A Wonderful Weed
Common Name: Dandelion. This word from the French means “teeth of the lion” and refers to the shape of the plant’s leaves.
Description and habitat: The dandelion is a short member of the sunflower or composite family. Its flower ranges in color from a bright golden to a bilious yellow and is surrounded by dark green, deeply incised leaves. When the flower has matured, it develops into a white, puffy ball that children love to pick and blow. Incidently, it is this puff ball that holds the dandelion seeds.
The dandelion can be found worldwide in Northern temperate climate zones and is one of the first wild edibles to appear in the Spring. This herb grows in pastures, fields, lawns, gardens and in general, where it is least wanted.
Of all the unappreciated herbs known in American culture, the dandelion is definitely a contender for the top of the unwanted list. During spring and summer, great efforts are made to attempt to eliminate these cheery blossoms from yards and gardens. Though virtually unrecognized for the benefits they provide, these hearty and enduring herbs actually provide a number of excellent benefits for mankind.
Traditional Uses: The major benefits of this weed are exerted upon the liver. Every day, three pints of blood are circulated through the liver to filter out unneeded hormones, chemicals, contaminants, toxins and ammonia from the blood. Dandelion root has the capacity to clear obstructions and stimulate (often irritate) the liver to detoxify all of these poisons. Hence, it is a marvelous and effective blood purifier and the key herb of many kidney and pancreas formulas. The root is also used as a laxative, tonic and diuretic and has been used to treat liver and spleen ailments, eczema, gout, rheumatism, and heartburn.
Another major benefit of dandelions is their effect on the kidneys. This edible herb is rich in both sodium and potassium. These are natural nutritive salts that our bodies need to purify and destroy acids in the blood and maintain fluid balance in the body. The herb is a trusted diuretic and much to be favored over chemical diuretics which tend to deplete the body of potassium. It increases mobility and decreases stiffness.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, dandelion contains 25 times more vitamin A than tomato juice and 50 times more vitamin A than asparagus. The young leaves are delicious in green salads, but as the season wears on, it would be best to boil the leaves to remove the bitter taste. Roasted dandelion roots have been used as a coffee substitute (like chicory), the crowns have been steamed and eaten and the flowers have been used to make wine.
The plant is considered to be alterative, bitter, cholagogue (increases bile flow), diuretic, stomachic and tonic. As a flower essence, it helps people who are tense from over-organizing and over-extending themselves. The flower essence also relaxes the solar plexus and helps to bring down a hiatal hernia.
Many also consider the dandelion to be a great herb for the stomach and for stabilizing blood sugar levels. It has also been used for anemia.
Some of the illnesses this versatile herb has been used to treat include (the most common uses are highlighted in bold print): abscesses, acne, age spots, anemia, appetite (lack of), arthritis, boils, diabetes, eczema, gallstones, gout, hepatitis, hiatal hernia, hypoglycemia, infection (kidney and bladder), jaundice, liver problems, obesity, poisoning, rheumatism, stones and water retention.
One note of caution: Do not use dandelion that has been exposed to or treated with herbicides.
Typical dosage is two or three capsules with meals two or three times daily.
Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss, 1975.
Global Herb Database, by Steve Blake.
Magic and Medicine of Plants, by The Reader’s Digest, 1990.
Nutritional Herbology, by Mark Pedersen, 1987.