With a flower head reminiscent of the summer sun, and a seed head seemingly designed by garden fairy folk to delight children, the dandelion is so much more than a common weed. Fortunately, this plant is indeed very commonly found as it has a wide range of healing properties.
The main actions of the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) are as a diuretic, bitter tonic, and detoxifying herb. The leaves help with fluid retention, which in turn helps to reduce blood pressure. Dandelion leaves are also high in potassium, whereas most conventional diuretics typically leach potassium from the system. If you are using the leaves, be sure to pick the young tender leaves since the older leaves are not nearly as palatable.
The bitter principle is what indicates the beneficial effect on the digestive system and the liver, stimulating the production of bile in the gallbladder. Both the root and the leaves have a preventative action against gallstones, with the leaves often being used to dissolve existing gallstones.
Dandelion root is a popular detoxifying herb, working mainly on the liver and gallbladder to facilitate the removal of wastes and toxins. This means that it can be useful in a number of conditions where the body is attempting to eliminate toxins through various channels – such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, constipation, flatulence, osteoarthritis, and gout.
Herbalists who use the doctrine of signatures will note that the important aspects of the dandelion are the yellow colour of the flowers, the bitter and slightly salty taste of the leaves, and the sweet taste of the petals. I have already discussed the bitter principle, and the slight saltiness indicates the presence of minerals; the yellow colour indicates an effect on the stomach, liver, pancreas, kidneys and adrenals and can often indicate an association with healing melancholy states (think of the bright sunshine yellow flowers of St John’s Wort!); the sweet taste of the petals suggests that they benefit pancreatic health.
One thing to note with dandelions is that there are many imposters about. True dandelions have a single flower arising from each hollow stem, and the leaves grow in a rosette from the root. The leaves themselves are hairless, smooth and toothed in shape. Enjoy the leaves raw or cooked, especially mixed with other greens. The petals make a lovely addition to salads (separated from the bracts, which are very bitter).