Most gardeners wage an annual war against the sunny Dandelion. They spray them, dig them up and generally act as if they have no value. The question is, how true is this notion?
It turns out that the Dandelion is extremely useful in herbal medicine provided it has not been sprayed with poisons.
The Latin name for dandelion is Taraxacum officinale or Lions tooth. Its uses include liver, digestion and water retention. There is some evidence that it also assists with treating diabetes and oral and lung cancers.
Dandelion leaves are rich in anti-oxidants to protect cells from wear and tear. They are a good source of magnesium, calcium and most especially vitamin K. Vitamin K promotes the building of bone mass which in turn defends against osteoporosis. The latex in the stem is good for treating stings.
Leaves can be used in salads, soups, stews. The flowers are used in baking, making wine and making Schnapps.
A rundown of the constituents in Dandelion can be found at Nutrition and You.
Dandelion root is an excellent liver tonic. It helps to clear the toxins from the liver, protect the cells of the liver from damage, and promotes the production of bile. It is also an excellent appetite stimulant.
One of the most important uses of dandelion is as a diuretic. This is helpful in blood pressure and in diabetes. There has been some research done on the effectiveness of dandelion for reducing blood sugar levels in the body by allowing stored sugar to be removed via urination. To date these studies are inconclusive.
Dandelion is extremely valuable in the treatment of fatty liver. By increasing bile and bile secretion, dandelion allows the fat molecules in the liver to bind to the bile and be carried from the body.
Although dandelions have had some excellent effects as a diuretic you need to be careful combining it with prescription diuretics. Too much of a good thing is also detrimental to your health. If you are on prescription diuretics you may want to consult either your physician or a Naturopath to make sure your body can handle the increase in effectiveness. Without this consultation I would recommend NOT taking dandelion.
Finally for those folks looking for a healthy alternative to coffee, dandelion root coffee is an excellent substitute. You will get your daily jolt of a warm fragrant beverage and increase the health of your liver at the same time. Most health food stores have dandelion root coffee. You can dry the unsprayed roots and grind them in a coffee grinder but I must warn you that I have burnt out more than one grinder this way.
Dandelion is more than a weed; it is an excellent herbal remedy. The next time your little one hands you a dandelion that they picked with love, you can be sure it is special in more ways than one!