A post from Nicola.
All about dandelions
There are more than 30 different species of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) around the world. The dandelion grows in lawns, fields, meadows and roadside verges, in fact it can pop up almost anywhere. It is a member of the Asteraceae family (daisy family). It is a dicotyledon, which means it has two cotyledons (seed leaves).
It is a perennial with a deep tap root, which is dark brown, fleshy and brittle.
The stem is hollow and unbranched and exudes a milky white sap. Several per plant.
The leaves are lanceolate and obovate and sharply lobed and toothed. The leaves form a basal rosette above the central tap root.
They have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. The inner disc floret appears very different from the outer ray floret.
The fruit is a hairy pappus arranged as a white clock. They contain many single seeded fruits called achenes. Each achenes is attached to a fine pappus of fine hair like material which enables wind aided dispersal over long distances.
Each plant on average produces 15,000 seeds per year, roughly 150 per flower. The seeds can be carried great distances and are able to germinate the same year that they mature. They reproduce via apomixis (self- fertilisation) and sexual reproduction, hybridisation amongst dandelion species is immense, creating a microspecies amongst dandelions.
The Dandelion has many stories in folklore. In China it is known as “yellow flowered earth nail” and “golden hairpin weed”. In France it is known as “piss-en-lit” meaning pee-the-bed due to its diuretic properties.
The seed head has been referred to as “Blow ball” and “telltime” and “counting down the clock”.
The stem has been known as “the priests crown” after the seeds have flown.
The unopened flower has been referred to as “Swines snout”.
The dandelion flower is like the sun and opens and closes with it. In many cultures the lion has been the symbol of the sun and in astrology there is the sign Leo.
Referring to the saw edged leaves dandelion has been referred to as “The teeth of the lion”, or “dent de lion”
Dandelion has been used as a diuretic around the world for over 2,000 years.
Native Americans boiled the plant in water and took it to treat kidney disease, skin problems, upset stomach and heartburn.
It was also used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating stomach problems, breast inflammation or lack of milk flow.
In Europe it was used to treat fever, boils, and diabetes. An older generation of gardeners chewed the root for bladder disorders.
All parts of the dandelion can be used and are useful
The flower is edible and although it might not look that appetising, it can be picked and eaten raw but best picked on a sunny day when the flowers are open. Also, with a little more effort they can be made into tasty fritters, marmalade, and beer. The flowers can be infused in olive oil and transformed into a multitude of herbal preparations.
The leaves are best collected before the plant flowers, which is usually April, May time. If using in a salad, it is best to strip from central stem for less bitterness. They are highly nutritious, especially high in potassium and vitamins A, B, C and D. an infusion made from the leaves makes a good spring tonic. It increases the elimination through the kidneys and bowel, cleansing blood and lymph and increases production of bile by the gall bladder.
The root can be dry roasted and made into a coffee substitute or used fresh or dry as a decoction. The decoction is a liver cleanser and said to make an effective hangover cure.
The stem can be squeezed to produce a milky sap and applied to the skin to remove age spots, corns, and warts.
The main constituents in the dandelion
The leaf and the root contain bitter glycosides.
Sesquiterpenes, found in both the root and the leaf, are responsible for the plants diuretic effect and mild anti-inflammatory activity.
The leaf contains carotenoids, terpenoids, potassium, magnesium, protein, calcium, vitamins A, B,C and D. The vitamin A content is higher than that in carrots.
The root should be collected in Autumn for a high inulin content. The root also contains tannins, triterpenes, phytosterols, volatile oil, phenolic acid, and carbohydrates.
The leaf is a gentle diuretic and choleretic. The root is a bitter, mild laxative, digestive and hepatic tonic, cholagogue, diuretic and antirheumatic. A spring tonic and a herbal detox.
It is generally considered a safe herb but if you have gall stones, on diuretics, pregnant or breast feeding, it is best to check with your GP or herbalist before taking medicinal amounts internally.
Dandelion the diuretic
The dandelion diuretic effect means it is a good herb for treating conditions involving fluid retention especially those that are cardiac in origin. The high potassium content means that the body isn’t depleted of that essential nutrient when the kidney function is stimulated. A perfect balance!
Dandelion and the skin
Dandelion is high in the nutrients protein, magnesium, calcium that are crucial for healthy skin production. The antioxidants vitamin A and B help protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Antioxidants also help to plump and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The protein encourages skin to become stronger. The natural anti -inflammatory action will help with skin conditions such as rosacea and eczema. They contain linoleic acid which when applied topically it encourages skin to retain its natural moisture. The gentle detoxification action can alleviate skin conditions by improving bowel and kidney function which intern will improve the health of the skin.
Dandelion the liver tonic
The active constituent Taraxacum stimulates bile secretion by encouraging the gall bladder to contract, release bile thus stimulating the liver to produce more.
Preparations can be food or medicine.
Dandelion as part of a healthy balanced diet
Dandelions are considered one of nature’s superfoods and my little drop of sunshine. One woman’s weed is another one’s treasure.
Dandelion leaves, especially when picked in spring before the plant flowers, can be used in salads. It gives that bitter element similar to endive or rocket. They can be steamed and eaten as a green vegetable sauteed with a little ginger helps the nutrients be absorbed by the body.
The flower heads can be dipped in a light batter and shallow fried until golden, served with a dip can be sweet or savoury. Make the batter a thick spicy one with chickpea flour and curry powder and you have got yourself a dandelion bhaji.
Dandelion as medicine
Dandelion leaf infusion
Infuse your dandelion leaves and flowers in boiling water and steep for 10 minutes, strain if you wish and enjoy.
Delicate, sweet, earthy and bitter
You can use fresh or dried dandelion leaves, place them in your clean sterile jar and pour over you alcohol, I like to use vodka. Make sure all the plant is submerged and label. Place in a dark cupboard for at least 3 weeks. Then you can strain and bottle
Dandelion root decoction
Place 2 teaspoons of dandelion root and 1 cup of water and simmer gently for 15 minutes
Dandelion infused oil
Dandelion flowers collected and drying for a few days and then infusing in olive oil on a sunny windowsill.
And then you can make a plethora of lovely dandelion products with your infused dandelion oil.
Here are some examples of what I have made with my dandelion infused oil.
Making a dandelion ointment
Dandelion cold processed soap
Dandelion face cream, with shea butter and aloe vera gel
Dandelion shampoo bars with sweet orange and rosemary
I have also made lip balm, deodrant and body butter.