MANY of our early spring weeds, living just outside our back door, include the tender leaves of mustard, dock, wild lettuce, lambsquarters, and the ubiquitous dandelion~Taraxacum officinale. The young leaves are easy to pluck, rinse and throw into a salad bowl (provided your pet has not fertilized them or a neighbor hasn’t sprayed them). Add some fresh herbs, your favorite raw vegetables, a little olive oil, lemon juice and voila! These early greens, all rich in micro-nutrients including vitamins A, B complex, and C, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron. Grown in a cold frame or greenhouse, dandelion greens can be available all year round.
IT is common knowledge that the dandelion, is both celebrated and despised. Being the plant lover that I am, I have grown to embrace the philosophy that “ [certain] weeds are my friends”. European immigrants considered the dandelion a most valuable plant and brought it to America from their homeland so that they could continue to benefit from its many gifts. A tea or tincture from its leaf and root is a balanced and nourishing spring tonic for the liver, kidney and bladder, helping to lighten our step into the coming warmer weather after several months of heavier winter eating and inactivity.
AS with many medicinal plants, all parts of dandelion are useful medicinal food. Energetically, the plant is considered bitter, sweet, salty and cold, with cleansing properties that support detoxification and reduction in many of the chronic inflammatory processes of the body. Prepared as a tea or tincture, dandelion leaf is known to be a natural diuretic in addition to its mineral richness. It is of renown in that its leaves replace both the potassium and sodium lost through fluids during urination or disease processes that cause dehydration, such as Crohn’s or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Other properties of dandelion leaf include blood cleansing, digestive juice stimulation, mucous decongestion, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure regulating, anti-oxidant, laxative, and uric acid reducing effects. Use of the leaf is often suggested for anemia, fatigue, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, and indigestion. For a more potent detox effect, juicing fresh dandelion plants can be quite an effective and concentrated liver medicine–proceed with caution!
DANDELION root is better suited for its ability to stimulate the liver and gallbladder in their many digestive and filtration processes. Stagnation is common after a winter of dietary over-indulgences, or indiscretionate use of alcohol or recreational drugs. The deeper tissues of the body can become overheated, tissue fluids thicken, becoming more viscous, and physiology generally slows down. A decoction or tincture of dandelion root will get things moving again, cooling the deeper aspects of the body, slowly cleansing built up congestion in the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, and promoting the production and availability of bile to aid digestion. An excellent nutritional vinegar can be made with freshly chopped dandelion roots in apple cider vinegar. Fill a jar about 3/4 full of chopped roots and add enough apple cider vinegar to cover the plant material. Steep for at least 4 weeks. The vinegar (acetic acid) will pull out most of the minerals found in the fresh plant roots. A great blend with olive oil on salads or sprinkled on mixed sauteed or steamed greens. The deeper actions of dandelion root tea have been used to address allergies, osteo-arthritis, constipation, depression, fatigue, gallstones, high cholesterol, skin rashes, sinusitis, eczema, hypoglycemia, and generalized constitutional sluggishness.
ONE of the first signs of seasonal nectar flow and one of the honey bee’s first and most nutritious food sources of protein and carbohydrate after a long winter of inactivity are the nectar and pollen from the dandelion flower. Horses, too, love to nibble on dandelion flowers as they digestively transition from winter hay to summer grass feeding.
THE flower essence of dandelion addresses many of the emotional and spiritual tensions that accompany the stresses of a challenging time in ones life. Dandelion speaks to times when we intensely over-strive or feel the need to push through a difficult situation; especially one that creates a tense jaw and tight musculature in the neck and shoulders (where we tend to carry emotional burdens). Dandelion teaches us how to slow down and reflect, soften our inner listening into a greater ease and balance, allowing warm and sunny energies to flow with more fluidity throughout the body. The resulting flow is followed by more available energy, a heightened sense of well being, greater mental clarity, and an ease and grace that tempers the earlier rigidity. ” Relax and release” is the mantra of dandelion. The liver truly welcomes this energy and attitude shift.
IT feels a bit silly to write about cultivating dandelions when they seem to be everywhere, but a bed of early French dandelions is fun and simple to grow, offering easy access to an organic, highly nutritive and delicious supply of greens. [Check out Horizon Herbs to order your own organic Dandelion seeds.] Picking a handful of the delightful flowers will control plants from going to seed and offers edible flowers for your salad, Sunday morning pancakes, or home made cookies (see recipe below). Dandelions are hearty, don’t need a lot of soil or moisture pampering, and will return year after year to grace your life with nourishment and good health. And don’t forget dandelion wine, easy to make and delicously nourishing–although can be quite high in alcohol content. And finally, all parts of the dandelion–except the seeds–contribute beneficial nourishment to any compost pile, enriching the nutrient content of the new soil being created.
SO, it’s time to lighten up. Spring is on its way. Bring it on! Open yourself to the gifts and many uses of this early spring weed. A daily dose of dandelion leaf and root tea, for the next week or two, will bring pep to your step and brighten your path into the Summer months ahead. And enjoy the recipe!
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey (or ¼ cup each honey and maple syrup)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup dry oatmeal
½ cup fresh dandelion flowers
Blend oil, honey, eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and add flowers. Spoon batter on lightly oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. ♣
Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, March 4, 2013
THREE SISTERS APOTHECARY offers a variety of dry plant blends and tinctured formulations for your Spring cleansing and detox program. Formulas can also be custom blended for your specific health needs. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 719.783.0465 to schedule an appointment.
PLEASE NOTE: ~Herbs are Medicine!~ Proceed with caution. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment of serious medical conditions is inappropriate and unwise. If you have or suspect a medical condition, it is your responsibility to consult a medical practitioner for appropriate treatment.