Dandelion / Taraxacum officinalis

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

 

family

Asteraceae

 

parts used

root, leaves, flowers, sap, seeds

 

energetic qualities

cooling, drying, tonifying

 

taste(s)

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

 

Preparations

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.)

 

Sources

Herb Mentor, May 2016 Featured Herb: Dandelion by Rosalee de la Forêt

Herb Mentor, May 2008 Featured Herb: Dandelion by John Gallagher

Linden / Tilia Cordata

 Deciduous tree with smooth, grey bark that grows up to 100 ft. tall

Deciduous tree with smooth, grey bark that grows up to 100 ft. tall

Linden appeals to me for it’s calming effects on the nervous system, it’s soothing effect on pain, and it’s moisturizing qualities. Last year, when I had recently moved to the  Northeast in the dead of winter, my body was adjusting to the climate and feeling really dry. I also have a tendency towards stress / muscle tension / chronic neck pain, so with my move, I hoped to rebuild my routine around self-care and re-frame my concept of productivity.

Linden has been a wonderful companion during this transition, and continues to be an herb that I work with often. When I first drank the tea, it made me feel light and and euphoric, and through the months I've noticed increased calmness, increased ability to sit still/concentrate, and reduced irritability.  My teachers call Linden a "hug in a mug" which is so accurate! I like to think of it as my comfort herb that I can turn to whenever I'm feeling off.

 leaf detail - uneven heart shape, serrated edges

leaf detail - uneven heart shape, serrated edges

Linden is great at re-hydrating the body, and a helpful balancer in formulae that contain drying herbs (note: most herbs are drying!). During a cold, Linden helps with decongestion by keeping the body hydrated and fluids moving. The demulcent qualities support the body's mucus membranes, including the bladder, so can be soothing during a UTI, Yeast Infection, or any dry irritation in the body.

Its mild flavor makes it great for tea mixtures with other herbs such as rose-hip, nettle, lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, hawthorn berries, gogi berries. I also mix it with cashews and make a flour for zucchini bread. A unique quality of Linden is that it's a demulcent herb, meaning that it has a moistening quality for the body, especially when infused in cold water. To achieve a delicious, cold Linden tea, mix 4 tablespoons of dried leaves and flowers with 32 oz. of water, let it sit overnight, then strain and enjoy! You can re-steep the leaves and flowers a couple of times.

 cluster of pale yellow flowers

cluster of pale yellow flowers

Commonly called basswood and lime tree, Linden has a variety of helpful properties.  Not only are its leaves and flowers delicious as tea, salad greens, and infusions, the soft bark can be easily carved and transformed into a fiber for ropes, mats, etc. It’s immensely popular in France and native to northern latitudes. On a recent trip to Barcelona, I learned that Linden, or Tilo in Spanish,  grows all over the city and is a well-loved remedy for nervous conditions. It was so nice to walk through an unfamiliar place surrounded by my favorite herb!

FAMILY - Tiliaceae

PARTS USED - flowers, buds, leaves, bark and sap

TASTE(S) - Sweet, mild, musty, dried grass

ENERGETIC QUALITIES - Cooling, moistening

TISSUE / ORGAN AFFINITIES - Good for tension, especially in the heart, cardiovascular, nervous and muscular systems.  Also a vasodilator, which lowers blood pressure

FOUNDATIONAL / CLINICAL ACTIONS - Hypotensive, relaxing nervine, relaxing diaphoretic, demulcent, astringent, anti-spasmodic, mild diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anodyne

PREPARATIONS - Tea, flour, poultice, bath herb,infused honey, salad green, lotion, cold infusion, tincture, vinegar, bark for fibrous tools (baskets, ropes, mats, paper and cloth), high tannin content

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS - Very gentle, okay for children, elders, and continual use

 

(all opinions expressed here are suggestions 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.)

 

sources:

Herbmentorʼs herb of the month, July & August, 2011, by Rosalee de la Forêt

katja swift and ryn midura, Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism, Clinical Studies Program