Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is a typical “kid’s plant” not only because it is popular among children, but also because it is safe for children. The name, dandelion, is a corruption of the French dent de lion, or lion’s tooth because of the shape of the leaves.
Pis en lit (French meaning “pee in bed”)
Native to Eurasia, it has adapted to various climates and now grows in every continent.
Dandelion is a perennial herbaceous plant found in many gardens and considered a pesky weed.
Height: 45 cm (18 inches)
Width: 60 cm (24 inches)
Flowers: bright yellow, opens in the morning and closes in the evening
Leaves: long, deeply toothed, growing from a rosette
Root: long, brownish, fleshy with a sap-filled core
Blooms: April to June
Most people are more interested in getting rid of dandelion than in cultivating it, but the leaves and roots of cultivated dandelion taste less bitter and may be preferred by some for culinary use. However, when the natural bitterness in a plant is decreased, so is its medicinal properties.
Zone: USDA zone 3
Germination: Soil temperature at 13 to 15 Celsius (55-60 F) at differing rates.
Spacing: 60 cm (24 inches)
pH: 4.2 to 8.2
Exposure: Full sun
Garden Design: Not much here since dandelions are a known, unwanted garden weed. If you going to cultivate it, make it so it is clear that it is being cultivated.
Companion Planting: Dandelion is a beneficial weed. It aids other plants with its long taproot which can lose up hard and compact soils. Its long taproot can also bring up nutrients to neighboring plants with shallow roots as well as add minerals and nitrogen to the soil. The flowers attract pollinating insects like bees and butterflies.
SIMILARITY TO OTHER PLANTS
It is not difficult to confuse dandelion with cat’s ear. Both plants are edible and have similar flowers, which form into wind-borne seeds. They both have a basal rosette of leaves and a central taproot. However, the leaves of dandelion are smooth, while the leaves of catsear are hairy. Dandelion flowers are borne singly on hollow stems that are hairless, leafless and have no branches, while catsear stems are branched, solid, and carry bracts. The leaves of catsear, unlike dandelion, rarely taste bitter. Dandelion is an outstanding medicinal herb, while catsear has no medicinal value.
Roots: In autumn or early spring. For medicinal purposes, harvest the roots in autumn for their gut healthy inulin content. Use them fresh to make preparations or meals.
Place the leaves on a flat surface in a well ventilated room to dry. You can also use a dehydrator set at 35 Celsius (95 F). When the leaves are crisp, store them in an airtight container away from light.
Sesquiterpene lactones (taraxacoside), diterpenes (taraxacin*), triterpenes (taraxasterol, arnidiol, faradiol), sterols (sitosterol, stigmasterol), carotenoids (luthein, violaxanthin), flavonoids, polysaccharides (inulin), potassium.
*What is referred to as taraxacin in older literature has been identified as bitter substances belonging to a group of novel eudesmanolides (glucosyl-taraxinic acid, ainslioside) which have not been found in other plants.
In spring, the roots are rich in bitter-tasting compounds, which improve and regulate digestion. However, in the fall, the roots are rich in inulin, which is almost sweet tasting and a wonderful dietary fiber which promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
According to the National Nutrient Database of The United States Department of Agriculture, dandelion leaves are high in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, and have more beta-carotene, iron and calcium than spinach.
Diuretic, choleretic, hepatic, antirheumatic, mild laxative, tonic, bitter
Mild and characteristic
MEDICINAL USE OF DANDELION
Dandelion could be nicknamed “the ginseng of the west”. And for good reasons: it is a master healer. Along with artichoke and thistle, it is one of the most important herbs to regulate liver function, combat chronic fatigue and treat joint wear and tear. It makes the liver more efficient, regulates gallbladder secretion, improves overall digestion and supports all organs, especially the kidneys. Dandelion is also rich in potassium which makes it a diuretic.
It is the ideal herb for spring cleanses because it stimulates the metabolism and soothes pain caused by rheumatism and arthritis. Dandelion goes hand in hand with fibromyalgia treatment since it reduces muscle and tendon pain.
Used internally for:
- Improving and regulating metabolism
- Regulating the secretions of the gallbladder
- Liver function
- Regulating the secretion of gastric juices and therefore appetite
- Metabolic skin diseases and disorders
- Pain caused by rheumatism, arthritis and gout
- Improving joint mobility and decreasing joint stiffness
- Reducing inflammation of the urinary tract
- Expeling small kidney stones
- Relieving indigestion
- Combating flatulence (intestinal gas)
Recommended daily dosage:
Root tincture: (1:5 in 60%): 2.5 to 5 ml three times per day
Leaf tincture: (1:5 in 40%): 5 to 10 ml three times per day.
Root decoction: 1 cup three times per day
Leaf infusion: 1 cup three times per day
German Commission E recommends 4 to 10 g dried leaf or 4 to 10 ml fluid extract of leaf daily, or 3 to 4 g cut or powdered root per cup (decoction)
All parts of the herb are edible.
The leaves can be enjoyed in salads and sautéed the same way as spinach. You can blanch them to remove the bitterness but you’ll also be removing valuable nutrients. So instead, try to sweeten it by adding fruits, cheese, potatoes or nuts. The buds can also be prepared the same way as spinach and the flower petals can be added to salads, pestos and used to make dandelion wine. In the fall, the roots can be roasted and eaten as a vegetable or ground and used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee.
Since it is a diuretic, you should not drink it in the evening. Unless you don’t mind getting up several times in the middle of the night to relieve your bladder. People who are sensitive to the milk present in the leaves may experience vomiting or diarrhea.
Don’t use if you have blocked or inflamed biliary tract (liver, gallbladder and bile ducts). Talk to your doctor before using dandelion if you have gallbladder stones.
Wichtl M. 2004. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals – A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: medpharm Scientific Publishers.
Hoffmann, D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester: Healing Arts Press
Keville, K. 1994. Herbs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: Friedman/Fairfax Publishers