improve the health of the organ itself while dandelion root helps it to do its job better. The active ingredient in milk thistle is called silymarin; the active ingredient in the dandelion root is called carbon tetrachloride.
Can you use milk thistle in place of dandelion roots and vice versa?
How well milk thistle works as a dandelion root substitute has to do with the part of the milk thistle you are using. For example, ground milk thistle seeds can make a good replacement for dandelion root if you need a coffee alternative.
Dandelion root can be a good substitute for milk thistle seeds for that purpose as well. Both taste and look similar after being dried, roasted and ground. Milk thistle root is like the dandelion root in that you can prepare both of them like you would prepare carrots. If you want a carrot substitute, you can use either of these roots to get a similar dish.
When should you use milk thistle and when should you use dandelion root?
Given the versatility of the milk thistle plant, you should use it whenever you need a salad green or a cooked green. You can also use it when you need a root vegetable or a coffee alternative. Most importantly, it is a crucial dietary addition for anyone who has concerns about the health of their liver. If you have liver disease or any other condition that affects the function of your liver, milk thistle might help.
Dandelion root works as a root vegetable for a side dish; you can slice it into medallions and boil it for a few minutes. You can roast and grind it to add to your coffee or use it to replace your coffee entirely.