It is said that after Theseus, the Greek hero, slew the Minotaur, a monster that was half man and half bull and lived in a labyrinth, he ate a Dandelion salad.
The number of inches a child will grow in the coming year is said to be foretold by the tallest dandelion stalk he can find.
Straight stemmed. Bright yellow composite of flowers (florets), forming a flower head. Globe-like puffball of seeds, referred to as seed head.
This is what we always see! Dandelion is a reliable beauty!
Both the flower head and seed heads are easy to find when walking around the neighborhood from early spring to late fall.
Kids are often the most frequent spotters of the plant, proving to adults that there is magic in those bright flowers and dreams can easily be spread by the gently parachuting seeds.
Dandelion is a member of the Asteraceae family.
It’s leaves form a rosette at ground level and may produce many flowering heads at once, but no leaves will be present on the flower stem itself and only a single flowering head will be on each flower stem…this is an important characteristic to remember when trying to identify dandelions from potential look-alikes (most commonly, Hypocharis sp.)
A. notice the ‘flower head’ below the ‘A’…it is composed of many single flowers or florets. Bright yellow. composed entirely of ray flowers that look characteristically flat.
B. notice all the leaves ascending from the base of the above ground portion of the plant. leaves are hairless and have a ‘cut’ or ‘jagged’ look to them.
C. notice the stem of the flower had no leaves attached to it and only one flower head on each stem.
Dandelion has a very strong robust taproot!
NAMES AND ETYMOLOGY
Western: Taraxacum officionale and Dandelion.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): Pu gong ying.
Ayurveda: Kanaful, Kaasani Dashti, Hindbaa-al-barri.
The common name Dandelion got its name from the French term: ‘les dents de lion’ or ‘dens leonis’ meaning ‘lion’s tooth’…it is speculated that this term refers to the toothed leaves.
Taraxacum is derived from the Greek: taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy). The name clearly derived for its curative properties.
NUTRITION AND MEDICINAL VALUE
Parts used: Root, Leaf, and Flowers
TCM: considered bitter, cold, and sweet. associated with the liver and stomach organ meridians.
Properties: galactagogue, cholagogue, astringent, diuretic, mild laxative, anti-bacterial
Actions: clears heat and toxins. Clinically, dandelion has been observed to benefit people with colitis, liver congestion, gallstones and several forms of liver insufficiency. Particularly, chronic hepatitis and dyspepsia with insufficient bile secretion are susceptible to the effects of this herb.
The leaf and root have different effects on the body. The leaf primarily used for bitter, nutritive value, and diuretic properties. The root used to treat heat in the liver and galbladder. The roots and leaves are used to stimulate appetite and aid in digestion.
Bitter herbs have strong stimulating oils in them, which may account for their traditional use as cholagogue’s. Bile is produced by liver secretion, can be transfered to duodenum directly and into the small intestines or temporarily stored in the galbladder when not eating. Then when stimulated, it travels from the gallbladder back to the duodenum where it gets released in small intestine. According to most herbal texts dandelion root assists in flow and secretions of bile, it both aids in secretions from liver and also forces the contractions in the gallbladder that helps the bile flow back to the duodenum. This herbal action is mostly confirmed through clinical success of using the herb to treat poor bile production and stagnation.
Bile is very important because it aids in digestion of lipids (fats) in the small intestines.
Most people around the world eat bitter foods often, to stimulate digestion, but in USA we shy from bitter tasting foods, many of us ending up with poor digestion or having difficulty absorbing fat soluble nutrients (especially fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K) from the foods we do eat. Dandelion is a great way to ensure strong digestion and nutrient absorption.
The root also supports the liver in the detoxification of substances in the blood.
One thing to keep in mind is that you MUST actually taste the bitterness on your taste receptors for bitter herbs to stimulate the flow of bile.
Other fantastic things about dandelion leaves are that they are very high in iron, minerals, and Vitamin A. The leaves are diuretic, but unlike other diuretics, dandelion’s nutritional profile shows that the herb is very high in potassium electrolytes, so it eases water retention without depleting your potassium ion levels. The fresh leaves are one of the best natural sources of potassium! YUM!
GROWING or WILDCRAFTING!
Obviously dandelion’s are easy to grow. It thrives in most places, even in highly depleted soils (and probably there because it lacks competition from many other plants). Because dandelion has the ability to pull toxins (like heavy metals) from the soil, I recommend planting and harvesting from areas you know are not affected by industrial or development runoff. The wild dandelion in your yard is probably safe to harvest from so long as you have been there many years, you dont use or live downgrade from anything or anyone who uses chemicals for their lawn or otherwise. Basically, just take a look around at the landscape and notice what is above ground from your harvest spot. Waste water and/or street run-off follows the grade of the landscape, so just use your best discretion.
I usually harvest from areas away from homes and roads (my yard being the exception). I harvest the leaves before the individual plant flowers. The flowers midday, when the flower head is completely open and looks full, usually late Spring in the Pacific Northwest. The roots in late summer or early fall when the energy is strongest (being restored) in the roots for overwintering.
If I am drying the root, which is recommended, I slice it lengthwise then store on a drying rack or in a warm dry room with strong air circulation. Since there aren’t many volatile oils in the roots, the oils in dandelion are more stable and called resins. Very little medicine is lost in the drying process. Full-potency is expected in dry root for several months if dried and stored correctly.
TEA and RECIPES!
Two teas I sell that have dandelion root in them are DIGEST and GLOW! Read more about them in the tea section of this site!!
Spring is a great time to embark on a labor of love project: Dandelion Mead! I recommend trying to make your own mead next spring! It is a motivating way to get out harvesting herbs while it still feels a little like winter…in Seattle, anyways. A basic mead recipe can be found at:
This recipe is almost identical to the recipe we used…but for the fearless I recommend following that recipe then adding other ingredients and herbs that might add a little more flavor such as citrus zests, or herbs/juices high in tannins such as apple juice, cloves, or cinnamon. last year I added some earl grey tea which matched quite well with the dandelion and champagne yeast.
Herbal beers are also made with root and leaf of dandelion.
Quickly cooking dandelion greens with garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper is a delicious way to incorporate dandelion into daily meals.
***I will add recipes to this section as i have time to write them!***
ECOLOGY AND ETC…
Dandelions on your lawn may frustrate, but actually they are not in nutrient competition with the grasses because of their deep roots, often seen 3 ft deep or more! Functionally, they aerate and bring up minerals, especially calcium, from beneath the hardpan which they penetrate, depositing the minerals nearer the surface thus restoring what the soil has lost by monoculture planting, leaching, or erosion. When dandelion’s die their root channels act like an elevator shaft for earthworms and other macro-organisms in the soil, permitting them to penetrate deeper into the soil than they might otherwise.
Dandelion grows almost anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere where humans have disturbed the landscape.
Phytoremediation is the biological treatment process that uses plants and their natural processes to enhance degradation and removal of toxic substances from soil or groundwater. Dandelion has been used to clean soil of many heavy metals. The plant accumulates the heavy metals in its tissues, then the plants are harvested and destroyed (usually by incineration). **Phytoremediation does not destroy heavy metals just removes them from contaminated areas.
Dandelion also exhales ethylene gas which has been known to limit the growth of neighboring plants and can cause early maturation in flowers and fruits of others.
A hundred or more insects come to the dandelion for nectar!
Sensitive to weather and light, the dandelion flower head will close up in cold wet weather, and reemerge when fare weather returns. It also closes at night and reopens in the morning.
In Maude Grieve’s, A Modern Herbal she mentions that birds, pigs, and goats love to eat it, not dispelled one bit by its bitter juices. But horses and cows avoid it, despite it being known to increase milk production in cows.