Common name: Dandelion (Also – Lion’s teeth & Pee the Bed!)
The humble Dandelion is abundant in the UK and beyond. Though now mostly seen as a “pesky weed” it has been respected as a healing plant for thousands of years. Referred to as the “flower of survival”, it is known for its hardy nature and remarkable ability to reproduce. Ever remember making a wish and blowing away the seeds? My Gran used to get me to “weed” it out of her garden. When learning about its powerful medicinal qualities at herb school, this became extremely difficult!
Dandelion is fundamental in many herbal prescriptions. It opens the liver, stimulating secretion, aiding cleansing and encouraging it to restore itself. A necessity in our age of liver abuse! Excess alcohol, junk food, chemicals, drugs and stress hormones have our livers working flat out. Perhaps this is the reason it grows so abundantly in our world?
At this time of year the Dandelions are peeking up through the ground, gearing up for a spring time explosion. Early spring is the optimum time for harvesting the root as they are at their most bitter. Like us, the plant uses up its sweetness over winter.
The bitter taste stimulates digestive juices starting in the mouth, enhancing appetite and aiding absorption of nutrients. This bitter action makes Dandelion helpful for issues associated with a sluggish liver e.g. tiredness, irritability, headaches and skin problems.
Skin problems can be an indication that the body is in need of help with internal cleansing. Dandelion can support this cleansing by increasing elimination of waste products through the liver and kidneys, preventing build up in the blood and therefore clearing the skin. Some skin problems can be a result of constipation where waste products are backed up in the system. As bile is a natural laxative Dandelion can be useful when constipation is due to sluggish digestion. Another common cause of constipation can be dehydration, where the body reabsorbs water wherever it can making stools dry and difficult to pass. Hydration with pure water supports the body in its daily cleanse and can prevent the effects of waste accumulation in the digestive system and skin. Spring cleaning with plenty of fresh water, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and Dandelion medicine work wonders for promoting a regular bowel motion and clear skin.
Strong bitter tastes are not always pleasant to experience. But in addition to Dandelion’s bitter taste and action, there is sweetness. Dandelion root is popular as a coffee substitute which can be found in shops. The root is also as an aid to cleanse the body and ease cravings. This may be helpful not only for caffeine addicts but for those with irregular blood sugar levels which create cravings for sugary junk food. Dandelion root is known to help regulate blood sugar levels for both hypoglycaemia and diabetes and is used for treating these conditions in herbal medicine prescriptions. Interestingly, strong cravings are a clue to what the body needs e.g. craving fried food after a big drinking session is the body’s way of stimulating bile flow and getting the liver working. Dandelion is an alternative to stimulating the liver without the need for junk food!
The connection between the physical and emotional body is accepted in traditional medicine and is important to be aware of. The liver is often associated with heated emotions such as anger, frustration and aggression. This heat can be expressed through the skin and present as inflammations such as acne, boils and rashes. As with other herbs that work on the liver, Dandelion root is cooling and cleansing, therefore helping to relieve emotional stagnation and enhance expression of repressed emotions. It is therefore cleansing for both the physical and emotional bodies.
The young leaves of the Dandelion are traditionally eaten in springtime for cleansing and detoxifying. The internal “spring cleaning” involves clearing out the heaviness of winter food and lifestyle and replacing with freshness and vitality. This kind of spring clean could include fasting and taking fresh herbs such as Nettle, Cleavers and Dandelion.
Dandelion leaves have both cleansing and revitalising actions. They are highly nutritious and are commonly used in salads and spring time juices. Nutrients include: vitamin A, B1,B2, B6, C, D, E, K, calcium, iron, manganese, folate , magnesium and potassium which is three times as high as other plant tissues. The vitamins A content is even higher than carrots! Animals too enjoy a good Dandelion salad. As a child I remember gathering the leaves for my hamster’s favourite dinner. Even bears are partial to it and can be found munching away in a field of yellow flowers.
Dandelion’s common name “pee the bed” originates from the leaves powerful diuretic action. This action makes it useful for treating water retention and high blood pressure due to excess fluid in the blood. Unlike conventional diuretics, which commonly deplete potassium through loss with increased urination, Dandelion leaves are naturally high in potassium and increase the net amount when taken as a medicine thereby avoiding potassium depletion. In addition to its diuretic action, it improves the elimination of uric acid and is useful for treating gout.
With Alfalfa and Kelp for nutrition
With Yarrow and Lime flowers for high blood pressure
With Celery seed for gout
Be aware that the milky latex from the leaves and stem is strong and can cause dermatitis. However, it is a traditional Scottish remedy for treating warts. Just be careful not to apply it to healthy skin if you are sensitive. For more serious conditions such as inflammation of the gall bladder and if there is an obstruction of the bile ducts it is important to refer to a medical professional.
Leaf: Harvested in spring or early summer ideally before flowering Fresh leaves in salads, juices and infusions. Dried herb infusion: 3-4tsp per cup boiling water, infuse for 15 mins, drink ½ to 1 cup freely (min 3 cups a day)
Root Decoction: 1tsp to each cup boiling water, simmer 15mins ½ to 1 cup freely (min 3 cups a day) Remember the fluid volume will reduce with boiling – therefore for one cup of medicine, boil up 2 cups of water with 2 teaspoon of dried herb.
Growing & gathering
When harvesting your own be mindful of where it is growing. A plant from a fresh country meadow or protected vegetable patch is preferable to a dog-walking park by a main road or a garden where chemicals are sprayed. Perhaps you could even grow it in your own in your garden? The flowers are loved by pollinating insects and therefore helpful for organic gardens. As a member of the sunflower family it is a bright presence as well as a useful companion.
Isn’t it amazing how helpful Dandelion is for our health and wellbeing. Knowing more about its usefulness I wonder if it looks different to you?
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