It's spring! Hooray! Flowers are blooming, leaves are opening, life has returned to the land. I love this time of year because of its warmth, beauty, and the abundance of food and medicine that is starting to abound from the earth. Now is the perfect time to start harvesting and collecting medicine for the coming season. This article is going to put a spotlight on a very common lawn "weed" (for the record, as an herbalist there is no such thing as weeds). It is...... surprise, dandelion! (botanical name Taraxacum Officinale.) I hope by the end of this article you will find such tremendous value in this plant that you make sure to preserve it and teach others not to wage war on this incredibly helpful gift.
Now, some of you have likely heard of dandelion as an herbal medicine. It has a plethora of properties that aid our body and it seems to grow just about everywhere, making it one of the easiest to find and utilize. It is certainly one of my favorites. Here's a quick list of its traditional uses and properties:
Improves bile flow (chologogue)
Purifies the blood (alterative)
Digestive tonic (improves digestive enzyme release)
Improves mucous production in the gut (soothes heartburn)
Helps break down cholesterol and fat
Decreases gas, bloating, and difficult to pass stool
Decreases water retention (mild diuretic)
Good source of nutrients
potassium (lowers blood pressure, be careful with certain blood pressure medications or heart conditions)
iron (useful for anemia, avoid in hemachromatosis)
calcium and magnesium
vitamins A (carotenoids), B's, C, D, and K (like many leafy greens)
trace minerals (like copper, chromium, selenium, and zinc)
Prebiotic for the microbiome (high inulin content)
Boosts the immune system (helps prevent infections, like coronaviruses)
Balances blood sugar levels (helpful in diabetes and weight loss)
Milky latex is useful for warts
Decreases uric acid (implicated in gout)
Contains many polyphenols (anti-inflammatory, heals blood vessels)
This herb is becoming even more kick-ass as we now have some research showing it's promise in preventing Covid-19 infection!
Shown in research to inhibit the binding of the spike protein with ACE2 receptors in Sars-Cov-2 invitro studies and shows promise for preventing coronavirus infections.
You might be surprised to learn that dandelions are an esteemed and treasured food across much of the world. It never did make sense to me why so many people in the USA fight so hard to get rid of this super food.
Ways to prepare/use dandelion root:
Freshly chopped in stir fries/soups
Tinctured (alcohol extract)
Coffee substitute recipes
Ways to prepare/use dandelion leaves/aerial parts:
In a salad
Steamed and marinated
Flowers can be used in wine
Milky latex applied topically to warts
Tips on harvesting dandelion:
I actually just finished an early spring harvest of dandelion. As soon as I saw those yellow flowers sprouting up I was out there with my spade. That's what inspired this article today :)
If you are using the greens in a salad try to pick them before the plant flowers. They are the softest and least bitter at this time (but still bitter). If you get the older leaves they can be pretty tough and super bitter. These are still great to saute and add other things to balance the bitters (like sour or sweet).
Harvesting shade grown dandelion can also be less bitter if you're not so into bitter things.
When harvesting the root, get a sturdy spade so you can dig deep as the roots are long and grow straight down.
I generally do not recommend harvesting any plants from a roadside due to the high amount of toxins from motor vehicles in the soil. Also, do not harvest from lawns, gardens, or fields that undergo pesticide or herbicide spraying. You do not want to be ingesting these things as they will completely negate the health benefits of dandelion.
Lastly, do not confuse with "false dandelion" (hypochaeris radicata)
Don't feel like spending the time to harvest and prepare dandelion? Or maybe you want to get something fast seeing how we're in a pandemic...
You can always purchase dandelion products instead. I would recommend going with a herbal crafting company that has high standards and uses appropriate methods of extraction to get a product that will actually work. Some of my favorites include Wise Woman Herbals, HerbPharm, Gaia Herbs, and Professional Formulas. You can find these companies' products from a reputable source through my online medicinary, FullScript. By using the below link you will be able to access my account where I give everyone 10% off on all supplements, always and forever. When you buy from FullScript you know you're getting an un-adulterated product from a reputable seller (unlike buying from places like Amazon). Support me and my work by using my medicinary for all of your supplement needs:
On the occasion people can be allergic to the milky compound in the flowers and stems that is similar to latex. If you are using these parts and develop a rash, simply stop consuming them and it will go away. Do not use if you have allergies to latex, ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, or marigolds.
Do not start or consume any medicines without checking with your doctor first. Dandelion will impact how your liver and kidneys function and can have some interactions with medications. It can even act as a contraceptive so do not use during pregnancy or if trying to get pregnant. Here are some of the better known drug interactions: lithium, antibiotics, blood thinners, diuretics, sedatives.