Those Glorious Dandelions! Taraxacum officinale (composite family)
Spring is coming! Starting about this time every year I find myself craving bitter flavors. My body is longing to cleanse itself of toxins accumulated over a long winter of holiday indulgence, rich foods and various colds & flus. I am aware of an overall stagnation of energy in the digestion, kidneys and liver.
I am always so amazed at how much better I feel when I start using dandelion in the spring! All that stagnated liver/kidney/stomach energy lifts and I feel renewed!
This craving for bitter flavors always has me out searching for those young green dandelion leaves popping up everywhere about now. I eat them fresh in salads or just munch on them throughout the day. I also strain and bottle the dandelion root tincture that I put up in the late fall.
This common "weed" of the composite family is a powerful restorative to the liver. It's also rich in minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, selenium and zinc, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3,and C. Ounce for ounce, dandelion contains more carotene than carrots.
Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic to help cleanse the bladder and urinary tract. They help relieve water retention associated with PMS.
Dandelion also cleanses the blood and liver, and increases bile production. It reduces serum cholesterol and uric acid levels and improves the functioning of the kidneys, pancreas, spleen, and stomach.
Toning the kidneys and liver is one of the best things we can do for our overall health. Especially women! A strong, healthy liver will allow us to process and excrete hormones. It's also vital for a healthy immune system.
All parts of the dandelion plants are usable, but they have different properties and should be harvested at the appropriate times.
Young Leaves have tonic properties and are picked in the spring and eaten raw in salads. If you find the taste too bitter try chopping them as fine as possible and mixing them with other raw greens.
Mature Leaves have powerful diuretiv properties. They are picked in early summer before the plant blooms. These are the leaves I harvest and dry for tea. They can also be made into tinctures. These gorgeous, dark green leaves are loaded with minerals and vitamins!
When picking dandelion leaves, look for dark green, smoothe leaves (dandelion leaves are not fuzzy.) Try to avoid picking under powerlines or close to roads.
Here's my favorite thing to do with the summer dandelion leaves:
Pick a colander full of dandelion leaves and rinse them really well under cool water. Run them through the juicer with 1/2 an apple. This will make a nice shot glass full of delicious, nutritious juice. You will feel a nice little zing with this lovely tonic!
Dandelion Roots Dandelion roots act as a blood purifier that helps the kidneys and liver to remove toxins and poisons from the blood. They act as a mild laxative and help improve digestion. The roots are also beneficial for skin conditions such as boils, abscesses and eczema. They have been used for centuries to improve jaundice. Ideally, you want to use the roots of 2 year old plants. In the late fall the roots will contain the highest concentration of inulin. Dig the whole plant up and hang upside down to dry in a cool, dark place. The roots grow quite long, so dig deep! The dried or fresh roots can be used to make tinctures. Dried roots can be powdered for capsules or used in infusions.
For a tasty, easy-to-make tonic wine try this:
Pick dandelion flowers on a warm, dry day.
Macerate 1 cup (60 g) flowers and steep in 4 cups (1 liter) white wine for 1 month in an airtight container. Strain out the flowers and sweeten to taste with a little bit of honey if desired.
This a nice tonic for the gallbladder.
©2005 Cori Young is a writer and herbalist.