Dandelion and violets were two of the first wildflowers that I worked with as allies; I love that their flowers are complementary colors too. When we lived in town, my neighbor Josephine, a lovely elderly woman with violet tinted hair, gave me permission to pick both from her (unsprayed) lawn before Teddy, the mower boy came by. She’d sit outside and chat with me while I crawled on the grasses with Layla, who had just learned how to crawl, picking leaves and flowers. She didn’t much care for the taste of the syrups I’d share with her, but she did enjoy being with us in her garden. She was a formidable woman and only looked dainty; she taught me how to properly plunge a clogged sink, sleeves rolled up and vigorously please! It was a surprising moment watching her work, one that I cherish now that she has gone.
Dandelion roots also came my way by way of a neighbor, David, who lived down a dead end road. He’d seen me crawling along Josephine’s garden and stopped by to chat, curious to know what I was doing. This very special man knocked on my door with a bag full of dandelion plants; he’d dug them out for me from his and his stepmother’s yard before mowing. He continued to bring me dandelion roots until we moved to the mountains, and I’ve never forgotten his generosity and expansive nature, so Jupitarian!
Since then I have learned more about Dandelion than I knew, and enjoy the leaves sautéed with garlic and any other wild greens coming up, as well as mixed in with kale.
Every year, I’m sure to infuse the blossoms in oil as it is a staple in a salve I for aching hands and joints, something that afflicts me in cold, damp weather. In addition to dandelion, the salve has infused oils of rosemary, ginger, and st. john’s wort.
I like to add dandelion roots to my elderberry syrup, along with burdock roots, and much like with burdock I purchase the dried cut roots instead of digging them up (yes, I miss David!) I make tincture with said dried roots, though mainly our relationship is more fresh than desiccated.
I’ll make an infusion of the leaves combined with the blossoms, adding a bit of dandelion blossom and orange peel infused honey from last year to it.
I use an adaptation of a recipe given by Susan Weed for Dandelion Blossom Honey, which tastes very much like honey and is delicious on pancakes and crepes with strawberries. To make it you’ll need::
4 cups freshly picked dandelion blossoms, no green parts please, covered with a generous handful of (organic) sugar and a few slices of organic oranges, shaken up, and all in a jar overnight
The next day boil 4 cups water and pour over the blossoms, infuse overnight.
Strain out the blossoms and orange slices, and add a pound of organic sugar to the liquid, along with half a whole orange, sliced and half a whole lemon, sliced, along with a star anise pod (if desired). Bring to a boil until it holds shape when dropping a spoonful in ice water.
Strain, transfer to canning jars, and can, or store in the fridge . . .I’ve had mine in the fridge for two years with no issues, but you could can instead and save room in the fridge. Enjoy!
Botanical Name: Taraxacum Officinale
Common Names: Dandelion, Priest’s Crown, Swine’s Snout, Dent de Lion or Lion’s Tooth, Earth Nail, Puffball
Habitat and Growing Conditions:
Native to Eurasia, this sunny perennial migrated to North America with settlers and has naturalized easily where it is seen dappling meadows, fields, and urban lawns. While it prefers full sun, it grows, somewhat scantily, in the partial shade of hedgerows s well.
Dandelion grows from a thick taproot, which is quite hard to dig up in the wild. It has jagged, toothy leaves forming a rosette near the ground, from where shiny, smooth, hollow, and reddish flower stalks emerge, each one bearing a single head of yellow bloom. Dandelion flowers spring through autumn, and the blooms close for the night as well as in cloudy or rainy weather. When the flowers are picked, a milky sap exudes from the stem.
Dandelion flowers are visited by honeybees, bumble bees, wasps, flies, and even yellow jackets. Sparrows and bluebirds are fed by them when they’ve gone to seed: the blossom turns into and orb of white starry fluff, a mandala of tufts and seed connected to one another to form the shape. These blow easily hither and thither, by way of breath or breeze, and are how it wanders far and wide sowing and growing cheerily.
Taraxacum is said to be derived from the Arabic word “tarakhshagog” or “tarakhshaqūn” meaning bitter herb. It is further speculated that it may be derived from the Greek word “taraxo” meaning to disturb, excite, or cause, in combination with “achos” meaning pain.
Officinale means “of the apothecaries”. The word officinalis literally means “of or belonging to an officina”, which is where monasteries kept their stores of medicines.
The French called it Dent e Lion, as the edges of the leaves bring forth imagery of lion’s teeth: sharp, jagged, and cutting in the feline, not quite so deadly in the plant; though dandelion does cut to the point when used as medicine!
The Chinese called it Earth Nail, possibly from the resemblance between its taproot and a nail hammered into the earth.
Dandelion wine was often prepared with the flowers in Berkshire and Worcestershire, and still is made today. It is a tasty beverage and also a formidable blood tonic.
The dried roots, combined with those of chicory, were roasted and used in place of coffee. Indeed, they were also used to both adulterate ground coffee, where they improved the flavor as an enhancer and diluted the effects of the caffeine.
Medicinal Actions and Properties:
The roots are bitter, sweet, salty, moist, and oily.
The leaves are bitter, salty, moist, and cooling.
Dandelion is nutritive, alterative, diuretic, stomachic, cholagogue, and tonic.
Stagnation (clogged, boggy, mucky, stuck) and congestion (traffic jam, fluid buildup, mucus build up, blockages)
Digestive, Urinary, Lymphatic
Dandelion promotes urinary flow, while also serving as a tonic for the spleen, bladder, kidney’s and liver. It wakes up sluggishness and builds up the kidney’s ability to retain nutrients, such as potassium, so that they don’t deplete from urination.
It increases the appetite, promotes digestion, and remedies constipation.
In India, it is cultivated for use involving liver maladies, as it helps clear out sludge and toxins by way of both stimulating bile and elimination.
Where excess heat has rooted deep in the tissues, inflaming them and giving rise to thick fluids with slow drainage, dandelion cools the excess heat and stimulates motion. The roots thin fluids and reduce heat, effective when stagnant bile is baked by the heat forming gallstones.
Dandelion cleanses the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. By toning the liver, it increases bile production and flow to the gallbladder, which in turn lets go of stored bile; a synergetic effect.
The roots act on chronic conditions effectively, whereas the seeds have a faster action and are preferred for acute conditions.
Dandelion and White Oak Bark in combination are reputed in recalcifying bones in the case of infected root canals and gum disease.
A celebrated spring tonic, Dandelion tonifies, nourishes, purifies, and builds up a foundation to spring into summer.
Dandelion is wealthy in nutrients such as Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Calcium.
According to Culpeper, “It is under the dominion of Jupiter. It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them, as the jaundice and hypocondriac; it opens the passages of the urine both in young and old; powerfully cleanses imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passage, and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them; for which purpose the decoction of the roots or leaves in white wine, or the leaves chopped as pot-herbs, with a few Alisanders, and boiled in their broth, are very effectual. And whoever is drawing towards a consumption or an evil disposition of the whole body, called Cachexia, by the use hereof for some time together, shall find a wonderful help. It helps also to procure rest and sleep to bodies distempered by the heat of ague fits, or otherwise: The distilled water is effectual to drink in pestilential fevers, and to wash the sores.
You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in the Spring; and now if you look a little farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles, that foreign physicians are not so selfish as ours are, but more communicative of the virtues of plants to people.”
Fresh young leaves infused as a tea, sautéed for eating or infused in oils with blossoms for making salves that alleviate pain in stiff hands and aching joints.
The fresh leaves are said to strengthen tooth enamel.
The milky stem sap is said to help when applied to warts, hard pimples, blisters, and bee stings.
Blossoms sprinkled on salads, brewed as a tea, decocted as syrup with orange peels, or infused in honey.
The roots from two year old plants can be eaten year round. They can be harvested in the autumn for drying and tincturing (fresh), some consider it more bitter in the spring.
Tincture of Fresh Root, 1:2 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.
Strong Decoction of Root, 2-4 ounces, 4 x a day.
Leaf as Infusion, 3-6 ounces as needed
A Modern Herbal Volume 1, Maude Grieves p. 249 – 255
The Earthwise Herbal, Volume I: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants, Matthew Wood, p. 478 – 483
Common Herbs for Natural Health, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, p. 54
The Book of Herbal Wisdom, Matthew Wood, p. 470
The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra, p. 127 – 128