Taraxacum official a member of the Asteraceae (Aster Family) also known as earth nail, blowball, cankerwort, doon-head-clock, witch’s gowan, milk witch, lion’s-tooth, yellow-gowan, Irish daisy, monks-head, priest’s-crown, piss-in-bed, prince in paupers clothing, and puff-ball
Dandelion is such a beauty and a potent medicine that is very dear to me. I have many happy childhood memories of their big clumsy shining faces that seem to emanate warmth and light as they look up at the sun while sitting in a rosette of green toothy looking leaves. To me Dandelion looks like she was drawn and designed by a child and coloured in with a big yellow crayon- raggedy and out of the box.
Later in the year Dandelions flowers turned from looking like the sun into a full silver moon I took great delight in lying on the earth and blowing her delicate seeds onto the breeze.
I was always surprised as a child at the adults reactions upon seeing dandelions, it was always a mixture of contempt, hatred, fear and anger. I would stop and look down on these yellow smiling faces and feel sad for them and sad for me and sad for people. I had a feeling deep inside that this plant held more magic than I was being told so I filed the feeling away in my mind determined to unlock Dandelion’s secrets at some point. Luckily I had a grandmother who had hands covered in earth, a wise heart and a body full of gypsy witch magic and she taught me some of the medicine that this yellow flower with its long beautiful taproot contain.
So what are the secrets I have discovered about these big bright beings? Well most people still don’t like them very much, in fact they often in-still such hatred across the UK and US landscape that millions is spent to dump petrochemical weed killers on the land just to get rid of dandelions from neat and tidy lawns. Dandelion just doesn’t want to conform to the sanitisation of the landscape and our wild bodies, dandelion is like the warrior plant that comes back fighting, but not just fighting for herself but for the plants and the soil all around her.
She is a restorative plant which means she is a bit like the wild medicine woman or nurse of the eco system. She arrives and attempts to restore the un naturalness of the lawn into something more natural; to heal the damage that has been done. She does this by reducing soil compaction, rejuvenating the nutrients in the soil and preventing soil erosion. Her green sisters around her love her as she gets her tap root deep into the earth and brings up nutrients for all the shallow rooting plants near her. She attracts pollinating insects and supplies much needed nectar and pollen early in the season and releases ethylene gas which helps fruit to ripen in the orchard.
Dandelion as a food
You can eat ALL of a dandelion from the bitter green leaves, the yellow petals down to the deeply earthed roots. She will give us a meal full of vitamins A, B, C and E. Susun Weed has said that just two dandelion leaves a day will give us our daily vitamin C content! She is also rich in magnesium and phosphorus.
I delight in picking her long stalked flowers and dipping them into a light batter with sea salt and wild herbs, to be fried over the fire until golden. We all eat them before they can get onto the plate let alone the dinner table. Salade Piss en lit is also a lovely simple recipe to try. It’s a traditional french recipe involving sweating the leaves, roots, stalks and flowers in butter and lardons. Served with crusty bread and a mustardy dressing best eaten with friends under a tree in the middle of a flower meadow. The leaves in salad are a welcome bitterness that will benefit your gut and your whole system. When eaten with meals, the bitter taste of the leaves helps to promote digestion by stimulating bile to relieve indigestion and other digestive disturbances and the petals sprinkled on top of dishes are an uplifting sight.
Dandelion is bitter, some more bitter than others depending on where they have grown. This is a taste that many in the UK have become unused to and even the word ‘bitter’ brings up thoughts of unpleasant experiences. In other countries bitters are still used to aid digestion before or after a meal and people don’t seem to bat an eyelid over the taste of something a little bitter. When I first started to eat dandelions I really didn’t like the flavour and yet the more I have eaten the less bitter they taste, my pallet has changed and I have grown to love the flavour.
I love to make vinegars from the whole plant or just one part whether flower or leaves and add this to dressings and meals.
My partner and I have often made dandelion coffee- my partner did become rather obsessed with finding the “perfect process” for this and I must admit his dandelion coffee was awesome to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between that and real coffee. Dandelion wine or cordial is another glorious thing to try, just to see bottles of sunny liquid in my larder is such a song for the soul.
I would love for people to quit fighting dandelion and just find a place in their hearts and plates for her. It’s much easier to just eat her rather than digging her up all the time.
Dandelion as Medicine
Everyone should get to know her bitter medicine that is essential for a healthy life and a balanced gut. She is a real tonic for the heart and skin; a deeply grounding warrior plant.
Dandelion root is one of the most detoxifying herbs we have and it is a strengthening tonic that helps improve liver and gallbladder function, which in turn improves digestion and elimination. The root will balance gut bacteria and by drinking regular dandelion root tea you will encourage the growth of 14 strains of bifidobacteria that are critical for healthy gut flora. Amazing isn’t it! and it’s probably growing just outside your door!
It can also help the liver clear excessive oestrogen’s and toxins from the blood which makes it good for correcting hormone imbalances such as PMS and for lifting that sluggish feeling. A mixture of dandelion root tincture and nettle infusion has worked so well for me as a strengthening aid and a hormone tonic, and because dandelion root is classed as a food, it is suitable for long term use. (In some rare cases it may cause a loose stool and it is contraindicated while taking antihypertensive or diuretic medications.)
As a skin treatment Dandelion sap also known as dandelion milk is effective in treating skin problems. It is very alkaline and contains a powerful germicidal and fungicidal properties that works extremely well on eczema, itchiness, athletes foot and other similar conditions. Dandelion is such a strong detoxifier that she also works well on clearing acne. An older woman I know who has wonderful glowing skin swears by her homemade dandelion cream. She has since given me her secret recipe which I shall be trying out……..
Dandelion is a good herb to start your spring cleansing and strengthening treatment with. Look for plants that aren’t growing in areas that have been sprayed with pesticides. The roots are at their most powerful when dug early in the spring or in autumn after growth has died down. A piece of root, two to three inches long, is a good size in which to make a large teapot for a day’s use. The tincture which you can buy or make is best taken three times a day before meals to get the digestive juices flowing and your gut singing.
Start to enjoy these wonderful ‘weeds’ they really are a blessing for our plates and our soul. I have found that when people want to connect with plants and wild medicine they often imagine the exotic plants and forget about our native ‘weeds’ that are growing all around us and are often the most powerful tool you could connect with.