Brilliant Dandelion
Brilliant Dandelion Image

Medicinals

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)


Dandelion is a mainstay of my health arsenal; I personally use dandelion year-round as a tincture, tea, coffee and as a green in salads and stir-fries on an almost daily basis.

Spring has so much to pick in the field and through wildcrafting. Fiddleheads, ramps, and dandelions really contribute to a health boost as I end winter in a sluggish hibernating state.

In my blueberry patch in Vermont I grow dandelion and I’m not sure which is more precious to me. In this cultivated garden the plants are well over a foot tall, and the roots grow enormous clusters, which I harvest by the wheel barrel in the fall. One treat is the roasted dandelion root coffee I make from these.

Description:

So often dismissed as a garden nuisance, the dandelion is one of nature’s great cleansers and one of the most nourishing foods you can give to your body. It’s an abundant source of vitamins A, C and K, as well as iron and calcium, among other rich nutrients and health benefits. Believed to have evolved 30 million years ago in Eurasia, this member of the daisy family is widely used in Asia, Europe and North America as a botanical supplement to aid digestion, promote liver health and as a diuretic.

Early settlers brought Dandelions to the New World from the Old, where they had been cultivated for centuries in European kitchen gardens. Once introduced to America, they literally became a life-saving source of nutrients and were subsequently consumed by Native Americans and pioneers alike for their nutritional and medicinal value.

Further testament to the dandelion’s healing properties is its taxonomic name, Taraxacum officinale, which comes from the Greek word taraxos, meaning “disorder,” and akos, meaning “remedy.” The species name, officinale, means that it is used medicinally.

Dandelion’s leaves can be gathered following the spring’s first warm spell and used as a spring tonic to stimulate digestion and vitality. Roots are better gathered in the fall when they are more substantial. Many sources recommend holding off from harvesting roots until they are in their second year.

Dandelion

(Taraxacum officinale)

Family: Asteraceae

Common: Dandelion, Wild

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Propagation: seed

Light Requirement: full sun or partial shade

Flower Color: yellow

Blooming Period: early spring through fall, and later in more temperate regions.

Height: up to 18 inches

Width: leaves grow up to 12 inches long

Heat Tolerance: high

Cold Tolerance: high

Water Requirements: medium

Medicinal Use:

Diuretic, detoxifying, mild laxative and tonic

Beneficial to: liver, kidneys, skin, gallbladder, urinary tract, stomach, joints and skin.

Used in the treatment of: high blood pressure, rheumatism and arthritic joints, stomach upset, gout, malignant growths within the body and on the outside, urinary tract ulceration, constipation, jaundice, addiction, night blindness, abscesses, warts, funguses, eczema, acne and psoriasis; and as an overall beneficial tonic that cleanses, balances blood sugar, helps to promote circulation and strengthen blood vessels. Topically used as a skin toner.


The Dandelion is considered to be one of the most effective and beneficial herbal remedies for detoxifying the body. By stimulating the organs responsible for eliminating wastes and toxins, namely the liver, kidneys, and gallbladder, Dandelion aids in the removal of harmful toxins, consequently improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

Dandelion’s powerful diuretic properties are balanced by its potassium content. In contrast to over-the-counter diuretics, which deplete the body’s potassium stores, Dandelion leaves the body with a net gain of this essential mineral.

The entire Dandelion plant is used in herbal remedies.
  • Leaves are cleansing and detoxifying and help support kidney and diuretic functions.
  • Flowers are sometimes consumed but more often brewed in teas and baths, steeped in infusions, and used to make wine.
  • Roots help support gastrointestinal function and the liver’s ability to produce bile, which is instrumental in the breakdown of fats in the body.
  • The white, milky sap of the dandelion has healing and soothing properties for the skin. It’s been used in the treatment of corns and warts, pimples and calluses, and to soothe bee stings, blisters and sores.
RDA supply: Dietary fiber (9%); Vitamin A (338%); Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin) (20%); Vitamin B-6 (19%); Vitamin C (58%); Vitamin K (649%); Iron (39%); Calcium (19%). Also a rich source of iron, calcium, manganese and potassium.

Cultivation:

The Dandelion grows wild in most parts of the world. It prefers partial shade to full sun, richly composted soil and much water. A good companion plant, the dandelion’s deep taproot adds minerals and nitrogen to the soil and also brings up nutrients for more shallow-rooted plants.

Dandelion blossoms are an excellent source of both nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies, especially in early spring when few other natural food sources are available.

Warnings: As with all wildcrafting, make sure dandelions have not been exposed to toxic weed killers.

Harvesting and Preparation:

Dandelions are available all year:
  • Spring greens in salads
  • Summer leaves for tea
  • Fall roots for herbal remedies and for dandelion root coffee
  • Winter, plants stored in the greenhouse or a warm window for greens
By potting a half dozen plants in the fall and putting them in the greenhouse, I’ve been able to eat fresh dandelion leaves all winter.

Leaves: Harvest young leaves in the spring for salads or as greens, served sautéed, stir-fried or steamed. Leaves are at their most tender and least bitter before their first blossom. Summer leaves can be used for tea. Juice from the leaves of the Dandelion can be taken in the form of a puree as a diuretic.

Flowers: Blossoms are best picked in the spring. These sunny meadow blossoms may be used to make wine, added to salads, sautéed, steamed, fried as fritters, and can even be pickled. I pick the green balls at the base of the flowers and sauté these in butter and onions and serve with eggs. They are a great chewy treat at the beginning of spring to be had when the fiddleheads and ramps come up.

Roots: Seek out large, fleshy and well-formed roots for collection, preferably in the late-summer through fall, from plants two years old; leave slender, forked roots for future harvesting. Roots can be used in medicinal preparations and also can be roasted and ground and brewed as a coffee substitute.

Roots produced in good soil are easier to dig up without breaking and are thicker and less forked than those growing by the roadside. Moist weather conditions are best, though avoid digging during frost. Lift roots steadily and carefully with a long trowel or fork to minimize root breakage. Shake off as much of the earth as possible and then cleanse the roots in a basin of clean water, or a running stream if available! Cut off the crowns of leaves, but do not cut or slice the roots or you risk bleeding of the medicinal milky juice.

Allow for two weeks drying time. And note that Dandelion roots lose about 76 per cent of their weight when dried. When finished, the roots should be firm enough to snap, and the inside of the roots white, not gray. The roots should be kept in a dry place after drying, to avoid mold and insects.

Sap from the leaves, flowers and roots: Can be used year-round in the treatment of skin irregularities.

An herbal infusion made from dried leaves of Dandelion is a lighter alternative to the juice, and while less intense, effectively treats toxic conditions such as gout and eczema, and can also be used as a gentle stimulant for the liver and digestive system.

An herbal tincture made from Dandelion roots is also used to treat gout, eczema and even acne, it is an excellent source of potassium and is often used in combination with other herbs as a heart remedy. For a tincture: Take 1 to 2 teaspoons daily, either all at once or in smaller doses before each meal.

Dandelion Tea
Boil a quart of water in a pot, slowly reduce the heat and then add 2 tablespoons of cleaned and chopped fresh dandelion roots to the water. Let the water simmer for a minute, keeping covered, and then remove the pot from the heat source. Add an additional 2 tablespoons of freshly picked and chopped dandelion leaves. Let the leaves steep into the liquid for 40 minutes. After which, the liquid can be strained, patients can benefit by drinking two cups of the herbal dandelion tea every day.

Leigh’s Bees Winter Healing Salve uses dandelion homegrown by Leigh using organic, biodynamic and permaculture methods in order to bring out the essential vitality of this extraordinary plant. To find out more about Leigh's Bees salves visit leighsbees.com. All proceeds from sales of Leigh’s Bees products go to Heifer International, a nonprofit whose mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth.




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