02 Sep Herb of the Month – Dandelion
Before you mow over them, let’s take a closer look at dandelion – one of your liver’s favourite herbs!
This mighty bitter herb belongs to a large genus within the Asteraceae family known as Taraxacum. There are many varieties within this genus, however the two most common ‘dandelion’ varieties are T. officianale and T. erythrospermum.
Dandelions are native to the northern hemisphere and have been a staple in cultures throughout Eurasia and North America. What’s great about these abundant little rays of sunshine is that all parts of the plant are used – the leaves blanched or sautéed like spinach to reduce bitterness and the bitter roots embraced for their therapeutic benefits. Let’s take a closer look.
Phylum: Athophyta (Angiosperms)
Family: Asteraceae (like daisy)
Species: T. officianale
A bit of history…
Dandelion is a French derivation from dents de lion (teeth of a lion) – and you didn’t think lion’s grew in France! It was also referred to as pis en lit (wet the bed) for its diuretic action! Jokes aside, records dating back thousands of years describe its widespread use as a medicine among the ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman and Native American cultures.
Dandelion is a readily available source of bitter food. Our liver’s love bitter because it aids with the digestion and assimilation of nutrients, increases bile production and acts as a natural antidote to excess sweet. We use dandelion in herbal bitters, as a healthy coffee substitute, in root beer and dandelion wine (with citrus added). Through history dandelion flowers have been dried and powdered for use as a yellow dye. They are loved by gardeners for attracting bees and as a companion plant to mine deep nutrients to the surface via a long taproot. They also contain small amounts of natural latex and release ethylene gas which ripens fruit.
Dandelion greens are a rich source of Vitamins A, C, and K and also contain small amounts of vitamin E, folate and B vitamins. They are packed with magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron and the roots contain inulin, a soluble fibre that helps to maintain healthy intestinal flora. Inspired yet? Check out these dandelion recipes.
In Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda dandelion has been used particularly to treat stomach, liver and skin disorders. It is still used today to treat eczema, acne, high cholesterol, gastrointestinal disorders, heartburn and diabetes. Dandelion is a digestive tonic (increases appetite), hepatic (liver) tonic, stomachic (stomach) tonic, cholagogue (increases bile production and secretion to help with fat metabolism), aperient (mild laxative for constipation), diuretic (flushing kidneys), general stimulant (mainly urinary organs and liver), pH balancer, blood glucose regulator, sudorific (promotes sweating).
You can’t get all that from your lawn! So, the next time you go to mow, at least harvest those dandelions first!
To read about more important liver herbs and Spring health tips read our Spring Health Tips from Chinese Medicine next.