Taraxacum officinale

It is the scourge of every landscaper, of every grumpy old man hoping to obtain that perfectly manicured lawn without the broken contrast of colorful, yellow blossoms.  “This notable “weed” is often needed most by those who love to pull it–fiery, excitable and, often, angry folks–because it clears what in Traditional Chinese Medicine is regarded as Liver Heat, a congestion that causes this energy” (M. Tierra, The Way of Herbs, 1998).

I am talking about Taraxacum officinale…The Dandelion.  In Chinese medicine it is called Pu Gong Ying.  In Ayurveda–or East Indian medicine–the Sanskrit word for dandelion is Atirasa.  Other common names for this little “weed” have been Blow Ball, Cankerwort, Lion’s Tooth and Wild Endive so, perhaps, instead of lamenting the “dandelions” in your lawn, you can rejoice in your abundant crop of Lion’s Tooth?

The dandelion comes from the family: Compositae.

All parts of this plant are used medicinally and also, nutritionally.  Both the leaves and the roots have a cooling energy.  The leaves have a bitter flavor, the roots both sweet and bitter.

As a medicine, the healing properties of this little plant are as an alterative–or blood purifier–, a chologogue, which means it aids digestion by discharging bile into the small intestine to relieve excess stomach acids.  It is a diuretic, an aperient–or laxative, a galactogogue, which means it promotes the flow of breast milk for lactating mothers, and it can be used as a tonic to promote the functioning of all systems in the body.

The main benefits of this plant are exerted upon the function of the liver.  It has the capacity to clear obstructions, to stimulate and aid the liver in eliminating toxins in the blood.  In this way, it is used as a blood purifier.  This is also due to its high mineral content.

The root can be used to also clear obstructions of the spleen, pancreas, gallbladder and kidneys.  It is of tremendous benefit to both the stomach and intestines. For stomach aches, dandelion root tea can be safely taken in doses of 1/2 cup every 1/2 hour until the stomachache is relieved.

For hepatitis, dandelion root tea may be taken in cupful doses 4 -6 times daily with a light, easily-digested diet of vegetable soup broth, and rice and mung bean porridge.  Even the most serious cases of hepatitis have been rapidly cured using this treatment, sometimes within a week (Tierra, 1998).

Renowned herbalist and author of several books on herbal medicine–including “The Way of Herbs”, Michael Tierra, considers the root specific for hypoglycemia when it is combined with other tonic herbs such as ginseng and ginger.  And he states it can also be used to remedy the recent onset of diabetes when combined with huckleberry leaf in a tea.

Dandelion has been known to decrease high blood pressure, aid in the healing or curing of anemia, dropsy, PMS, urinary complaints, inward ulcers of the urinary passage, atonic dyspepcia, rheumatism, red, swollen and painful eyes, firm, hard abscesses, sores, breast abscesses, tumors, cysts, mastitis, gout, arthritis, skin conditions such as rashes caused by measles, chicken pox, eczema, poison ivy and poison oak.  It relieves painful urination, promotes lactation, aids indigestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, jaundice, cirrhosis, constipation, urinary, bladder and kidney infections, in the treatment of both gall and kidney stones, scurvy and scrofula.

In Chinese medicine, its cooling properties are used to treat painful swellings, infections, inflammations, boils, abscesses, dental cavities, swollen eyes and throats, sore throats, fever and mumps.  It has a special affect on the breasts and is used as a breast cancer preventative.  Chinese medicine uses it to reduce tumors and cysts, mastitis and swollen lymph nodes.

Traditionally, Native Americans used the dandelion to treat snake bites.

Ayurveda–East Indian–practitioners use it for dysentary, fevers, vomiting and as an anti-poison.

Dandelion leaf tea is one of the finest diuretics known, equal to any known drug remedy.  It can be taken for fluid retention–i.e. edema, cystitis, nephritis and even as an aid in weight loss.

However, a word of caution here, the FDA has not evaluated these statements and, though I have a lot of faith in herbal medicine–more so than in most allopathic practices, the contents of this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases and should not replace any treatment with your primary care physician.

That being said, nutritionally, dandelion root can be cut and dried, and combined with roasted acorns and roasted rye to make a fine alternative to coffee–without the harmful caffeine!

You harvest the leaves in spring before the flower heads bloom.  They can be eaten raw as a salad or steamed with other beneficial greens such as chicory and endive to help combat the onset of spring colds and flu.  Albeit, another word of caution, both dandelion and chicory can be quite bitter to some palates and might be better tolerated mixed with something like spinach or Swiss chard.

Dandelions are rich in natural protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus, inulin, potassium, vitamins C, G, all the B vitamins–especially B12 and contains more beta carotene than carrots.  They are also high in vitamin A, having 7000 units as opposed to the 1275 units contained in carrots.

I feed dandelion greens on an almost daily basis to my rabbits.  They are beloved by my ducks and chickens, guinea pigs, birds, dogs and, to a lesser degree, even my cats will sometimes nibble on a leaf or two.  They provide many of the same benefits to the liver and kidneys in animals as they do for humans.  In the documentary, “Juliette of the Herbs”, an autobiography of the life of revered herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, there is an interview with a breeder of Newfoundlands who tells of how feeding one of her prized Newfoundlands dandelion greens saved her dog’s life.  This was an animal who had been given only a short time to live due to kidney failure.  The owner had read one of Juliette’s books where it recommended a fast and then a diet of dandelion greens.  She didn’t think the dog would even try them; instead, she “licked the bowl clean” (Volhard, 1996).

Of course, the Christian witch in me had to look up the magickal properties of this little wonder.  I found, in my research, that dandelions were used by Early Americans to counteract impotence.  Interestingly, the high vitamin A content in the dandelion is essential in the production of both male and female sex hormones so, perhaps, there’s something to this old wives’ tale…

Blow on a dried dandelion’s head (hence, the folk name “Blow Ball”…) and your wish will come true if you blow all of the seeds off in one breath.  This is said to be particularly effective as a love letter as dandelions provide a sort of magickal messenger service.  Allegedly, the seeds will carry loving messages and wishes to the one you love.  Focus hard on your hearts’ desire and blow…

Dandelion is, if you combine “white” witchcraft with astrology, a Jupiter plant.  Jupiter rules prosperity and money, health and good luck.  When picking dandelions on a Thursday–said to be a Jupiter day–in the moonlight, you will attract wealth and prosperity into your life.

Lastly, dandelions are said to be effective in summoning spirits.  I do not necessarily advocate this practice for myself but, for educational purposes, I am including the directions I found in a book I have on the subject:

1.  Place a cup of hot, steaming dandelion tea beside your bed just before you go to sleep.

2.  Watch the steam waft upwards as you call upon your desired spirits.

3.  When it cools, have a sip, turn off the lights and go to sleep.

4.  Take another sip of cold tea when you awaken and you may stimulate enhanced dream recall…(Dugan, 2003)

With all of this said, I believe every garden should have at least a small patch of Taraxacum officinale

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