By Megan Thompson
Disguised as a humble weed, dandelion has a long usage in both herbal medicine and in cooking. Dandelion has been used traditionally as a liver tonic by increasing the secretion of bile via its slightly bitter taste, improving processing and clearance of toxins by the liver and kidney, and from the blood.
Dandelion has also been used for treating diabetes, rheumatic conditions, heartburn, bruises, hives, eczema and digestive complaints such as dyspepsia, lack of appetite and constipation. The dandelion has a large tap root which is a powerhouse of blood purifying, liver cleansing, skin clearing action.
Dandelion is also chock full of nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin A & C, silicon, zinc, potassium, calcium, and iron. Dandelion has also been shown to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and has antiviral and antifungal properties.
The leaves are best recognised for their diuretic properties, helping with fluid retention and urinary output, however the root also has these qualities. Leaves can be sautéd, steamed, or added to salads and soups – give them a go!
Trying to cut down on coffee?
Great! Dandelion root can make a decent substitute. Put ground dandelion root in your coffee machine, add it to your percolator, teapot, or use a teabag to create a gutsy herbal tea that you can add milk to (and honey/sugar if you like) and know that your liver, kidneys, spleen and pancreas are shouting THANK-YOU!
Vary the amount you use depending on how strong you like it, but a good starting point might be a tablespoon for a cup and infuse for 5 minutes. To harness the full power, place in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
Another take on this tea tonic is to make a dandelion chai – how fabulous!
Dandelion Tea Tonic Recipe
1/4 cup Roasted Dandelion root
1 1/2 tablespoons of Fennel or Anise seed
9 green pods of Cardamom
2 sticks of Cinnamon
1/2 tablespoons of dried Ginger root
1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
3 Bay leaves
Traditionally Chai is simmered over low heat in soy milk for at least 5 minutes – add honey to taste.
Should you harvest your own dandelion root?
Why not?! Be sure to harvest your dandelion away from road pollution and from pesticide free areas. Look for ones with thick clumps of leaves as they usually have roots that are nice and fat.
Wash the roots, dry and crush or slice up thinly. Spread out on a baking tray (or you can use a dehydrator if you have one) and bake at 120° or as low as your oven will go. Bake for around 2 hours with the door slightly ajar, checking and ‘fluffing’ them occasionally to make sure they all dry out. Once cool, store in a glass jar.
You might like to grind it up ready for use in your coffee machine, or leave it coarse and use it like tea. Thank you dandelion for offering up your talents so accessibly. I salute you!