Power Plants: Dandelion

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)
You either love dandelions or despise them. As a kid you probably enjoyed picking their flowers and blowing the seeds from their globe-shaped seed heads. But your neighbours probably didn’t share your enthusiasm when new dandelions popped up all over their lawns! Dandelions are now one of the most widespread weeds in the world.
If you know about their medicinal virtues, however, you absolutely adore dandelions. They have long been used as an herbal remedy in Europe, North America and Asia: the Latin name Taraxacum means “disease remedy.” The plant gets its common name from the French description of its sharply serrated leaves: “dent de lion” translates as “lion’s tooth.” The French have given this plant a funnier name that comes from its function as a diuretic: pissenlit (or “pee in the bed”).
Dandelion leaves are widely eaten in salads, the flowers can be made into dandelion wine, and the roots can be ground and roasted to make a coffee substitute. The plant also has many traditional medicinal uses. The roots and leaves are used widely for gastrointestinal ailments. The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) recommends dandelion root for improving liver and bile function, indigestion, and loss of appetite. In Canada, the Natural Health Products Directorate issues recognizes products containing dandelion for their role of in treating appetite loss and indigestion, and as a diuretic.
In clinical practice it is used to detoxify the liver and gallbladder, reduce side effects of medications metabolized by the liver, release stored water (edema), and relieve symptoms associated with liver disease.
Dandelion also contains inulin, a dietary fibre key to helping the good bacteria in your gut proliferate.
Difficulty: Easy (it’s a weed!)
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 3 to 9
Time to Plant: Early spring
Time to Harvest: Early to mid-spring
Location: Full sun
Soil Type: Will grow anywhere
Dandelion is a weed loathed by people who want a lush green lawn, so it feels odd to talk about planting it. Just take a short walk and you will find dandelions growing in front yards, gardens, ditches, fields, forests—even the cracks in your driveway. Despite its lowly status, dandelions are an important plant for both culinary and medicinal use. Being Italian, my family made harvesting ciccoria an annual celebration: we would go in search of the perfect patch untouched by pesticide, dog urine or human foot traffic!
Common Varieties: If you do decide to grow dandelion in the garden, there are several cultivars available in seed form, and occasionally even as transplants. In addition to the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), look for T. erythrospermum and Japanese white dandelion (T. albidum).
Dandelions will grow anywhere, and they will disperse their seeds far and wide. So “planting” them is really more about controlling where they end up. Prevent seeds from being distributed by removing the flower heads early on. Dandelions are known for their incredible tap roots: even if the slightest section of the root is left behind, another plant will grow.
Dandelion is disease- and insect-resistant, and it has a perennial tap root that makes the plant drought tolerant, too. You will spend more time controlling it than encouraging it to grow!
Harvest dandelion leaves in early to mid-spring when foliage is young and before blooms appear: that’s when they are tastiest. Harvest the flowers when they bloom in in mid-spring (midday is best, after morning dew has dried and the flowers open).
The roots of mature plants can be pulled in late fall or early spring. Harvesting roots is best done after rain or when soil is moist, as tap roots will come up more easily. Use a dandelion puller, or in a pinch just grab a screwdriver, kitchen knife or fork to loosen the surrounding soil.
Dandelion leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and should be washed immediately before use. Use dandelion flowers in salads immediately, or preserve by making dandelion wine (see recipe below). Dandelion roots can be dried or stored in the refrigerator or cold storage like any other root vegetable, such as carrots.
Always bloated? Eat a prebiotic salad!
Dandelion is rich in inulin, a naturally occurring carbohydrate called an oligosaccharide (several simple sugars linked together). Inulin is a prebiotic—a bacterium that “feeds” the much-desired probiotic bacteria in your gut. If you’re feeling bloated, try this probiotic salad:
1 bunch                            dandelion greens (about 10 oz), rinsed and dried
2                                           medium tomatoes
½                                           red onion, chopped
1 tsp                                   mustard powder
3 tbsp                                olive oil
juice of 1 freshly squeezed lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
Whisk together the chopped red onion, mustard powder, olive oil, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the dandelion greens and tomatoes with the dressing.
After you have eaten this salad at least 5 times in one week, try consuming an over-the-counter high-dose, broad-strain probiotic for a week. Don’t stop eating the dandelion! With this regimen, regularity will return and your bloating is sure to disappear.
Feel the need to cleanse? Detox with Tarax!
Your liver is probably overwhelmed: it’s the organ that breaks down medications and removes metabolites from alcohol and fatty foods. Dandelion leaf and root are diuretics that can remove excess toxins and water from your body, helping purify your blood and leaving less work for your tired liver.
We’re going to supercharge this detox with garlic and onion, boost it even more with lemon, and empower the immune system with shiitake and maitake mushrooms!
3 tbsp                                extra-virgin olive oil
2                                           garlic cloves, sliced very thin
2 cups                               red onion, chopped
10 cups                            dandelion greens
¼ tsp                                  salt
pepper, to taste
2 cups                               shitake mushrooms, chopped
2 cups                               maitake mushrooms, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
Heat the oil in a large wok or cast iron pan and sauté the garlic and onions until translucent. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until slightly browned. Add dandelion and salt and pepper, then sauté until leaves are wilted and moisture from the leaves has evaporated. Once cooked, add the lemon juice and serve.
Indigestion? Wine not try this!
Dandelion benefits not only the liver but the gallbladder, its digestive associate responsible for bile production and breaking down dietary fats. If you want to help it do that important job, a glass of this aperitif is what you’ve been waiting for!
1 bottle                            your favourite red wine (preferably cabernet)
2 cups                               whole, young dandelion flowers
½ tsp                                  powdered ginger
1 sprig                               rosemary
Soak the flowers overnight. Rinse and remove the stems, leaves, bugs, and any debris from the blossoms. Place the blossoms in a blender and add half the bottle of wine, the ginger and the rosemary. Blend on high until a purée forms. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth: let it drain into a funnel and back into the original bottle of wine. Re-cork and let it sit overnight in the fridge before first dose.
Drink 3 to 4 ounces before dinner or heavy meals. There are about 5 glasses per bottle, and the wine will last a week in the fridge.
Holding water? Drink diuretic tea
Dandelion helps to cleanse the entire urinary tract and naturally lowers blood pressure by stimulating you to urinate more. Use this tea only if you’re not already taking diuretics or “water pills.”
Pick and thoroughly wash four dandelions—flower, leaves, roots and all. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pan. Add the dandelions and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain the tea into a mug and add honey or stevia to sweeten.
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase the St. Francis Dandelion Tincture or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Herbicides are widely used against dandelions in urban areas. Never pick and use dandelions unless you can guarantee they have not been sprayed with poisons!
Dandelion is a strong detoxifier and may decrease the body’s absorption of certain drugs, such as antibiotics. Because some medications are metabolized in the liver, dandelion might decrease how quickly the liver performs this task: it might increase the effects and side effects of these medications.
Don’t use dandelion if you already using another diuretic. Also, if you’re taking lithium, dandelion might decrease how well the body gets rid of it.
Consult your pharmacist for more information before combining dandelion with your prescription medications.
Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168–73.
Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
Baba, K., Abe, S., and Mizuno, D. [Antitumor activity of hot water extract of dandelion, Taraxacum officinale-correlation between antitumor activity and timing of administration (author’s transl)]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1981;101(6):538-543.
Kuusi T, Pyylaso H, Autio K. The bitterness properties of dandelion. II. Chemical investigations. Lebensm-Wiss Technol 1985;18:347–9.
Racz-Kotilla E, Racz G, Solomon A. The action of Taraxacum officinale extracts on body weight and diuresis of laboratory animals. Planta Med 1974:26:212–7.

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