Come spring, our herbal ally Mr. Dandelion begins to pop up everywhere. But to some, dandelion is no friend. It’s interesting to think about all of the energy that people put into fighting this plant and still it persists. Yes, dandelion is a hardy, resilient plant which spreads shamelessly. But labeling plants within the confines of binaries like “good” or “bad” is a slippery slope. Before we begin to celebrate this plant, it’s helpful to look at how our yards have turned into battlefields in which dandelions are the enemy.
Dandelions are put in the hot seat for creating undesirable “turf.” Because of the way it grows in bunches, from a hardy taproot, it creates bumpy soil….less flat than grass, for example. Think of yourself standing in a perfectly manicured yard. The grass is green, cushy, and covers the earth like a carpet. Comfortable, huh? (For a full history of the yard, including its root in classism, see this Wikipedia post)
Now, imagine yourself in one of those less managed yards…..the earth feels firm beneath your feet, there are bare patches and patches where plants seem to be thriving. You notice that there are more plants than just grass, and the earth ever so slightly contours with the different types of growth. Wild, huh? Insects abound, strange flowers bloom & birds frequent the area. If you are curious about why the modern lawn, including the herbicide required to maintain it, is an ecological disaster, read here.
Let’s look at dandelion’s unique characteristics for a minute. Considered a pioneer species, dandelion is great at colonizing disturbed soil with those floating parachute seeds. When reaching compacted soils, dandelion’s tap root reaches deep below and pulls up minerals not present in the topsoil (or lack of topsoil). This is a great attribute of a pioneer species because it paves the way for subsequent species that would naturally follow. Thus comes the rub: lawns are a unnatural human creation: natural grasslands are slowly transformed into secondary succession species. This is the reason that lawns require such extensive inputs to maintain: we are working against nature in so many ways.
If you’re here reading this blog, maybe you have been wondering how to accept the natural process occurring in your yard or garden. Maybe you’re here to see some dandelion food recipes or to reinforce your understanding of this plant as a medicinal ally. So, keep reading in celebration of dandelion!
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
Energetics: cold, sweet, bitter
Historical Use: Dandelion is a traditional blood and liver tonic. It has a long history of use to help find respite from chronic skin conditions as well as assisting with digestion. A traditional use that is still common today is using the fresh flowers to make dandelion wine or beer in the spring1. In Europe, this plant is grown as a vegetable. The plant gets incorporated into spring cuisine to help clear out winter excess. The Chinese use the root to treat hot, protruding afflictions like swelling, boils, fevers, and infection. They also use this herb for breast afflictions like sores, tumors, cysts, swollen lymph nodes, and mastitis2. Native Americans use the latex-ey juice that comes from the stem to treat poisonous bites2.
Western therapeutics: Dandelion, the leaf in particular, is an effective diuretic: helping to reduce water retention and lower blood pressure. Because it is high in iron, vitamins, and minerals, it is less harsh than conventional water-flushing medications. It pairs nicely with burdock root for skin issues. Dandelion offers great liver and digestive support. Its bitter taste stimulates bile production which supports the digestion and elimination processes. This herb has been known to help with kidney stones, and is also helpful in managing blood sugar.
Use: Dandelion flowers, root, and leaves can all be ingested. The latex-ey stems can also be applied to the skin topically for bites, stings, and warts. Fresh flowers and leaves are perfect additions to spring salads, and also make lovely infused vinegars. Dry the leaves for future use in teas. Dried roots are great for tea infusions, as well. You can even lightly roast dandelion roots to use them as a coffee replacement! Here is a little tutorial from Learning Herbs.
Chemical Constituents: Dandelion is high in minerals–especially potassium. Both the leaves and roots contain potassium, with high levels in the leaves. The leaves also contain coumarins and carotenoids3. The plant contains triterpenes and polysaccharides as well3.
Contraindications: Dandelion is generally gentle and safe to use. When wild-harvesting dandelions, use caution and awareness around which plants you use. Do not ingest plants that have been treated with non-organic fertilizer or herbicides.
Ways to befriend dandelion
Dandelion wants to be your friend, not your enemy. You can build a relationship with this helpful plant in a variety of ways. The easiest way is to eat it! Dandelion is an amazing, fresh addition to spring cooking. Here (link to recipe) is a recipe for my favorite spring salad. It’s vibrant, delicious, and also supports your body’s elimination processes. What’s not to love?
You can also experience the vibrational essence of this plant by using dandelion flower essence. Meadowsweet carries an array of quality flower essences from Alaskan Essences. We love supporting this local company that puts incredible care into their products.
We also love our local herb school! They offer free dandelion thank you cards which you can print out to spread the love! Read Green Path Herb School’s dandelion celebration blog to learn how you can thank your community for letting this plant be.
While there are many ways to get to know this plant, the last idea I offer is through play. Yup. You’re reading this right. Dandelions evoke such a childlike wonder, that playing with this plant can be a big part of embracing all that it has to offer. Make a classic dandelion flower crown; blow its seeds and make wishes; rub its yellow pigment onto your skin. Dance in fields of dandelion! Sing! Celebrate your imperfections and let this plant remind you to let go of control.
Happy dandelion season and thanks for taking time to learn more about this special plant!
- Tierra, L. (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life: Hundreds of Herbal Remedies, Therapies, and Preparations. Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.Cech, R. (2016). Making Plant
Medicine. Herbal Reads LLC.
- Cech, R. (2016). Making Plant Medicine. Herbal Reads LLC.
- Chevallier, A. (2016). Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for
Common Ailments (3rd ed.). DK.