The Misunderstood Herb: Dandelion
With spring seemingly around the corner (kinda?), I felt it was important to talk about a plant that has been gruesomely labeled as noxious weed and continuously bullied by a wave of herbicides.
I'm talking about Taraxacum officinale, known more commonly as dandelion.
Also known as Lion's Tooth, Priest's Crown and Swine Snout, this wonderful medicinal belongs to the Asteraceae family (also known as Compositae) or daisy family. With more than 1,620 genera and 23,600 species of herbs, shrubs and trees throughout the world, the Asteraceae family is one of the largest plant families.
Some of the plants you may easily recognize that are related to dandelion include chamomile (Marticaria), artichoke (Cynara), lettuce (Lactuca), and sunflower (Helianthus) just to name a few.
But why choose dandelion to write about?
Simply put, because it's accessible, free, nutritional, easily propagated and cultivated and is a medicinal superstar!
I think that if more people knew about the medicinal and environmental benefits that dandelion freely gives us we would be less likely to spend millions on herbicides and create better health for our families and environment when looking at exposure to all the chemicals we already have to deal with as well as our bodily systems that need support to handle and process toxic load.
There is no need to gang up on dandelion, it's only trying to help....
Medicinal Uses & Benefits:
Cleanse liver & gallbladder: Both the root (radix) and leaf (folia) reduce inflammation and congestion
Prevent gallstones: Both the root (radix) and leaf (folia) take action against preventing and possibly dissolving already formed gallstones. *It's important to work with a health care professional when treating gallstones*
Renew loss of appetite: Both the root (radix) and leaf (folia) act as a digestive tonic
Relieve gas, bloating, flatulence & constipation: Root (radix) acts as a gentle laxative
Helps digestion: Bitter: Stimulate digestion Hepatic: Strengthen and tones liver Cholagogue: Promote flow of bile from the gallbladder Choleretic: Promote the production of bile in the liver
Detoxification: Root (radix) encourages steady detoxification & elimination due to infection, ingestion or environmental exposure
Diuretic: Leaf (folia) stimulates the kidneys to remove toxins in the urine and relieve fluid retention IE: Edema, hypertension *It's interesting to note that while using Taraxacum as a diuretic, it does not deplete the body of potassium as many other diuretics will caution*
Skin Problems: Both the root (radix) and leaf (folia) used together offer therapeutic benefits for various conditions such as arthritic conditions, eczema, psoriasis, acne, gout and osteoarthritis
So how do you use dandelion?
Easy, the leaves and flower heads are great in salads where the leaves act as a fresh bitter to help with digestion. If you're not into eating this raw you can actually steam or satey the leaves to lessen the bitter taste and still get a ton of nutrients.
Soups are also a great place to sneak in dandelion leaves, using them similarly as you would spinach.
You can also cook up the roots like a steamed carrot!
Teas are especially popular using the leaves in an infusion and the root in a decoction.
Gaining popularity is using the roasted root as a coffee replacement or in combination with your regular java. My favorite drink to create is a Dandelion Root Vanilla Chai Latte....SO GOOD!! You can find this recipe below.
And if you're feeling really motivated, you may try your hand in making dandelion wine!
As for medicinals, the options are bountiful. Salves, tinctures, poultice, balms, infusions, decoctions, capsules, etc. But, you'll have to tune in to see how you can make these.
So what do you think now? Do you still stand strong against the mighty dandelion or will you embrace this versatile herb and give it a chance?
I hope you'll give dandelion a chance and if you do make sure you keep these important tips in mind:
Make sure where you harvest has NOT been sprayed with any chemicals
Identify dandelion properly - there are other plants that look like dandelion (Sow-Thistle, Agoseris, Cat's Ear)
Dandelions are often the first plant to emerge in the spring. Make sure you are harvesting responsibly so the bees can gather their pollen. DON'T pick all the dandelions until other flowers have popped up.
Young leaves are picked in the spring. Roots of 2 year old plants are harvested in autumn.
Consider growing your own dandelion patch, they help your soil, the bees and you!
Now, just because dandelion is a natural remedy and food source, doesn't mean that, like with all other herbals, you shouldn't look at the cautions & contraindications of its use....
Allergy to Asteraceae/Compositae family
Bile duct or intestinal obstruction
Pregnancy & Lactation: Not enough research has been shown
Large doses can cause loose stool & upset stomach
Diabetics: Although dandelion root has starches and sugars that are easily processed by diabetics and can help to control blood sugar levels, it's important you consult your health care professional before including this in your diet
Antibiotics: Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar)
Medications changed by the liver. Some include amitriptyline (Elavil), haloperidol (Haldol), ondansetron (Zofran), propranolol (Inderal), theophylline (Theo-Dur, others), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, others), and others
Most of all....DO YOUR RESEARCH. If this is something you would like to invite into your life, make sure it's compatible with your health and always start at the lower end of the dose spectrum, cause hey, we're all different and will respond as such.
Ninetta M Savino, B.A., Dip. Phyto.
Founder & Medical Herbalist of Ash + Thorn Herbals
Dandelion Root Vanilla Chai Latte
(Makes 4 cups)
8-10 g Dandelion Root Powder (4-5 tea bags)
3 cups water
4-5 tbsp raw honey (optional, to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 cardamom pods
1 whole star anise
1-4 tsp vanilla extract
Non-dairy milk of your choice
Dash pumpkin pie spice (optional)
Crush cardamom pods
Add cardamom, anise and water to a medium pot, cover and boil for 5-6 min (if using tea bags, add as well)
Add dandelion powder, stir and let sit for 2-5 min
Strain, add honey and mix well
Pour into mug and top off with milk of choice
Add a dash of pumpkin pie spice to garnish
Uses of these plants have not been regulated by the FDA. Regardless of their long term traditional uses it is important to independently research a plant you are considering using for medicinal and nutritional purposes as each individual is different. Please ensure that if you are gathering plants from the wild that you correctly identify the plant before using.