Botanical: Taraxacum officinale
parts used: entire plant, leaf, flower, roots
energetics: moist, cool
actions: alterative, anti-microbial, anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, aperient, bitter, cholagogue, diuretic, hepatoprotective, mild laxative, tonic (digestive)
used for: retrograde metabolism, liver congestion, bile duct obstruction or deficient bile secretion, chronic dyspepsia and indigestion, chronic constipation, many maladies associated with liver derangements can benefit from dandelion
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is an herbaceous plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. These plants are also known as Common Dandelion. They are often found growing in lawns and at roadsides of temperate regions. Dandelion is considered to be a weedy species by some people; however these herbal plants can be used for many culinary purposes and a great supporter of health.
“Dandelion, like burdock, is one of the most esteemed herbs in healing.
To make Dandelion Cordial, harvest 2 to 3 cups dandelion blossoms, 2/3 cup sugar, rind of ½ organic lemon, 1 quart vodka. Cut off green bottoms of unwashed blossoms. Mix all ingredients and put in a jar, capping and storing in a dark place. Shake daily to dissolve sugar. After two weeks, strain through filter paper and store in a bottle with a tight fitting cap.” (source)
The Common Dandelion
Regardless of the fact that these plants are considered to be one of the most common weed plants found in many countries, they are beautiful little harbingers of spring. It simply amazing to me that so much money is spent every year trying to rid ourselves of one of the most medicinally helpful plants on earth.
They will grow to a height that can range between 2 inches (5 cm) and 15 inches (40 cm). Dandelion plants grow from taproots with 1 to 10 stems growing together from each taproot. The straight, purplish stem usually holds the flower heads in a higher position than the foliage. It can be devoid or covered with short hair. The leaves grow in rosettes. The leaves are obovate or oblanceolate in shape – gradually narrowing as their bases approach the petiole. They usually have sharply toothed edges.
Flower heads consists of 40 to 100 florets. The corolla is bright yellow to orange-yellow. The calyculi have 12 to 18 reflexed and glaucous segments. The oblanceolate shaped fruits are called cypselae and usually a straw color. The white or silver silky pappus forms the parachute. These tiny and perfect parachutes enable the wind to carry them far and wide.
Some of the most intense micro photographs of the dandelion I have ever seen can be found at A Close-up View of the Wildflower “Dandelion” by Brian Johnston.
The dandelion is originally native to Eurasia. But they now call Australia and the Americas Home. They can be found in all the 50 states in USA as well as in most of Canada.
Dandelion is a Worthy Weed
Reality is that dandelions are often considered obnoxious weeds. But there are many benefits to keeping them.
- Dandelion makes an excellent companion plant. They release ethylene which is a gas that encourages fruit setting and fruit ripening..
- Their taproots bring up nutrients deep in the soil to the surface for use by other plants close by.
- These roots also add nitrogen and minerals to the soil.
- Dandelion’s bright yellow flowers attract pollinating insects like bees and butterflies.
It is easy to grow dandelions for edible and medicinal purposes. They are hardy perennials and grow in most all soils. They grow all year in milder regions and die down during colder winters. However, the taproots remain quite viable, to the vexation of lawn owners.
Dandelions can survive in any type of soil; however, they are known to have a preference for well-drained and humus rich soil. The pH level of the soil should ideally be above 7.0. They grow well both in direct sunlight and partial shade. They can tolerate low temperatures down to -20°F (-29° C).
Fertilizing is not terribly important. Dandelions are more commonly found in gardens and lawns that are not very well-fertilized.
If you want to use the leaves, you should harvest them before the plant goes to seed, otherwise they turn bitter. The ideal time to harvest is before the young plants develop flower buds. The bitterness of the dandelion is what makes it a good “liver herb”, but if you cannot stand it and the flower buds have already started growing, then cut the whole plant to the ground and wait for it to grow again.
The roots can be harvested from fall to spring. Look for the biggest, thickest clumps of dandelion leaves, as these are usually fed by a nice, fat root. (says Rose Barlow) The roots are easier to pull out when the soil is soft and moist. They have a long taproot and using a dandelion digger makes this a far easier job. Sad, that the tool was designed for getting rid of a “weed”, but cool for those that know its true value and wish to harvest it. Yup, they make a tool especially for digging up dandelions. You can also just use a long flat screwdriver.
While you harvest the roots anytime, fall is the best time for dandelion root digging due to the significantly higher concentration of the prebiotic inulin. (helping gut microdome along!) Dandelion roots harvested in fall are less bitter and slightly sweeter than spring roots.
You can roast the roots to store them for medicinal purposes. Wash the soil from the root, chop them into small pieces and place in an oven at 250°F(120 °C). If you leave the oven door ajar, moisture can escape and you can dry and roast at the same time. Two hours is usually sufficient. Turn them off and on until they are dry to ensure even drying. They will shrink to a quarter of their original size and turn brown.
The dried or roasted roots can be ground to use for tea or use them as a vegetable in soup. Dandelion greens or leaves are usually eaten raw or cooked fresh. They have a peppery taste.
- The leaves of dandelion are called “Dandelion Greens” and eaten in soup and salad.
- The flowers are used to make Dandelion Wine and dandelion flower jam. These flowers are also used for making a substitute for honey (May-honey).
- Ground and roasted roots are sometimes used as a substitute for coffee. Mixed with chicory, prepared the same way, is waaay good.
- May-honey is used for liver ailments.
- Dandelion root is sold as a diuretic in Canada where it is a registered drug.
- The tea made from the dried roots is used to improve gallbladder and liver functions and to alleviate many digestive disorders.
- The tea from the leaves is an excellent blood tonic, purifying the blood.
- The milky latex of the roots and leaves of these plants can be used as a mosquito repellant.
- Dandelion flowers are used for making green and yellow dye colors.
Benefits of Using Dandelion
These benefits make the dandelion quite useful for supporting health in a variety of ways…
- The leaves of these plants are rich in vitamins A, C and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber.
- Fresh dandelion greens and roots have anti-oxidant properties.
- Can control blood cholesterol and help to reduce weight.
- Dandelion tea is believed to be beneficial for the liver and digestive system, stimulating liver and digestive functions.
- These plants are considered one of the greatest sources of Vitamin K.
Dose: use 1-2 teaspoons of root in 8 ounces of water, decoct for 20 minutes, drink 4 ounces 3x/day; 30 to 40 drops of a 1:2 tincture 2-4x/day
The most interesting thing about the dandelion is in spite of the fact that it has a reputation as a weed, it is the cheapest medicine on the planet and so many want it dead.
- The iron and calcium levels of the leaves are known to be even higher than spinach.
- The name “Dandelion” originally derives from “dent de lion” meaning “lion’s tooth” in French. The resemblance of their leaves with the tooth of lion earned it the name.
- The word “officinale” in the scientific name means Taraxacum officinale is used in medicine.
The common dandelion is an amazing species of herbal plant offering benefits too many to count. These weeds are not trouble but a blessing for any garden. Thankfully, they are increasing in popularity both as leafy vegetable an herb used to support wellness.
Dandelioness Herbals has a page that you will enjoy if you’d like to know more about the dandelion! (recipes included) Dandelions Are Here!
- Upset stomach may be the most common side effect of consuming dandelion. It tends to increase stomach acid production.
- The latex of the roots and leaves can cause irritation in sensitive people if it comes into direct contact with the skin.
- Dandelion Root should not be used in biliary abscess or obstruction.
“But, like all good rebels, the dandelions are irrepressible.”
– Guido Masé, herbalist and author of The Wild Medicine Solution
Clinical Research on Dandelion
- Chun Hu and David D. Kitts. Food, Nutrition and Health, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. October 2004. Luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucoside from dandelion flower suppress iNOS and COX-2 in RAW264.7 cells. Springer Netherlands. 245:1-2(107-113). [PMID: 15543940]
- Conney AH, Lysz T, Ferraro T, Abidi TF, Manchand PS, Laskin JD, Huang MT. et al. Inhibitory effect of curcumin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and ferulic acid on tumor promotion in mouse skin by 12-0-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate. Cancer Research 1988; 48(21):5941-5946 [PMID: 1908616]
- Lee WJ, Zhu BT Inhibition of DNA methylation by caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, two common catechol-containing coffee polyphenols. Carcinogenesis 2006; 27(2):269-277. [PMID: 16081510]
- Eisenbrand, Gerhard (2000). Carcinogenic and anticarcinogenic factors in food: symposium. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. pp. 105. (DOI: 10.1002/3527606246)
- Ed Smith “Therapeutic Herb Manual” 1999
- Hoffman, D. (2003). Medicinal Herbalism. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vermont.