Last spring I chose Dandelion as my herb of the month, both for its tonic and detoxifying qualities, and for its abundance in my neighborhood. In the last days of April, I collected enough flowers to start a tincture, which turned out to be mild and sweet. Taraxacum officinalis is an herbaceous perennial that grows in temperate zones. It has a strong tap root and spreads easily due to its aerodynamic seeds, making it a plentiful and readily available herb. The bright yellow flowers open with the sun to attract pollinators, and close when the weather turns grey and at night.
Dandelion can assist poor digestion and water retention by supporting healthy liver, kidney and gallbladder function. The leaves are a diuretic, the root is a mild laxative and the flowers are an exhilarant so it’s helpful for stimulating movement in stagnant conditions. Its cooling and drying actions also help to drain stagnant toxins from the liver, which can be prone to heat and inflammation. The bitter leaves are a powerful digestive bitter, and when eaten regularly before or with meals, they stimulate the production of stomach enzymes and bile, helping to maintain healthy digestion.
Dandelion is also extremely nourishing, containing vitamins A, B, C, D and phytonutrients such as iron, potassium, manganese, carotenes and calcium. In addition, Dandelion is high in inulin, a prebiotic starch that feeds healthy gut bacteria, aiding in the restoration of healthy gut flora.
Dandelion is a versatile herb. Since all parts of the plant contain beneficial properties, there are a multitude of nutrient dense forms this bright beauty can take. The flowers, which are high in lutein, can be tossed into a salad or battered and fried into dandelion fritters. The rich, milky root is a delicious substitute for coffee and also works well as a tincture. The bitter leaves can be added to any meal as a nutritious green, blended into a pesto, or dried for tea. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Scientific studies at the University of Windsor are looking at Dandelion for cancer treatment, and for many herbalists, this is already a go-to for supporting cancer patients.
I found dandelion to be helpful while I was traveling abroad. Eating most meals out, moving from place to place, and staying in unfamiliar places can lead to uncomfortable digestion and constipation. Drinking a strong blend of gut-heal tea that was heavy on Dandelion leaves and root alleviated these issues and helped me maintain my sleep ritual.
root, leaves, flowers, sap, seeds
cooling, drying, tonifying
leaf - bitter, salty, minty
root - bitter, sweet, earthy, milky
tissue / organ affinities
Liver and kidneys, urinary system
foundational / clinical actions
leaf - diuretic, alterative, nutritive, digestive stimulant
root - alterative, nutritive, choleretic, cholagogue, mild laxative
decoction, tincture, food, vinegar, infused oil
contraindications and cautions
Be aware of over-dryness and pair with moistening herbs. The diuretic qualities can be pronounced, and stimulate bladder function.
(all opinions expressed here are based on personal experience, this is not medical advice. check with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your choice to work with an herb, and always test new herbs to see how they work in your body.)
Herb Mentor, May 2016 Featured Herb: Dandelion by Rosalee de la Forêt
Herb Mentor, May 2008 Featured Herb: Dandelion by John Gallagher