Dandelion – A very old medicine

Spring is very gently starting to appear; green leaves are cautiously emerging.  Traditionally after a long winter with little fresh vegetables or fruit the poor country folk of England would pick young leaves of dandelions, nettles, chickweed, sorrel and other common weeds and add them in to soups, stews and salads to give themselves a much needed dose of vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, potassium and calcium.

Dandelion leaves have a great vitamin and mineral profile, but the plant has much more to offer than just this.  The use of Dandelion as a medicine dates back to at least the thirteenth century in the UK and it is referenced by Arabian physicians in the eleventh century.

Dandelion root

This is a safe herb which improves liver function and detoxification.  It stimulates the production and flow of bile.  This helps with fat digestion and the prevention/treatment of gall stones.  The bitter nature of the root gently stimulates the production of digestive juices and so improves digestion.  These actions together help with constipation and sluggish bowel movements.

The improved clearance of toxins from the body bought about by Dandelion root’s action on the liver is helpful in the treatment skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis and in arthritis and gout.

Dandelion root can be picked from the garden, chopped into chunks, washed and then gently roasted in a low temperature oven before being boiled to make a decoction.  Alternatively, you can buy pure roasted Dandelion root from good health food shops. Take a tablespoon, add water and gently simmer for a few minutes to make a dandelion decoction.  This is a great alternative to coffee.  You can even add dairy or non-dairy milk to this drink.  (Dandelion root which has not been roasted doesn’t taste so nice; also avoid the sweetened, granulated dandelion root sometimes sold as this will not have the same health benefits.)

Dandelion leaf

The leaves are a powerful diuretic, rich in potassium, rendering them very safe.  Conventional diuretics through their action increasing urination, cause a potassium loss which is potentially dangerous, and therefore most have potassium added to them to ensure the patient does not end up low in this crucial mineral.  The diuretic action of dandelion leaves helps to gently lower high blood pressure by reducing fluid volume in the body.  It is also very helpful for fluid retention e.g. in the ankles from excessive standing or inactivity, or fluid retention elsewhere in the body related to hormone imbalances and the menstrual cycle.

Fresh dandelion leaves are a rich source of vitamins and antioxidants like carotenoids. They stimulate cleansing via the kidneys and so like the root is good for the skin. The mild bitter taste stimulates the digestive system helping it to work better and ease digestive symptoms.  Pick young dandelion leaves from your garden or any area which has not been sprayed with herbicides and eat them raw or quickly blanched in salads and sandwiches (rip rather than cut the leaves to preserve flavour).  You can also add them in to soups and stews.  Older dandelion leaves will taste too bitter to be nice.

Dried dandelion leaves can be bought as a loose herb or in tea bags and made into an infusion to be drunk for the herb’s diuretic and cleansing action.  Drink at least two cups a day if you are taking dandelion leaf for it’s medicinal benefits.

The root and leaves of this herb are safe to use as a tea or food when pregnant or breast feeding.

Ellie Holly offers free ten minute telephone consultations to anyone interested in finding out more about herbal medicine or nutrition.  She practises Herbal Medicine and Nutrtional Therapy in Islington, N1 and in Enfield, EN2.

Call Ellie on 07949463288 or email ellie@hollyhealthcare.co.uk