Dandelion: The springtime elixir

February 27, 2012

Food, Gardening, Recipes

You might have paid a lot of money to actually get rid of Taraxacum officinale, without knowing it, because this is the Latin name for the common dandelion.

by Karen Langston — 

(Editor’s Note: Consult with a qualified health practitioner before consuming dandelion or before beginning any diet or detoxification regimen.)

What if you were told that there is a simple remedy for health ailments such as liver disease, kidney stones, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia, acne, gout and arthritis? Would you believe it? What if you were told that you could find it in the U.S. National Formulary, as well as the pharmacopeias of Hungary, Poland, Switzerland and the Soviet Union? And that pharmacists learn about this remedy in school? Would you pay attention then?

The Latin name for this simple remedy is Taraxacum officinale, which literally means “altering or stirring up.” You might have paid a lot of money to actually get rid of Taraxacum officinale, without knowing it, because this is the Latin name for the common dandelion.

Dandelion’s appearance

The dandelion is widely used as a medicinal herb. Its seeds are transported by kids making wishes, browsing and grazing animals or with help from the spring breeze. Dandelions are photosensitive, meaning they bloom with the morning’s sun and close in the evening or on an overcast day.

The fleshy bare roots are brown in color and filled with a white, bitter-tasting sap. Dandelions are well known for their yellow color. Because they are largely considered a weed by homeowners, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent annually in the United States to eliminate the unsightly yellow flower; yet every year, there seem to be more than the year before.

Could their natural reappearance, in spite of the strongest herbicides, hold a message for us? Perhaps some weeds, like the dandelion, can actually benefit the very humans who are trying to eliminate them.

Healing and detox properties

Spring is here, and dandelions have begun popping up. If you are willing to use good, old-fashioned elbow grease to keep the weeds at bay — in other words, no herbicides or pesticides — you, too, may be rewarded by the sprouting of dandelions in your yard and around your property.

The dandelion has incredible healing properties and more nutrients than the traditional greens in your salad. In the wild, animals readily eat the plant for its natural detoxification benefits.

The dandelion plant has been used for thousands of years to treat common conditions such as cancer, diabetes and fungal infections. It also has been used to treat digestive disorders, liver conditions, skin infections, and insect and snake bites. Many cultures have used the plant to treat an array of health issues. The ancient Indian medical system of Ayurveda used the plant to treat liver disorders such as jaundice, enlargement and cirrhosis.

Native Americans used dandelion to treat heartburn and renal disease and to make a therapeutic tea for the treatment of constipation, water retention, and aches and pains. Europeans used them to treat fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes and diarrhea. The Spanish introduced the dandelion to the United States in 1820 as a therapeutic plant that could treat just about any ailment.

It is interesting to note that this small yellow flower has been used for thousands of years to treat various cancers. Canada banned pesticides and herbicides because of their strong correlation to leukemia and liver cancers. How ironic that the one plant we have been forever trying to destroy can actually prevent certain cancers and heal the liver. The dandelion contains a slew of nutrients that help build immunity.

Notice that you only see dandelions in the spring. Nature knows that this is an important time to detoxify our bodies of the many toxins that have accumulated during the long sluggish winter, and the dandelion is the best herb for detoxifying the liver and gallbladder. It strengthens organs, helping to stimulate bile production and cleaning out the bile duct.

Nutrients

The dandelion is a nutritional powerhouse, containing all the healing nutrients needed for detoxification and maintenance of health: water, fatty acids, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, vitamins C, A, B12, B6, K and E, riboflavin, folate, iron, phosphorus, sodium, copper, selenium, thiamin, niacin, choline, lutein, pantothenic acid and beta carotene.

Picking or shopping for dandelions

Pick away if you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that is not heavily polluted with oil-based pesticides or herbicides, or near roads where car exhaust is mingled in the plant externally and internally.

Pick the plants in the morning, before the sun hits them directly. Choose young leaves that have not flowered yet. These have more nutrients and will be more palatable than the older leaves of a plant that has already flowered.

If you will be using them to make tea, pick the flowers and the roots. Do not worry about damaging the roots. Dandelions have a tap root — one break, and it will send up shoots elsewhere.

Some supermarkets and health food stores carry dandelion leaves and also sell dandelion tinctures and teas. But truly, there is nothing more satisfying than picking a plant and reaping its immediate enzyme and nutritional gold. Our bodies synthesize all plant nutrients and use them to our greatest potential.

Should you worry about eating weeds? We eat weeds and herbs every day. Some feel like they are toxic because they are moving toxins out of our fat cells, into the bloodstream and on to the colon for elimination. The dandelion has received a bad rap long enough. It is time to embrace this weed’s healing and nutrient-dense power.

Contraindications

As with everything, the body’s reception of a plant is specific to each individual. What may be good for one person may not be good for another. Make sure you are not allergic to dandelions before consuming.

If you have never explored detoxification before, it is highly recommended that you not juice any part of the plant and that you seek out a qualified practitioner to help you through the process. Juices extracted from the stem or roots of the dandelion can induce nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea and increased urination, all of which are side effects of detoxification.

Although the dandelion is the perfect plant to aid in the detoxification of the gallbladder or liver, if you are experiencing gallbladder conditions or gallstones, it is recommended that you exercise extreme caution and seek out a qualified professional to aid you through the process.

If you are taking over-the-counter or prescription diuretics, do not consume any part of the dandelion; the plant is a natural diuretic and has the potential to interact with diuretic drugs to reduce the effect of the synthetic drugs.

If you are taking any type of medication, be sure to consult with a qualified health practitioner before consuming dandelion or before beginning any diet or detoxification regimen.

When you are ready to give this untapped source a try, add young dandelion leaves to your next salad. Be sure to wash them thoroughly and dry first. Here is a great dandelion recipe to try.

Dandelion Flower Tea

Ingredients:

  • Handful of dandelion flower tops
  • One cup water
  • Honey, to taste

Instructions:

Chop a handful of flower tops and place in your favorite mug. Pour boiling water over the flowers. Steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Add honey, to taste. Yields 1 cup.

 

Karen Langston is an extreme nutritionist and chief body reorganizer who helps her clients get to the nutritional root of their health and fitness issues. 623-203-HEAL (4325), karen@iamworthit2.com or www.iamworthit2.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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