With harvest season coming upon us, I’ve found the dandelion root is a favorite among wildcrafters. As one of the most widely distributed herbs, the mighty dande is still one of the most affordable. Primarily because it is so abundant.
Considered a weed by most people the common dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) is also considered by herbalists to be one of the most helpful and powerful herbs available.
The nutrition content alone is motivating factor to consider the dandelion a regular diet staple. Per every 100 grams of fresh plant the dande contains 190 mg of calcium, 13,650 I.U. [international units] of vitamin A, generous amounts of B complex vitamins and 36 mg. of vitamin C. It’s also rich in niacin, potassium and zinc.
But the benefits don’t stop there. The active constituents in dandelion cleanse and tone the liver and is used, “In the treatment of several kidney ailments and also chronic hypertension,” writes Michael Hallowell in Herbal Healing, a practical guide to medicinal herbs.
Historically, the Chinese have used dandelion in the treatment of breast ailments, reducing the size of cysts and tumors and promoting milk flow for new mothers. New studies have documented the plant to have antioxidant and in vitro anti-tumor constituents.
As an alterative, the dandelion is acknowledged to have the ability to alter the condition of a patient from one state to another. As a febrifuge the dande has the ability to reduce abnormally high body temperature and from personal experience, being menopausal, the days I take a cup of tea or infusion is another day without hot flashes.
Literature lauds Taraxacum’s laxative properties and its use as a blood and lymph cleaner, but by far the best thing about this herb is its accessibility. You can probably dig some from your back yard.
Make sure the plants you dig are far enough away from the road so as not to have absorbed toxins from local traffic.
A small shovel or knife should be worked around the base of the plant and once you feel the plant loosen, you should be able to pull the root with no problem. If dandelions are young the roots will be quite small and you may have to hunt for a few to get the amount you need.
The easiest and fastest method of drying is in the oven. I pre-heat to 300 degrees while washing the plant material and separating from the leaves. Lay everything flat on a baking pan, lower the temp to right below 200 and check and turn every few minutes.
If drying the leaves, they should be crackling to the touch when dry. Check the bottom parts of the leaves before taking from the oven as they take longer than any other part of the leaf. Drying the roots takes a bit longer and when done, you should be able to snap the root apart. If it still bends instead of snapping apart, there is still some moisture.
To air dry, hang in a cool, dark place and check it every couple days. For roots, it may take up to four weeks to dry.
There are few cautions against dandelion. Drug interactions include cautions for those who take lithium, other diuretics or hypoglycemics.
Though dandelion is extremely safe, remember to use in moderation. The carrot is also extremely safe but one man, Basil Brown, overdosed on carrot juice in 1974 after consuming ten gallons of the juice in ten days.
Though useful, the plant is very bitter to the taste. To make it more palatable, I use sweetner and lemon with the plant or add to other tea mixtures.
The coffee can be made with the dried root of the plant by grating and using as a substitute or adding to other coffee. I use four tablespoons for a twelve-cup pot, but you may want to experiment a little and vary that for your own taste.
The tea can be made from any part of the dandelion. I use the leaves and flowers in an infusion/tea. The leaves seep for a bit longer than the flowers. Generally, I seep the leaves approx. 6 minutes and the fresh or dried flowers 4-5 mins. Sweeten and add lemon or honey to taste.
Wash greens and flowers thoroughly and add to other greens, radishes and other favorite salad veggies. Toss with olive oil and vinegar.