The first line of a little known song asks the question, “How many dandelions this year will grow?” Indeed, in some parts of the North America hills are yellow with dandelion flowers in the spring. Most are either ignored or poisoned as a nuisance. If we had known what this article will reveal, we might have gathered them instead of treating them as a curse.
The name dandelion comes from the French phrase ‘dent de lion,’ meaning ‘lion’s tooth.’ This refers to the jagged-edged leaves of this weed. The fancier scientific name is Taraxacum officinale. Unlike calendula (marigold) which is not the same annual flower found in American gardens, dandelion the herb is exactly what you think of growing in your yard or on a hillside. What makes this common weed so great?
All the dandelion plant is useful. The roots can be eaten as vegetables or roasted and ground to make a type of root “coffee.” A quick look through the internet reveals the flowers are used to make wine, in cooking (dandelion flower cookies?), a syrup, jam, and an oil to rub on sore joints. But the leaves have the most diverse list of uses.
First, dandelion leaf is an excellent source of sodium, iron, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and especially calcium. Dandelion might have been one of the “bitter herbs” mentioned in the Bible. The leaves add bitter flavoring to salads or can be cooked like spinach. The best leaves are those bright green ones that appear before the dandelion flowers in the spring.
One of dandelion leaf’s greatest claims to fame is its ability to purify the blood and body organs. It is a wonderful liver cleaner and increases the output of the liver, the flow of bile into the intestines and the activity of the pancreas and spleen. This makes it a great treatment for hepatitis, yellow jaundice, and other liver related problems. By purifying the blood, it helps with some types of anemia. The acids in the blood that build up with weight loss are destroyed by dandelion. It also helps with low blood pressure, and builds energy and endurance.
Dandelion is good for female organs. It enriches breast milk in nursing mothers and this, in turn, benefits both mother and child. It is good for women both before, during, and after pregnancy. Women suffering from premenstrual syndrome may find that the diuretic action of dandelion helps relieve some of the symptoms. In short, dandelion is safe and healthy for men, woman, children, and even animals.
Dandelion flowers are an excellent source of lecithin, a nutrient that elevates the brain’s acetylcholine. As a result, it may help retard or stop regression of mental ability caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Lecithin also helps the body maintain good liver function as mentioned before. Dandelion also opens the urinary passages as part of its cleansing work.
Native Americans used it to treat kidney disease, indigestion, and heartburn. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses dandelion to treat upper respiratory tract infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
Dandelion leaves and flowers are best when freshly picked. If this is not possible, the leaves can be refrigerated up to five days when wrapped in a plastic bag. Be sure to wash the leaves thoroughly before using. Leaves may also be frozen for longer periods of time. You can also dry the flowers and leaves yourself and store them in a dark, dry, and cool place. Use them in the bath to treat yeast infections, or to make your own dandelion tea (steep about 1 tablespoon of dried leaves in 1 cup hot water). Dandelion may also be purchased in capsules, tinctures, and powdered form.
Dandelion is generally regarded as safe, but some people report allergic or asthmatic reaction to this herb, especially those with allergies to ragweed or daisies. Traditionally dandelion is not recommended for patients with liver or gallbladder disease but some feel this advice is erroneous.