The Playful Dandelion
In springtime, my heart rejoices when I see a golden field of blooming dandelions. The bright, sunny-yellow flowers are a herald of the coming of summer’s warmth. They are delightful and refreshing to behold. My father (who recently passed away—see Ramblings and Ravings) shared my love of these humble flowers. He wrote the poem “Dandelions” found on page 19.
The common name, dandelion, comes from the French, dent de lion, which means “lion’s teeth.” The original Latin (Dens leonis) and Greek (Leontodon) names for this plant bear the same meaning. These all refer to the familiar toothed appearance of the leaves.
The modern Latin or scientific name, Taraxacum officinale, has reference to the plant’s use as a healing herb. The genus name comes from the Greek taraxos—a disorder—and akos—a remedy. The species name, officinale, means it is the official species for use in medicine.
As widespread as this yellow-flowered “weed” is, it’s hard to believe it is not native to North America. It was introduced from Europe, where it has actually been cultivated as a vegetable. Like several other medicinal herbs, it has followed the progress of the white man in settling this continent.
Liver and Digestive Tonic
Dandelions assist us with some pretty common ailments. When I started using applied kinesiology (muscle response testing) to isolate primary organ weaknesses, I quickly learned that the three most common root causes of people’s ill health were weakness of the stomach, liver, and kidneys (in that order). Dandelion helps all three of these organs.
This bitter, salty tasting herb has a digestive tonic effect, meaning it stimulates the production of digestive secretions. It has been historically used to relieve indigestion characterized by lack of appetite with a bloated, gassy feeling. David Winston recommends it as part of a basic digestive tonic he calls DOPA—Dandelion, Orange Peel and Angelica. These three herbs, along with other bitters and aromatics (like gentian, ginger, horseradish, cardamon, peppermint, etc.) can be taken in liquid form about 15-20 minutes prior to meals to stimulate secretions and tone-up digestive function.
Dandelion, especially the root, has a powerful affinity for the liver. The yellow color of the plant (found both in the flower and the root) is a traditional signature for the liver and gall bladder. Research confirms the hepatic benefits of this herb. An alcohol extract of the root was shown to increase the flow of bile in rats by 40%. The plant stimulates the liver to cleanse itself and aids in the digestion of fats by stimulating bile function. Because it increases bile output, it is contraindicated where the bile ducts are obstructed.
The leaves have the strongest effect on the kidneys. They are a very mild, but effective, diuretic. Because they are high in potassium, they do not have the side effects of many diuretic drugs (which flush potassium from the body). Hence, dandelion is often included in formulas which aid urinary function.
Because dandelion gently assists the body in removing toxins through the liver and kidneys, it has a blood purifying effect. This may partially explain its traditional use in rheumatism, which is often accompanied by a buildup of waste acids in the blood. Dandelion may also be useful with hypoglycemia.
Although a different species is used (Taraxacum mongolicum), Chinese medicine agrees with Western tradition about the healing qualities of dandelion. It has a bitter, sweet flavor with a cold (or cooling) energy. It affects the stomach and liver meridians and removes toxic heat, disperses accumulations (cleanses the body), and promotes urination. It has been used for excess spleen and stomach fire (symptoms of heat in the digestive tract), acute mastitis, scrofula, and urinary disturbances due to damp heat. The Chinese plant is also used to promote lactation.
Dandelion has been used homeopathically. Homeopathic provings suggest that the remedy is useful for headaches associated with indigestion, gas and bloating (“bilious attacks”), jaundiced (yellow) skin, and even cancer of the bladder. Other indications for dandelion homeopathic are: a sensation of great heat on the top of the head; a bitter taste in themouth and a loss of appetite; restless limbs; neuralgia of the knee (which feels better with pressure); cold finger tips; and profuse night sweats. Remember that these indications are for the homeopathic dandelion, although they would also apply to small doses of the herb itself.
But dandelion’s medicinal power extends beyond what it is currently used for. Only when we look at the indications for dandelion flower essence do we begin to capture the “heart and soul” of this plant.
As a flower essence, dandelion is indicated for hyperachievers. These busy people have a zest and love for life, but they tend to strive too hard to achieve things and often overplan their lives. As a result they are often tense and stressed. Dandelion flower essence helps these people relax and go with the flow of life, instead of struggling to go faster than life.
Think of dandelion this way—the flowers have a playful, childlike innocence. Not only do their bright, sunny faces announce the spring, their seed-heads are a delight to every child at heart who blows the seeds and scatters them to the wind.
Yet, with all its sunny playfulness, the dandelion is a very hardy plant. Year after year people get out the poisons and the digging tools to try to get rid of these prolific plants. In spite of all our efforts, they pop up their yellow heads each spring as if to say, “We’re still here!” Perhaps they are even trying to detox the soil from all our chemicals.
The difficulty we have in killing them shows their ability to resist chemical poisoning, which matches their blood purifying or detoxifying qualities. Their playful flowers and seed-heads tell us we don’t have to struggle so hard to survive. We can go with the flow (as their seeds are carried on the wind) and still survive.
I have used dandelion flower essence with numerous people to help bring down a hiatal hernia by relaxing the stomach. Often individuals can breath deeper and more noticeably from the diaphragm within minutes of taking a single dose. Since the herb has a reputation for aiding stomach troubles (which are often caused by excessive nervous tension), we have a physical and emotional match here.
Furthermore, a hiatal hernia is a blockage of the solar plexus energy. Yellow is the color traditionally associated with this energy center, which is thought to be the nucleus of our ability to stay calm and centered. Dandelions are also a member of the composite or sunflower family, which I feel has a strong affinity for the solar plexus energy.
The flowers in this family (which includes daisies, sunflowers, echinacea, etc.) are not actually flowers at all. They are flower heads. That is, the flowers are actually many tiny flowers joined together to look like one flower. (For example, each seed in a dandelion seed head was formed from a single flower.) This signature represents many individuals working together as one, and symbolizes the lessons of harmony, integration, balance, and unity. These are all characteristics which can be associated with solar plexus energy.
The flower essence also has a powerful relaxing effect on muscles in general. One time, some of my staff were experimenting with flower essences. They would give them to people without telling them what they were or what they were used for. The UPS driver always seemed stressed and uptight, so they started giving him a dose of dandelion flower essence when he came to pick up the packages. They did not tell him what they were giving him or what it was supposed to do, they just talked him into participating in their little experiment. After several days of this, he asked if they would let him have a bottle of that “stuff” because he felt so much more relaxed after he left.
Dandelion flower essence is found in a massage oil, which I have found to work wonderfully for stiff muscles. I’m certain, that if the muscle relaxing effect is present in the flower essence, then it must be a signature for the herb itself.
This brings us to the profile of the person who really needs dandelion. This is a stressed and uptight individual because of an overly regimented life. She doesn’t set aside enough time to relax and contemplate. This inner tension and drive leads to muscle stiffness, digestive upset, and perhaps some water retention. She may even need to let go of some bitterness (bile) in her life. Dandelion can help the liver clear itself, the kidneys function properly, and the digestion relax and work properly. In short, it helps one go with the flow rather than struggle so much.
This remedy is almost universally needed in modern society. Most of us live fast-paced lives, eat on the run, and hammer our stomach, liver and kidneys with toxins and a poor diet. Maybe the dandelions follow us around to let us know we need them.
By the way, dandelion is a good food herb, too. The leaves contain more vitamin A per gram than carrots (14,000 IU per 100 grams of dandelion compared to 11,000 IU per 100 grams of carrots). When they are young and tender, the leaves may be harvested for salad greens. As they get older they become more bitter, but they can still be boiled in water to remove the bitterness and eaten. The roots have been used to make an herbal coffee and the flowers for making wine.
Just a parting thought—how many of us poison dandelions in our lawns (which costs time and money) and then pay for dandelion herb in capsules? What strange, uptight people we are.