Dandelion – a very common plant most people know for its sunny yellow flowers, its puffy seed heads that can be blown into the wind, or pulling it up in their yards when they see it as a blemish on their lawn, its Latin name is Taraxacum officinale and it is native to northern temperate zones around the globe. The leaves and root of this plant are both used as medicine, and the leaves as food. The leaves are best harvested fresh in the spring and can be eaten as a bitter salad green to stimulate digestive juices, as well as being an excellent diuretic. The root can be harvested in the spring or fall and is used primarily as a digestive and liver tonic herb.
Historically, the leaves were eaten as a vegetable, the roots roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute, the root fermented into beer, and the flowers made into wine.
The leaves primary actions are: diuretic, bitter digestive, mineralizing (high in potassium in particular).
The roots primary actions are: liver tonic, liver detoxifier, digestive stimulant, diuretic, mild laxative, anti-rheumatic.
As a diuretic, the leaf is considered stronger in its action and contains enough potassium that it does not leach the body of this important mineral, as many pharmaceutical diuretics can do. Therefore, both the leaf and root can be used to increase the flow of fluid through the kidneys, helping move kidney stones, lower blood pressure, and reduce edema (swelling due to water retention).
As a bitter digestive, the leaf is more bitter tasting, but both have this action, which is basically stimulating the flow of digestive juices through the reflex action of the bitter taste on the tongue. They stimulate bile flow, the mucosal lining of the stomach and intestines to secrete mucus, and the pancreas to secrete enzymes. This is useful when someone has sluggish or poor digestion and dyspepsia (digestive discomfort), particularly when taken before meals.
The root more so than the leaf, is considered a liver tonic, helping to promote liver health and to detoxify the liver through stimulating it to release toxins that can then be excreted.
This plant also has some anti-inflammatory effects, and combined with its action on the liver and digestion as well as fluid excretion, it is used for joint inflammation and other rheumatic complaints. The root is also commonly used in formulas for skin conditions, because of its action on the liver and kidneys, two primary detoxification organs that can help take the burden off the skin to detoxify when its experiencing inflamed skin conditions such as eczema or acne.
Dandelion is also useful for overall stagnation in the body with symptoms of poor skin with a dull color, slow or poor digestion, lethargy or fatigue, swollen or inflamed tissues and organs, and poor circulation. In these cases, dandelion works by helping to move the blood and eliminating toxins from the body
Traditionally, dandelion was not recommended in patients with liver or gallbladder disease, based on the belief that dandelion stimulates bile secretion. Dandelion leaf and root should be used cautiously with people who have gallstones or any obstruction of the bile ducts. Dandelion should also be used cautiously in the case of stomach ulcers or gastritis, as it may cause overproduction of stomach acid.
Dandelion root and leaf are both sold loose at Herban Wellness to be used in teas, they are also both sold in liquid extract (tincture) form, and in capsule form. The roasted dandelion root is also sold to make into a tea that has a rich, roasted flavor. Dandelion root is included in my Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea, helping to promote movement of toxins out through the liver and kidneys.