Tuesday, September 10, 2013


DANDELION-Taraxacum Officinalis

Also known as:  priest's crown, lion's tooth, blowball, swine's snout, fortune teller, doonhead-clock, cankerwort, puffball, pissenlit and wild endive.

Parts used:  leaves, roots, flowers, sap

Meridians/Organs affected:  liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, stomach

Properties:  alterative, stomachic, aperient, diuretic, cholagogue, tonic, hepatic, depurative

Dandelion is perhaps the most well known and most hated plant by man.  At least by landscapers, gardeners and those who want a nice uniform lawn.  Most people spend a lot of time and money trying to eradicate this herb from their yard or garden.  As it is a tap-rooted herb it takes a lot of effort to dig one up and even then pieces of the root are usually left behind for it to reseed itself and the process to begin once again the following year.  It would be best if people embraced the plant and forgot the beautification of said yard as this plant is worth far more than the simple grass it is found in.

Dandelion is a member of the Sunflower family.  There are many varieties and it can be very hard to distinguish dandelion from other species.  Some of the unique qualities of dandelion that make it easier to distinguish from other look-a-likes are that it has no central stem as dandelion leaves branch out into a rosette and stalks of dandelion will emerge from it. Dandelion also has smooth, hairless leaves (other species have hair either on the underside of the leaves or all over the leaves).  Dandelion is a perennial and self fertilizing.  Its tap roots go deep into the earth making it labor intensive to dig up.  They can be found in lawns, fields, roadsides, vacant lots, cracks in the sidewalk, rubble dumps, stone walls, median strips, cliffs, open woodlands, drainage ditches, etc.  They bloom throughout the summer and close up at night only to reopen in the sunlight.  The leaves are best collected early in the spring before they become bitter or to only pick the young new growth of the plant as the year progresses.  All in all, dandelions (roots, leaves and flowers) can be harvested from June to November and is at its most medicinal between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Usage of dandelion has been recorded as early as 659 AD.  It was used by the Roman empire as something of a cure all.  In Arab medicine it is spoken of as early as the 11th century, in Europe around the 13th century and in the 15th century in France where it is known as 'dent-de-lion' or teeth of the lion.  The French also call it pissenlit due to its diuretic capabilities.  In fact, in this regard it works well helping to relieve fluid retention associated with high blood pressure, kidney problems and PMS.  Unlike most diuretics, dandelion has the unique ability to feed the body vital nutrients as it flushes the system.  It is an excellent source of potassium, calcium, iron and vitamins E, C,A, D and B complex.  The roots have more of an affinity for the liver and gallbladder, working to improve their function of elimination and digestion-assisting the body in such conditions as gout and arthritis.  The leaf and/or root tea has been used by many cultures not just as a diuretic but as a mild laxative.  It helps to promote the secretion of bile and gastric juices, to improve one's appetite, to treat liver and digestive issues as well as urinary tract infections (this has been found to work exceptionally well in this regard when combined with uva ursi).  The roots are said to lower the blood sugar, cholesterol levels, to reduce inflammation and to lower one's blood pressure.  The roots are also said to be antimicrobial and have been used in formulas for Candida.  The roots contain a sugar called inulin which is an immune stimulant.  Dandelion flowers have been used for jaundice and cirrhosis.  The flowers also produce a yellow dye and the roots a magenta colored one.

Dandelion root has some interesting recent studies done with it in regards to breast cancer and breast tumors.  In these studies they found that those women who took dandelion root tea every day rarely developed breast cancer or breast lesions of any kind.  It is thought now that dandelion acts as a preventative agent, nourishing and enhancing the body's own ability to fight off disease.  The root has been used successfully for all types of liver conditions including hepatitis, constipation, boils, abscesses, etc.  It was listed in the United States Pharmacopea from 1831-1926 and stayed in the National Formulary until 1965.

Dandelion is a native of Europe and Asia but can be found in temperate climates the world over.  Children used to play with it saying that however many times it took to blow the 'puff ball' clean was the time of day (4 blows=4 p.m. and so forth, don't ask me where they come up with this stuff...) and young women would blow on them to see if their romantic interest would remain true.  Each flower has between 100-150 florets that form something of a parachute when blown which allows the seed to be carried great distances to re-plant itself elsewhere.

The Italians have a special place in their hearts for dandelion as it is a cousin to endive, lettuce and chicory (although chicory is slightly more blood building and has a bit more calming ability).  They pick the leaves when very young so there is no bitterness and add them to salads, saute' them like spinach with oil and lemon, or stir fry them with eggs and vegetables.  They even eat the young unopened buds of the flower in much the same way plus add them to soups and stews or batter the flower heads (less the green parts) in tempura and deep fry them.  There is no doubt about its nutrient content or its ability to help the body heal.  We should admire and use this plant instead of spending our time trying to get rid of it.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links below you might find helpful.  Use them as you see fit.  Happy and healthy living!









1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this usefull post. I hope i will come back to read more about other plants