Dandelion is arguably the world’s most famous weed. The whole plant is beautiful, edible and medicinal. It is often the first flower of spring and the bees love them!
It is said that the average American can recognize thousands of logos but can identify fewer than 5 plants that grow in their area. Dandelion is one of them!
But where did it come from?
It originated in Eurasia and was used as food and medicine as early as the 10th century. The Europeans have long had a love affair with the dandelion and brought the seeds with them to North America. After they arrived dandelions spread over the country faster than the colonists.
Family: Sunflower family or the Asteraceae family.
Botanical Name: Taraxacum officinale
Parts Used: All
The genus name comes from the Greek taraxos meaning disorder and akos meaning a remedy. The species name officinale means it’s the official species for use in medicine.
Dandelion grows where the soil is healthy and is considered a good indicator of the presence of potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium. The Dandelion has a long taproot that helps aerate the soil and provide drainage channels for water. It can help to heal barren or overworked soil by soaking up the nutrients that have been washed downward and bringing them toward the surface where other shorter rooted plants can use them.
Fresh Dandelion roots have a slightly bitter and sweet taste which contributes the digestive tonic effect it has on the body. It stimulates the production of digestive secretions and has been used to relieve indigestion characterized by bloating and gassy feelings. It’s often used as part of digestive bitter formulas.
Besides being high in nutrients dandelion roots are also high in inulin. Inulin is a starchy carbohydrate that can help restore healthy gut flora. We don’t actually break down this substance but eating it regularly provides food for the gut microbiome…it’s a prebiotic.
Dandelion has a special affinity for the liver. When the health of the liver is not optimal it can show signs of heat and stagnation or both. These symptoms include poor digestion especially poor fat digestion or absorption, sour belching, estrogen dominance, PMS, excess anger…other signs can be headaches behind the eyes, dry mouth, tinnitus, hot and itchy skin conditions, dry eyes…
The leaves have long been considered a spring tonic. The bitter taste stimulates digestion…increases saliva production which helps to break down starches and carbs…increases stomach enzymes, increases bile and stimulates peristalsis.
The leaves are also nutritious being especially high in calcium and potassium and iron and contain more vitamin A than carrots. They also have a high amount of inulin which if you remember has a beneficial effect on the gut flora.
The flowers are high in lutein which is known to support eye health. Try them in a cup of tea to help with headaches, menstrual cramps, backaches, stomach aches and depression. You can just wander out into your yard and pop one in your mouth, they are surprisingly sweet!
Dandelion Flower Essence
The flower essence is indicated for hyper achievers. Those busy people who strive hard to achieve and over plan their lives. This can result in tension and stress. Dandelion flower essence helps these people relax and go with the flow.
The flower essence has been used to help bring down a hiatal hernia by relaxing the stomach. Often people will breathe deeper upon taking the essence.
So who needs Dandelion?
The person who has the stressed, uptight overly regimented life…those who don’t set time aside to relax. This inner tension leads to muscle tension and digestive upset…maybe even someone who needs to let go of a little bitterness in their life. It helps one go with the flow, clear the liver, help the kidneys function properly aid the digestion to relax and work better.
Roots: The plant can be harvested any time but some people prefer to harvest the root in the fall after the first frost. At this stage the inulin is highest. They can be harvested after they go to seed and before they flower in the spring. Eat it like any root vegetable. Dry and roast for a beverage. Extract in alcohol or vinegar. Alcohol for the medicinal properties and vinegar for the mineral properties.
Leaves: If harvesting leaves for food then spring is the best time. The leaves will be bitter but that’s the point. When harvesting for medicine harvest any time.
Flowers: The most plentiful time is in the spring
It is empowering to walk out in the yard and harvest this abundant and amazing plant to use as food and medicine.