Taraxacum officinale


Dandelion is common, abundant and incredibly nourishing - a weed par excellence! Although hated by those who want a perfect lawn, dandelion is a powerful medicine, possessing the power of the lion's tooth and the strength of the eagle's claw. The Greeks called dandelion taraxos achos: "disorder remedy."          

Regarded as a supreme liver tonic, and used around the world for that purpose, dandelion root stimulates the flow of bile from both the gallbladder and the liver. Dandelion is an unfailing ally for relief in all cases of liver distress. A dose is 20-40 drops of tincture, or a tablespoon of dandelion vinegar, taken over food or in water, 2-4 times a day, for as long as necessary.   

Dandelion root (tinctured or infused in vinegar) is a reliable appetite stimulant. It is best when taken just before meals. I rely on it as a tonic for the stomach, pancreas and kidneys, as well as the nervous, glandular, immune and lymphatic systems. Consistent use of dandelion root vinegar creates a potassium rich, anti-cancer environment and helps clear free radicals from the bloodstream. Dandelion root is an excellent ally for those dealing with cancer, AIDS-related illnesses, swollen lymph glands, Epstein Barr virus and mononucleosis.   

Fall-dug dandelion roots are 25 percent inulin, a plant sugar that can help stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce hypoglycemia and prevent adult-onset diabetes. In addition, the inulin combines with the abundant mucilage in dandelion to soothe the digestive tract, absorb heavy metals and encourage the growth of friendly intestinal flora.

Dandelion root possesses considerable blood nourishing abilities. Its rich stores of potassium help insure a healthy heart. Regular use of dandelion root lowers cholesterol, brings down high blood pressure, helps prevent arteriosclerosis and is antirheumatic.   

Rich in phytosterols, dandelion roots are known as an excellent reproductive system tonic. I call upon dandelion as an ally when trying to regulate and stabilize my hormone production.

Dandelion also inhibits the growth of the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections (candida albicans) when used in a sitz bath (dandelion vinegar diluted in water) or as a wash over the vaginal area.   

To help heal breast tissue, I grate the fresh root and apply it as a poultice to sores, impacted milk glands and cysts. An infused oil of dandelion roots, flowers and/or leaves is used for breast massage. I sometimes blend it with violet oil and add a few drops of essential oil of lavender.   

Chinese herbalists use the entire plant (roots, leaves, flowers and seeds) as a liver tonic and diuretic. They call it pu gong ying. They use dandelion root against breast cancer, colds, bronchial problems, itching and internal bleeding. Ayurvedic healers do the same.

First Nation people wise in the ways of dandelion use the entire plant to remedy a variety of ills. Fox use the roots to poultice chest pains, Bella Coola for relieving stomach pains and heartburn, and the Delaware and Mohican as a tonic laxative. Navajo and Papago women use dandelion to tone their reproductive organs, bring on menstruation and relieve menstrual cramps. Rappahannock and Chippewa use dandelion as a blood-nourishing tonic.

Tarassaco comune, dente di leone, pisciacane, piscialletto, soffiane and ragno are some of the names my Southern Italia neighbors call this highly valued food and medicine plant. Dandelion roots have traditionally been used to remedy liver problems, stimulate bile secretions, counter dyspepsia and gastritis and address kidney ailments.

The leaves are well regarded as a diuretic and both roots and leaves for their high vitamin and mineral content. The roots have been employed to treat pulmonary tuberculosis and the leaves are widely used to prepare green salads and cooked greens.

One of the most common preparations for dandelion greens is to make what we call Minestra Terrana, which literally means “soup from the earth." Dandelion greens are combined with other wild greens such as borage, chicory, aerial parts of daisies, wild lettuces and smooth sow thistle, whose Latin name, Sonchus oleraceus, means “good tasting."

The freshly washed and trimmed greens are placed into cold water, brought to a boil and simmered gently in a covered pot which sits at the edge of the fire for an hour or more. Olive oil, garlic, onion, some sweet pepper, perhaps a bit of meat and previously soaked beans are added, depending on taste or what is available.

Dandelion leaves are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, C, and D, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. They are an excellent spring tonic, helping to revitalize the body and rejuvenate the liver. You must experience dandelion for yourself! The strengthening effect of integrating this cosmic herb into your diet for at least six weeks each spring is astounding.

Steamed, boiled or sauteed with garlic and a bit of tamari, or lightly sprinkled with herb vinegar, dandelion greens are a mainstay of our mid-day meal at home on the farm in Maine all through the growing season.

Dandelion leaves are gentle yet fast-acting in helping to relieve bloating, breast tenderness and other problems associated with water retention.

Old herbals recommend an infusion made from the dry leaves as a treatment for gout. I prefer a daily dose of vinegar made from dandelion's fresh roots and leaves. It's best when taken for at least one year.

It's no wonder dandelion is used to build strength, and energize and enhance vital life forces. Dandelion roots are high in iron, manganese, phosphorus, protein, sodium and vitamin A. They also contain an especially well-balanced array of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, zinc and vitamin C complex. A typical dose of dandelion root tincture is 10-100 drops a day. A dose of infusion made from dried dandelion  root and/or leaf is 1-2 cups a day.

Golden dandelion flowers steeped in olive oil are a wonderful moisturizer and a great tension relieving massage oil. These beautiful blossoms possess the ability to help release emotional tension held in the muscles. We use the flowers and the roots in our Breast Care oil. Steeped in wine, dandelion flowers make a delicious aperitivo that’s long been used to soothe heartache.

Dandelion sap is a discutient. It can absorb and dissolve diseased tissue, tumors and abnormal growths. Break the plant anywhere on the leaves, stem or root and a white milky sap emerges. Consistent applications make warts disappear.

Flower Essence Dandelion flower essence, taken internally or applied topically, helps the release of emotions. Use it to enhance openness to cosmic influences. It is useful for anyone engaged in deep work with the body, such as yoga, tai chi, reiki or massage.

Magical Lore tells us that dandelion root is an aid when walking in two worlds – it helps us to commune with the dead and enhances our psychic abilities. Drink dandelion root tea or take a bit of tincture before doing divination or calling on ancestral spirits.

Culture Dandelions grow just about everywhere, and their appearance is a sure sign that herbicide sprays have not been used. Late in fall or very early each spring, on a glorious blue-sky day, we go out to harvest dandelion roots. The smell of fresh soil fills the air. We bring home the golden-colored roots with leaves still attached, lightly rinse them, brushing off any remaining soil with a stiff brush, fill our jars with them, then cover with vinegar or alcohol.

Dandelion's powerful healing constituent, taraxacin, is concentrated in the sap and we don't want to lose a drop of it, so we work fast. Six weeks later our mineral-rich vinegar, or tincture, is ready to use in countless ways throughout the year. I love the taste of dandelion roots and leaves in our fire cider mix.

It's a lot easier to dig dandelion if it's allowed to grow in the garden where the soil is loose. We actually planted dandelion in the herb gardens and let it "escape" for a wilder flavor. The slender, jagged leaves grow into a huge rosette that is quite ornamental, and the sight of those bright golden blossoms in spring always enlivens me. They enliven the pollinators as well and are most attractive to honey bees.

I harvest dandelion leaves year round and the flowers as they bloom. The roots, like most perennials, are ready to dig anytime after the fall of their second year of growth. I usually wait until after a frost or two.

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