Dandelion, ‘piss-en-lit’ (‘wet-the-bed’), Taraxacum officinale
You know it: the hedge herb that you can use every part of. The root, harvested in autumn, is an excellent traditional liver remedy, the milky sap a wart cure and what fun to blow the summer seed heads to spread the joy!
The plant’s name comes from the French for lion’s tooth, alluding to the characteristic jagged shape of the leaves, and this plant is found widely across the world, its medicinal use being found in Arabic and Indian tradition a thousand years ago, as well as across Europe.
Just now it’s the leaves we want, along with the other energising and nutritive spring greens – nettles, chickweed, cleavers. The Dandelions are just calling out to us with their juicy freshness and bright flowerheads. Bitter, cleansing, diuretic (increasing urination) and a general tonic to the urinary system, and rich in iron and calcium as well as vitamins A, B & C, they are a spring food for us and can be put in salads (the flower petals too) and to infuse for tea (they get more tough and bitter the older they are so now when they’re fresh, tender and green is the time to harvest). Helping everything to move after the winter, get the digestive juices flowing and stimulating more effective excretion of wastes!
The diuretic action of Dandelion Leaf as a tea is employed in situations like oedema, or water retention in heart failure, when the heart is not pumping sufficiently to maintain effective circulation and fluid gathers in the lower parts of the body (feet and ankles, legs, abdomen). Conventional medications for this reduce the fluid buildup, but also deplete the mineral potassium from the body as they increase kidney function (which can further worsen heart disease). The great thing about using Dandelion Leaf here is that it is rich in potassium, so you reduce the risk of this side-effect!(Hoffmann, http://www.healthy.net/Materia_Medica/Dandelion_Herbal_Materia_Medica/197)
Mrs Grieve, whose extensive early 20th-century botanical encyclopaedia can be found online at http://botanical.com – a wealth of old knowledge about medicinal plants – writes that ‘
Young Dandelion leaves make delicious sandwiches, the tender leaves being laid between slices of bread and butter and sprinkled with salt. The addition of a little lemon-juice and pepper varies the flavour. The leaves should always be torn to pieces, rather than cut, in order to keep the flavour…
The young leaves may also be boiled as a vegetable, spinach fashion, thoroughly drained, sprinkled with pepper and salt, moistened with soup or butter and served very hot. If considered a little too bitter, use half spinach, but the Dandelion must be partly cooked first in this case, as it takes longer than spinach. As a variation, some grated nutmeg or garlic, a teaspoonful of chopped onion or grated lemon peel can be added to the greens when they are cooked. A simple vegetable soup may also be made with Dandelions.’
So get gathering those green leaves from your garden and instead of digging them up, let them spread for winter root medicine! If you’re harvesting from the wild, please make sure it’s unpolluted places and growing in abundance (frustrating that so much useful herb delight is on the roadside eh). Enjoy the green and light, friends, and here’s an article I found that resonated with me about winter melting into watery spring – I think the Dandelion Leaf medicine can be useful in this context.
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