While many people think of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a pesky weed, herbalists consider it a valuable herb that can be used as a food and medicine. The dandelion can be seen sprouting among almost any terrain of North America – from lush parks to city sidewalks.
Appearances: Dandelions grow low-lying leaves, springing out directly above ground forming a rosette around the base of the roots. Interesting note: this wide and low leaf rosette is what keeps the dandelion always well watered; keeping that in mind, note that the dandelion leaf is commonly used as a diuretic to help detoxify the bladder and safely rid the body of excess fluids. Dandelion grows one singular stalk, round and smooth, with one single blossom – thin, yellow needles. The blossom opens during the day and closes during the night, or gloomy weather.
Benefits: the dandelion has benefits from stem to stern. The plant parts are an all encompassing antioxidant and therefore a best friend to the immune system. The leaves simultaneously increasing urine production (diuretic, as mentioned above) to flush the body, as well as stimulating appetite and aiding in digestion. The root is used to detoxify the liver (increasing production of bile) and gall bladder, and supporting the kidney’s functions.
- Leaf: Bitter, diuretic (production of urine) and choleric (curing imbalances)
- Root: Bitter, Cholagogue (production of bile in the liver) and mild laxative (digestive system)
Harvesting & Recipes: The fresh leaves can be simply rinsed and mixed into salad greens, adding a fresh, bitter element. Leaves can also be used as a tea: steep 1-2 tablespoons of dried dandelion leaves in hot water for 5-10 minutes, strain, and drink up to three times daily. For root benefits, use 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh root to 2 cups water and simmer 15 minutes. Both plant parts can also be used to make an alcohol tincture.
Don’t believe me? “The first records of dandelion being medicinally utilized were of the Egyptians, described by a Greek scholar 300 years before Christ. However, it was the Arabian physicians of the Middle Ages who first “officially recognized the plant’s medicinal properties and named it Taraxacon, from the Greek taraxos, for ‘disorder,’ and akos for ‘remedy.'” Another folk name-related medicinal use comes from the French name for dandelion,“piss en lit”, or literally “piss in the night.” Dandelion has strong diuretic properties and was commonly used by 18th century French squires for gout.” (see sources below)