I was going to do a whole spill of how history repeats itself, which may have been slightly chastising, but I decided that being helpful was more important. So today I am going to talk about Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), the name meaning ‘teeth of the lion’ (dent de lion). They should be in full-swing bloom in southern areas, and maybe further north, at the moment, because they are very hardy and tend to be one of the first things to bloom in the spring. Most consider it a weed, even though the flowers are a beautiful yellow, and only a few know what this little weed can do.
I am continuing from last week’s blog based on Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal. Most info will come from this book, but I will put my two cents in occasionally. I think I got this book at Tractor Supply, and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t have everything, but for the average person, it will be more than enough to start you on you way to self-help when the world goes nuts.
I will start by saying that I have personally picked dandelion leaves and added them to my mustard greens, and they are fantastic. They have a peppery bite to them that is great fresh or cooked, although the older the leaf, the more bitter the flavor. I know almost everyone loves the look of a freshly cut lawn, but when you let these plants grow, you will not be disappointed. When we lived in town in East Texas, we were not the greatest at keeping our lawn prim and proper, but I managed to grow a plethora of dandelions and wild blackberries IN TOWN when the lawn was left to its own devices, without planting a thing. Condolences to those of you who live in neighborhoods that require you to keep your yard mowed and ‘presentable’. Maybe you can bring this info to you neighborhood counsel and enlighten some people on the usefulness of ‘weeds’.
Dandelions grow fast so, you could always let them grow, pick what you want, then mow, and you should have more flowers in a decent amount of time while keeping a pretty yard. The leaves grow close enough to the ground that if you don’t mow with the blades too low, you can always have greens.
In the midst of this pandemic we find ourselves in, natural ways of doing things are priceless, and they don’t cost you ANYTHING. If you are out of a job because of the Kung Flu, let that yard go wild, and see what you can do with it. You would be surprised how many weeds are actually edible, but I will stick to Dandelions today.
Dandelions can be made into salads, caffeine free coffee, wine, beer, tea, and used medicinally. It is almost indestructible, is perennial and self fertilizing. It’s deep tap root makes it hard to dig out, and any pieces left will regenerate. Seeds can soar miles in the wind, and flowers last almost all year long. Any amount of mowing, herbicide, and ‘flame throwing’ fail to kill this plant, but do not ingest plants from areas that have been sprayed with chemicals. View it as a ‘cut and come again’ crop, rather than a weed, and you will not be disappointed.
The plant gets its name from the saw-edged leaves or perhaps the tiny florets, found in many languages.
In many cultures the lion has been the animal symbol of the sun, and its astrological sign is Leo. Dandelions are yellow disks, like the sun, and open and close along with it.Backyard Medicinine
The old name means ‘rays of the sun’ rather than ‘teeth of the lion’, and I am sure many of my readers can find correlations to the Sun/Son, and the Lion, but I will not go into that. The Chinese have long used the dandelion, and have named it ‘yellow-flowered earth-nail’, and ‘golden hairpin weed.’
It is high in minerals like potassium, and Vitamins like A, B, C and D. Young leaves can be boiled up into a tea or eaten fresh in salads as detoxifiers and to cleanse the blood by increasing elimination through the kidneys and bowels. It is a wonderful herb for the liver, especially where there are toxins and heat in the blood. The plant’s chemicals cause the gallbladder to contract, releasing bile, stimulating the liver to produce more.
Helps with jaundice, hepatitis, gallstones, urinary tract infection, painful menopause, PMT, and menstruation, and improvements in the pancreas, spleen, skin and eyesight are all possible with the use of this weed.
It is the bitterness in dandelion leaves that makes them so good for your digestion. The bitter taste stimulates secretion of the digestive fluid, including stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic juices. Dandelion promotes the appetite, and is recommended for those who have been ill or have lost the enthusiasm for food in advanced age.
Roasted dandelion root, harvested from older plants, can be used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Grind with a few pods of cardamom before brewing, and add cinnamon and fennel seed if you want. The roots can also be eaten as a vegetable.
Flowers can be eaten straight off the plant, made into tea, added to salads, or even dipped wet into flour and fried in butter for a delicious snack. Dandelion flowers can help relieve headaches as well. When used as a snack, they are best eaten around lunchtime, as the flowers are more bitter when picked in the evening.
I won’t go into the method of making Dandelion Wine, but I am sure most of us read the book of the same name in school growing up. It is actually a thing.
The sap or latex of the stems was once used in patent medicines, and was said to remove freckles and age spots, corns and warts, to help hair grow, and treat bee stings and blisters.Backyard Medicine
It is known as “piss-en-lit” in French, “pissabed” in English and is justly renowned for its diuretic properties, or increasing the flow of urine. It strengthens the urinary tract, and is effective in treating bedwetting in children and incontinence in older people. All parts of the plant have this effect, but especially the leaves.
Most diuretic drugs cause loss of potassium in the body, but Dandelions are very high in potassium, and can be safely used long term.The leaves boiled with veggie scraps make a potassium-rich broth.
Diuretic effects can be used to treat swollen ankles, fluid retention, and high blood-pressure. Can also help reduce high cholesterol, and the pain of arteriosclerosis and joints, digestive problems, chronic illness, viral infections, and heart/lung irregularities.
Dandelion may well be the world’s most famous weed…Up until the 1800s [American] people would actually pull the grass out of their yards to make room for dandelions and other useful “weeds” such as chickweed, malva, and chamomile.”Mars (1999)
The root and leaves can be tinctured separately for specific uses, but generally tinctured together. Dig up the plant, wash the dirt off and remove any dead leaves. Use leave whole or chopped. Let dry after rinsing and place in large jar. Cover with vodka or similar alcohol. Place in a cool spot out of the sunlight. If you chopped leaves, it will be ready to use in about 2 weeks, otherwise it will be ready in about a month. Strain and squeeze through cheese cloth or a clean rag. Pour into clean amber or blue glass bottle, label and store. The dark glass keeps light from damaging the chemical compounds in your tincture. It is why essential oils and other related products come in dark bottles.
- For general health maintenance, take 1/2 tsp. 2x’s a day.
- For acute skin eruptions, take 10 drops in water frequently throughout the day until the skin clears.
- For digestive problems, recuperation from chronic illness, sluggish liver, arthritis, gout, eczema, and psoriasis, take 1/2-1 tsp. 3 x’s a day in water.
- For overindulgence in food/drink, take 10 drops in water every hour until feeling better.
Pick 100 flowers. Boil 4 pints of water with 2 1/2 oz. light brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool until tepid, then pour over flowers in a large container. Add a finely sliced lemon. Cover the container with a clean cloth and set aside in a cool place for 3-4 days, stirring occasionally. Strain and pour into tightly corked bottles. The beer will be ready to drink in a few days.
Dandelion Flower Infused Oil:
Pick enough flowers to fill a clean, dry glass jar. Pour in extra virgin olive oil slowly until jar is full. Poke gently with a clean wooden spoon to get air bubbles out. Cover with a piece of cloth with a rubber band, and put in a warm sunny place. The cloth lets moisture escape so that your oil does not go rancid. Prod flowers occasionally to keep them immersed in oil, or they will get moldy when exposed to air.
After a week or two, when the flowers are limp and have lost their color, strain off the oil. If you squeeze oil out of flowers, let the oil stand so water can separate if there is any extra moisture.
- Excellent rub for muscle tension and cold, stiff joints.
- Good for dry skin, and can be rubbed on delicate skin around eyes.
- Oil can be eaten as well, adding flavor to salads and other foods.
- You can add essential oils, using 20 drops per 3 fl. oz. of oil. Essential oils act as a natural preservative, and bring their own qualities to the oil. Lavender, Ylang Ylang, and Rosemary all combine well with dandelion.
I hope you found this blog today enlightening. Don’t forget to make sure you can positively identify a plant before using it. The good thing about dandelions is that there are no poisonous look-a-likes. Seed pods are the most identifiable, being the fluffy little things we made wishes on as children. Leaves grow in a rosette formation close to the ground, and are highly toothed, meaning they have jagged edges, and flowers grow on tall stems. The flowers have hundred of tiny yellow petals.
My purpose in these kinds of blog posts is to give you enough knowledge to make you want to go research it for yourself. Some of you are quarantined, so there is no reason to not blow up the search engines with dandelion searches. Use your time wisely! You can never go wrong learning new things.