Pesty weed or cancer cure?
Life-healing flower or major nuisance?
Valuable herb or a pain in the neck?
Photo courtesy of Lauren Ragland
This small dandelion has the power to cure jaundice and lower blood pressure.
I think that after reading this week's column, folks may all feel a little differently about the dancing yellow flowers and fluffy white parachutes dotting our yards and meadows.
The medicinal properties of the dandelion have been accepted for centuries and are scientifically proven. Yet, most people spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars on attempting to eradicate this "King of All Herbs" every year.
First of all, do not ever ever harvest dandelions to use for food, tea or wine from a lawn that has been treated with any type of pesticide or herbicide for at least three full years. Find a friend or neighbor who will let you top off their healthy dandelion flowers for tea or wine, the fresh young leaves for salad or to cook like spinach.
The dandelion is a worldwide perennial herbaceous plant that is edible in its entirety. Because of the shape of its deeply toothed leaves, it was given the plant name from the Old French: Dent-de-lion, meaning lion's tooth.
The plant was brought to the New World on purpose as food for the bees, specifically because of the long blooming period, typically over six months. I read in Reader's Digest "Magic & Medicine of plants" that the Native Americans embraced its healing properties immediately. The Mohegans made a tonic from the leaves and other tribes made a tea from the root for heartburn and other stomach ailments.
The dandelion's accepted curative properties include reducing high blood pressure because it is a natural diuretic, thus promoting urination. The herb helps to rid the body of excess water and salt, thus decreasing blood pressure.
It is also excellent for most stomach problems, enhancing performance of the liver and gallbladder and can cure jaundice.
Balch's "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" explains that dandelion cleanses the bloodstream thus reducing the serum cholesterol and uric acid. It improves the function of the kidneys, pancreas, spleen and stomach.
Mindell's "Herb Bible" explains that dandelions have a high mineral content and help prevent iron-deficiency anemia. The herb is also rich in lecithin, which protects against cirrhosis of the liver. Dandelions are rich in potassium, which works with sodium to regulate our water balance, thus normalizing the heart rhythms. The recommended dosage is one to three capsules or 10 to 30 drops per day. A strong warning is given NOT to take this herb along with any diuretic medication.
"We've been brainwashed into regarding the dandelion as an unsightly weed," it says in KiPnews' "Knowledge is Power."
"Dandelions are the fastest growing and one of the most nutritionally packed food on Earth, yet we spend millions of dollars every year on herbicides to destroy them, and another couple of millions of dollars purchasing another herbaceous perennial plant of the same family Asteraceae called 'Marigold.' Another couple of million dollars is also spent annually to purchase medicinal Dandelion products."
This free herb will "prevent or lower high blood pressure; prevent or cure anemia; lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half; eliminate or drastically reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods; prevent or cure various forms of cancer; prevent or control diabetes mellitus; and, at the same time, have no negative side effects and selectively act on only what ails you."
Steve Brill explains in "Identifying and Harvesting Edible & Medicinal Plants" that "the leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn."
Brill suggests to collect dandelion leaves in early spring, when they're the tastiest, before the flowers appear. Harvest again in late fall. After a frost, their protective bitterness disappears. Dandelions growing in rich, moist soil, with the broadest leaves and largest roots, are the best. Select the youngest individuals, and avoid all plants with flowers. Some people eat the greens from spring to fall, when they're very bitter. Others boil out the summer bitterness (and water-soluble vitamins) out in two changes of water. It is all a matter of preference.
You can also eat dandelion flowers, or use them to make wine. Collect them in a sunny meadow, just before mid-spring, when the most flowers bloom. Some continue to flower right into the fall.
He warns to use only the yellow part of the flower. The green sepals at the flower's base are bitter. (This is exactly why, in this a writer's opinion, that most dandelion wine tastes bitter and nasty. It takes hours and hours to gather a couple of quarts of just the yellow flower tops, and then discard the green bitter bottom!)
Brill shares that the yellow flowers add color, texture and an unusual bittersweet flavor to salads. You can steam them with other vegetables. They have a meaty texture that contrasts with other lighter vegetables in a stir-fry dish or a casserole. In Japan, a friend of his makes a delicious traditional dandelion flower pickles, using vinegar and spices.
You can make "dandelion greens" just as you would using collards or spinach or kale. Sautee with olive oil and chopped garlic as you would with fresh spinach. Make a salad using the tender new little leaves BEFORE the stems and then flowers begin to grow.
Check out About.com for the most unique dandelions recipes including "Cream of Dandelion Soup," and the outrageous "Dandelion Fritters." They are individually batter dipped and fried yellow flower tops, served with either a sweet or spicy dipping sauce!
Have fun experimenting with the prolific yellow flower. You can make a yellow dye from boiling the flowers instead of making wine; or a magenta dye from the roots instead of tea. You can also dry, ground, roast and brew your own "Dandelion Coffee" from the roots!
In Bottom Line's "Secret Food Cures" you will find a "Freckle Remover Oil" made with castor oil. The shepherds in Australia squeeze out the juice from the stems and apply to their corns, they are usually gone within a week's time.
Most importantly it was announced this week that "Dandelion Root Tea" being tested on patients at a clinic in Windsor, Ontario, after it was found to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.
"The extract is unique, one of the only things found to help with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia," shared University of Windsor oncologist Dr. Caroline Hamm on CBC-Canada. CMML is a type of cancer that starts in blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and involves the blood.
I have made many new best friends for life after sharing this story of naturally thinking, and you will too. You're welcome!
- Lauren d'Ablemont Ragland is a freelance writer living in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest in Randolph County. This column provides general health and natural healing information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Readers can share suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.