Taraxacum officinale – more commonly known as dandelions or those @#%* weeds – are one of the most valuable plants on the planet. Maybe the most valuable.
There is not a single part of the dandelion plant that doesn’t contribute to our health. The healing properties of its leaves, stems, blossoms and roots battle almost every ailment known to man, from arthritis to obesity.
The dandelion can be used as a tonic and blood purifier for liver conditions such as hepatitis and jaundice, for joint pain, constipation, and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
An infusion of the dried roasted root is a powerful antioxidant, eliminating toxins from the body, as well as making a delicious coffee substitute. The roots have been used for bronchitis and other upper respiratory infections. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it valuable for the treatment of arthritis and gout.
Applied externally, the fresh juice can fight bacteria and help wounds to heal more quickly. The latex contained in the plant sap have been used to remove warts and corns. During the Second World War the plants were even grown commercially for latex. A cosmetic skin lotion can also be made out of dandelions to naturally clear the skin of acne and fade brown spots.
And yes, in scientific studies, dandelions have even been proven to reduce obesity.
As with all herbs, caution and common sense need to be applied. If you are allergic to latex you should not use dandelion products. Dandelions are also a powerful diuretic, so if you are already taking diuretics you shouldn’t add dandelions to your diet.
Its diuretic properties are where one of the dandelion’s nicknames “pissenlit” comes from. Unless you want to be up all night peeing, this is not a tea you want to take before bedtime. Conversely, our warring ancestors used to drink dandelion tea the night before an early morning battle to ensure no one overslept. It was their herbal alarm clock. When your bladder is full you will get up!
Dandelions are also a vital part of our ecosystem. Countless insects including bees and butterflies depend on the early spring flowering of dandelions as their first meal of the season.
Dandelions are not native to North America…but neither are honey bees. Europeans packed dandelion seeds when they immigrated to their new country as health insurance. They knew back then what many of us have forgotten today; that dandelions are vital to our well being. Early greens were used in salads as a delicious spring tonic and dried leaves and roots were commonly used as a winter brew.
We spend a lot of time cursing Europeans for introducing such a tenacious plant, when we should be thanking them instead.
As always, please talk to your doctor before taking any herbs, especially if you are planning to do so on a regular basis.