I first learned about dandelion by reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury many decades ago, a book not really about dandelions but so fully infused with the spirit of summer that it may as well have been. After finishing it, I proceeded to actually make dandelion wine with a friend and we found it quite refreshing and surprisingly good. I even won a prize in a photo contest with my dandelion shot. At that point, I was hooked on dandelions and proceeded to learn much more about them.
That’s when I discovered that dandelions truly are Spring’s blessing, despite being cursed by many people for making a mess of their lawns. Yet, these same folks who hate dandelions could benefit from this weed most as it clears the liver congestion that causes that fiery, angry energy.
One of the best liver herbs around, dandelion root treats cirrhosis and jaundice. I have also seen it effectively heal hepatitis in doses of 6 cups daily of the decocted raw root taken for 1-2 weeks. It clears skin conditions, too, such as rashes, measles, chicken pox, eczema, poison oak and ivy and other eruptions, especially when combined with two other great skin herbs, burdock seeds and calendula.
Dandelion root also acts on the digestive system by stimulating the secretion of bile, assisting digestion and elimination (especially of fats), dissolving gallbladder and kidney stones, and regulating blood sugar in diabetes and hypoglycemia. As well, it helps detoxification and stagnation from over-eating meat and fatty or fried foods, thereby treating poor digestion of fats along with constipation, gout and arthritis.
I always include dandelion in my liver formulas, often combining it with isatis Isatis tinctoria; ban lan gen) and andrographis (Andrographis paniculata; chuan xin lian) for a premier anti-bacterial, antiviral, and heat-clearing formula that treats inflammation anywhere in the body as well as for colds, flu, sore throats, bladder infections and constipation from heat (red hot swellings, eruptions, severe sore throat, feelings of heat, lots of sweating, and thirst).
The root can be roasted and made into a strong tea that Europeans call "dandelion coffee." It’s an excellent coffee substitute since its full-bodied bitter flavor is satisfying and counteracts the effects of previous caffeine by cleansing the injured liver (use roasted dandelion root if there are feelings of coldness, but skip the dandelion coffee and use unroasted raw dandelion root tea if the person feels hot). It also combines well with chicory root for a closer coffee flavor, as this latter herb is included in instant coffee.
I frequently recommend dandelion coffee to help people eliminate their daily coffee by slowly decreasing coffee consumption while commensurately increasing the roasted dandelion-chicory beverage. If you want, maintain your coffee ritual by grinding the roots and placing them in a filter.
The Chinese consider dandelion root an anti-toxin herb. They use its cool energy to treat hot, painful, toxic swellings, infections, inflammations, boils, abscesses, dental caries, red, swollen and painful eyes or throat, fever, and mumps. Since it has a special effect on the breasts, the Chinese also use it to treat breast sores, tumors, mastitis, swollen lymph glands, and cysts. It is used as a breast cancer preventative as well. Even better, dandelion root is only mildly bitter and so may be used by those with deficiency heat (Yin Deficiency), too!
Western herbalists use dandelion root as a galactagogue to stimulate the production of mother's milk, and as a blood purifier. Dandelion root does not increase or build blood. Rather, its cooling and slightly bitter energy counteracts the very nature of blood, which is warming and moistening. However, if you combine dandelion leaves, which are high in iron, with molasses (which nourishes blood), then you can use that combination to build blood.
Dandelion leaves are as medicinal as the root. Very high in iron and Vitamin A, they support the blood (when combined with molasses as explained above). Taken cool, dandelion leaf tea is one of the most effective diuretics – as effective as Lasix. Because it is rich in potassium, it isn’t as harsh and so cleanses the kidneys while eliminating water retention and lowering blood pressure.
Dandelion is used throughout the world. Native Americans applied its juice externally to snake bites. Ayurvedic practitioners use it for dysentery, fever, vomiting, and as an anti-poison. The leaves are grown as a vegetable in Europe and eaten when young in the spring (they are less bitter then – add olive oil and lemon juice) to help clear winter’s excesses and prevent spring’s colds and flu.
Of course my favorite use of dandelion is still what I learned as a child – picking the flowers when gone to seed and blowing their white parachutes off the stem. To me this is a wonderful metaphor – the plant transforming like a snake that sheds its skin and then reseeds to start their lives anew. May this wonderful plant continue to mellow the angry folk and heal many others!
Taraxacum mongolicum; Asteraceae
Chinese: pu gong ying; Sanskrit: atirasa
Part Used: Leaves and root
Energy, taste and Organs affected: Cold; bitter, sweet; Liver, Stomach, Kidney, Gallbladder, Bladder, Spleen, Pancreas
Actions: Clears Heat and toxins
Properties: Lithotriptic, astringent, cholagogue, galactagogue, mild laxative, alterative, diuretic (especially leaves), antibacterial, bitter stomachic
Biochemical constituents: Eudesmanolides, germacranolides, triterpenes, sterols, carotenoids, flavonoids, carbohydrates (root), fructose, mucilage, potassium (leaves), inulin, aesculin (leaves), a bitter principle, tannin, Vitamin A
Dose: 9-30 g; decoct 1 tsp./cup water; drink 1 cup tea 3 times/day; 2 "00" caps 3 times/day; 10-60 drops tincture, 1-4 times/day
Precautions: Overdose can cause mild diarrhea
Indications: Red, swollen and painful eyes, firm and hard abscesses and sores, tumors and cysts, promotion of lactation, mastitis, gout, arthritis, skin problems, painful urination, indigestion, liver congestion, hepatitis, jaundice, cirrhosis, constipation, skin eruptions, urinary bladder and kidney infections, gallbladder and kidney stones, diabetes, hypoglycemia