This week seems like a perfect week to write about the dandelion. It will soon be sprouting fresh leaves and sunny yellow flowers. I love it when dandelions coat lawns in yellow, then I know it is spring! While it is a little early for eating the leaves and flowers, the root is still around over the winter, and can be dug when the ground isn’t frozen, or possibly obtained from your local herb/ health food store. It is also fresh dandelion leaf season in the produce department I work in, which is one of the ways I was inspired in my choice of plant for this week.
A common hardy plant, dandelion can be found growing in lawns, fields, even sidewalk cracks. The name dandelion comes from the French term for “tooth of the lion,” from the appearance of the edge of its leaves. It is a very nutritious plant that is well suited for use as a spring tonic. It does have a bitter taste, more so as the leaves grow older- bitter tasting plants are often good for digestion and for the liver, which dandelion is.
James A. Duke, Ph. D., recommends dandelion for liver problems in his book The Green Pharmacy:
“”Dandelion root heads the list of excellent foods for the liver,” Writes herbal pharmacologist Daniel Mowry, Ph. D., author of The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine and Herbal Tonic Therapies. The leaves are diuretic, meaning that they help flush excess water from the body. And the roots have been used for centuries to treat jaundice, the yellowing of the skin that occurs as a result of a seriously malfunctioning liver.
I recommend using both the leaves and the flowers. Dandelion flowers are well- endowed with lecithin, a nutrient that has been proven useful in various liver ailments.
Since dandelion is a plant food, I suggest steaming the leaves and flowers like spinach and eating a lot of this delicious vegetable. If you don’t care for the bitter taste, herb shops and health food stores sell capsules and tinctures. Follow the package directions.”
Here are some suggestions for ways to eat this wonderful plant, as written in the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson:
“The young leaves, gathered before the flowers appear, can be added to salads or boiled for 5- 10 min. Although the entire leaf can be used, the blanched part just below soil level is best. Gathered when they are still tucked down in the rosette of leaves, the young flowerbuds can be either boiled for several minutes and served with butter, or pickled. The flowers are excellent dipped in batter and fried. To make a delicious coffeelike beverage, bake the roots in a slow oven until brown and brittle, grind, and perk like commercial coffee. Leaves rich in vitamin A.”
With their diuretic and bitter tonic actions, dandelions have been traditionally used for “liver, gallbladder, kidney and bladder ailments”, according to the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern/ Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James A. Duke. They also note that “Leaves and flowers are rich in vitamins A and C.” They add a warning that “Contact dermatitis” has been “reported from handling the plant, caused by latex in stems and leaves.”
According to The Yoga of Herbs by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad, dandelion is “specific for problems of the breast and mammary glands, breast sores, tumors, cysts, suppression of lactation, and swollen lymph glands.” They also say it is “good for detoxification from a meat diet and over- eating of fatty and fried foods.”
In Tom Brown, Jr.’s book Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants, he writes this about the medicinal qualities of the dandelion:
“The dandelion is one of the great all- around medicinals for maintaining good health when used as a tonic. A tonic is made by steeping a small palmful of leaves in one cup of hot water. Take one- half cup in the morning and one- half cup in the evening. Milder tonics can be made from the dried young leaves. A stronger tonic can be made from the young, green leaves. Stronger tonics also have stimulant and diuretic properties. The mild teas aid in digestion and sometimes relieve stomach cramps. Dandelion leaves are also very high in vitamin A. When added to salads, they make a great health food.”
In case you may still be thinking of the dandelion as a weed, this is the previous paragraph of the same book:
“Dandelion is a good friend to the survivalist and a beautiful addition to the bouquet of wildflowers covering the earth. It is not a common weed, as most lawn owners will suggest, but a welcome addition to the beauty of the land, our health, and our tables. There is no such thing as a weed, just people’s weedy misconception of life[,] creatures and how they fit into society’s world.”
Happy Spring to all, Happy Passover, + Happy Easter!