The "Dandy" lion Mother Nature's Wonder Weed
The dandelion may be one of the most hated of all backyard weeds you can dig them, spray them and swear at them all you want but year after year they just come back for more. I remember clearly my mother handing me the dandelion fork with instructions to fill the basket out front when ever I got a little rowdy. My grandmother used dandelions quite frequently in salads and had the best dandelion wine recipe in the county. So I was lucky enough to realize a few of the uses of the dandelion, although I have to admit it didn't ease the chore of digging them up.
History of the Dandelion
It wasn't till I got older in a college horticulture class I learned about the interesting history of the dandelion. Such as, did you know that dandelions are not native to North America or that the Mennonites valued the plant so greatly they brought seeds with them when migrating from Germany. In fact it is thought they were originally brought to North America as a food for the honeybee by the Spanish. From these lowly beginnings dandelions spread across the continent, no surprise to any gardener who has ever tried to eradicate them from their yard of garden.
One of the earliest written records of the medicinal properties of dandelions is by Arab physicians in the 11th century. But,dandelions have been used all over the world to treat a variety of symptoms with research that continues today. Recent efforts by scientists confirms that the many useful properties of the dandelion is more than just an "ole wives" tale.
Historically dandelions were very versatile, whether eaten raw, drank or roasted it has many uses. One of which were as an aid in digestive problems such as in China and in North America by Native Americans. The Native American's and Europeans also used it for skin problems. Other medicinal uses include it's use as a lactation stimulant such as in China or as a cure for diabetes like Europe and Brazil. It also shows promise in treating liver issues. In Brazil it is even used to treat anemia by tossing it in to the greens of salads and sandwiches because of its high iron content. While in some areas around the world it is the main ingredient in herbal beers or wines brewed to help stomach ailments.
Benifits of the dandelion
You may be surprised to learn the historical claims regarding the benefits of dandelions are based in scientific fact. Dandelions are an excellent resource of A,B complex,C and D. Dandelions also contain iron, potassium and zinc, sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenes, taraxacoside, and phenolic acids
In addition every part of this versatile little plant can be used. The leaves can be chopped up in salads or put on sandwiches.They are also used fresh or dried for tea. The leaves are a natural diuretic that does not cause the loss of potassium common to many other diuretics making it superior in this regard than many present medications. Teas made of the leaves promote kidney function and may be used to prevent gall stones.
Dandelion sap, the milky white liquid found in the stem, is used in many areas for skin ailments such as warts, moles or psoriasis. It is also said to soothe bee stings. Pretty handy if you happen to be enjoying your dandelions and run across a bee with the same idea.
The flowers and seeds of a dandelion are said to have antioxidant features so that it improves immunity. It is used to make beer, wine or tinctures. Flowers are also fried and are said to taste somewhat like mushrooms. There are no known health benefits for deep fat fried dandelions though, other than the pure enjoyment.
Lastly there is the root which when roasted may be made into a coffee substitute said to taste much like chicory. It can also simply be dried and ground to be added to cold drinks as an aid to the liver, the digestion or to reduce the inflammation of rheumatism.
Research continues into the lowly plant today. As science investigates it's use as diuretic, a bile production stimulant for liver or kidney cleansing and as mild laxative.
As with any herbal cure or medicines there are precautions if you are sensitive to iodine, marigolds, ragweed, chrysanthemums, chamomile, yarrow, or daisies,dandelions may cause an allergic reaction. Similarly, people taking Lithium or Quinolone should not use dandelions. Issues may also arise if dandelion is taken in conjunction with antibiotics or antacids such as Pepcid, Zantac, or Taganet. Years ago parents were warned that dandelion's are poisonous which is not true, unless they have been sprayed but if children suck on the sap it may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
As you see dandelions are a sturdy, useful multi-purpose little plan that does not deserve its reputation as a wanton destroyer of yards and gardens. So instead of spending your summers cursing the pretty little flower that never goes away, do what I do when I find my yard overrun remember the old saying " When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Or, more appropriately in this case when life gives you dandelions make tea. If you can't beat them ... eat them.