Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale
Parts used: root, leaves, flowers
Energetics: cooling, drying
Taste: Bitter (leaf), bitter, sweet (root)
Properties: diuretic, alterative, nutritive, digestive, stimulant, choloretic, cholagogue
Plant uses: Poor digestion, water retention, nourishment, skin eruptions, supporting healthy liver function
Plant preparations: decoction, tincture, food
It is so appropriate to be working with dandelion at this time. Dandelion teaches us strength and perseverance. Dandelion shows us how to grow in the most unlikely of places and how to keep shining bright when the world seems keen on your destruction. This is a lesson we all need at these times that seem somewhat bleak, uncertain and full of suffering. And yet, like dandelion, we know that we must grow out of this difficult experience and shine with bright yellow flowers when things seem gloomy. Like dandelion, we are here for a mission and dandelion’s lesson is that the planet needs our help to bring about change for our collective healing. So we listen. We integrate and we make space to be able to bring about these changes to a planet that demands our attention.
When we talk about spring cleaning, or spring detox, we do so by nature’s design. We awaken our bodies and senses to the crescendo of life that is about to bloom and blossom after our dark and heavy winter slumber. And how do we do this? We do it by making space in our lives, minds, and bodies. By clearing out the accumulation of winter fat storage, clearing out our homes of heavy clothing and clearing our minds to begin the year anew. In many traditions, spring is the beginning of a new year. Life starts anew. We all get a fresh start. Dandelion is our signal that spring is here and that bees are coming our way to pollinate our gardens. Dandelions are one of the first foods for bees and migrating birds and what a welcome sight that signals longer and lighter days ahead. And although most people think of dandelion as a pesky weed, the plant has long been used in herbal medicine to aid in digestion and help stimulate appetite. The entire dandelion plant from root to blossom is edible with a slightly bitter, chicory-like taste. Dandelion is so-called because of the shape of the leaves, which resemble a lion’s teeth or dent-de-lion in French.
The root itself is sometimes roasted to create caffeine-free dandelion coffee. When used for medicine, the dried or fresh root can be made into teas, tinctures, decoctions (infusions), and poultices. In traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, dandelion root has long been used to treat stomach and liver conditions. Herbalists today believe that it can aid in the treatment of many ailments, including acne, eczema, high cholesterol, heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, and even cancer. Dandelion root offers powerful support to the liver by increasing function and decreasing inflammation. A sluggish liver is related to poor digestion, skin issues like eczema and hormonal imbalances. Dandelion root indirectly supports all these functions. The root is also high in inulin, a carbohydrate that supports healthy gut flora. The liver also plays a role in metabolizing hormones and by doing so, also balances hormone levels in the body.
Dandelion leaves are among our most nutrient-dense greens, including vitamin C, vitamin K1, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene. Dandelion leaves are wonderful for digestion, its bitter flavor stimulating a cascade of digestive secretions from saliva to bile, which breaks down fats. Dandelion leaves are also a diuretic to remove excess fluids from the body without also flushing out our potassium reserves, which many pharmaceutical diuretics do.
So there you have it. If you find dandelion along your path this spring, be sure to stop by and say hello. Make a wish. And if you are harvesting from an area that hasn’t been sprayed, check out the number of recipes that you can make with dandelion. If you are not sure whether dandelion has been sprayed, always err on the side of caution and sit with the plant instead to become infused with some of its wisdom. It has plenty to teach if you are willing to listen.
May it be so. And so it is.