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Friday
Jun032011

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The humble, often maligned, Dandelion is one of the workhorses of Western herbal medicine and a nutritional powerhouse.

All parts of Dandelion are edible – flower, flower bud, leaf and root. Collect the flowers and unopened buds whenever you see them – they come out full force in spring and sometimes sporadically thereafter. They’re really tasty in stir fries and have a meaty, chewy texture. The flowers are also used to make dandelion wine. The leaves can be collected anytime but are the least bitter in early spring before the flowers appear and in the fall after a few frosts. They are very bitter in the summer. Bitter is an important principal in our diet, though, which we’ve almost totally eradicated through our love affair with sugar. Bitters stimulate all the digestive juices and are vital for a healthy digestive system. They also have a tonic effect on our entire endocrine system. So try giving bitters a go. Combining the leaves with sweeter veggies (such as yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.) in a stir fry is absolutely acceptable. The leaves are very nutritious. They are high in beta-carotene, iron and calcium. They contain the B-complex vitamins including B-12, C, E, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. The taproot is edible all year but is at its choicest in late fall. Use it as a cooked vegetable, especially in soups. The root (and leaves to a lesser extent) contains the fructans inulin and oligofructose which stimulate the immune system, improve the health of the gut flora, relieve constipation, reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, regulate blood sugar and increase mineral absorption amongst a whole host of other health benefits. You can make a delicious coffee substitute with Dandelion roots. I’ve included the directions on how to do this below.

All parts of Dandelion are used as medicine. The herb consists of the leaves and open flower heads (minus the stem). The flower heads are harvested in the early part of its flowering period in early spring and the leaves are harvested in the summer after the flower stalk has died back. You can use Dandelion herb fresh, dried or as a tincture. To use as a tincture, make separate tinctures of the flowers and leaves and then combine them 2-3:1 leaf to flower after pressing. The root can also be used fresh, dried or as a tincture. Collect the roots in the fall after a few frosts but before the ground is totally frozen.

The combination of Dandelion leaf and flower is an excellent urinary tonic and diuretic that doesn’t leach potassium out of the body as do pharmaceutical diuretics. They can be used for any inflammatory condition of the urinary tract such as cystitis and nephritis. They are also used for lymphatic conditions, edema, congestion and inflammation of the liver and gallbladder, and rheumatic conditions. The root is used for conditions of the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, stomach, kidneys, and joints. It is used for congestion and inflammations of the liver and gallbladder, including hepatitis and gallstones. It promotes healthy digestion and elimination. It is also used for mature-onset diabetes and for balancing blood sugar in hypoglycemia. Dandelion root is used for all manner of chronic toxicity related conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Dandelion is a powerful, deep acting herb that will gradually and gently bring the body back to a state of good health and balance. 

Dandelion Coffee
Scrub the freshly dug roots well with a stiff brush to remove all traces of soil. Trim off rootlets. Chop the roots up into dime-sized pieces and dry them slowly either in the oven in a shallow baking tray at 150F or in a food dehydrator until they are very dry and brittle. Once they are completely dried out, roast them in the oven in a baking tray at 300–350F for 15–20 minutes or until they are a deep brown. Stir the roots frequently while roasting to get an even roast. Once roasted, grind the roots and store in a glass jar in the fridge. To use as a coffee substitute, use 1 tsp of the Dandelion to 1 cup of boiled water. Leave to steep for 5 minutes and then strain. Play around with the amount of ground root to water ratio and steeping time to get a beverage to your liking. Unlike regular coffee which depletes the adrenals Dandelion root coffee is very nourishing to them.

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