Who could forget the excitement as a child of blowing the fluffy white plume off the top of a dandelion clock whilst making a wish.
The seeds with their tiny parachutes would float off in the breeze and fly to faraway places. It is really no surprise that dandelion is also known as blowball or puffball. Considered a perennial native herb throughout the Northern Hemisphere and a weed in other temperate zones, many gardeners would know only too well the battle of trying to get rid of this “common weed”, with its deep thick tap root. Despite it being one of the most cursed weeds in our lawns and gardens, medicinally it is one of the most valued of all herbs.
The dandelion is a member of the daisy family called Compositae. The name dandelion comes from the French term for “lion’s tooth”, Dent de Lion, and was given to the plant because its jagged, irregularly toothed leaves resembled a row of teeth in a lion’s jaw. Its Latin nameTaraxacum officinale is derived from the Greek taraxos, meaning disorder and akos meaning remedy.
Dandelion has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. The entire plant is edible, from the roots to the flowers. Dandelion leaves are popular in salads, the flowers have been used to make wine, the Native Americans chewed the stems like chewing gum and the root has been used as a vegetable and roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee.
The dandelion is probably one of the most prescribed remedies on earth. The herb was first mentioned as a medicine in the writings of the Arabian physicians about the tenth century. Medicinally the leaves were traditionally used as a diuretic, while the root is a well known liver tonic. Contemporary herbalists recommend dandelion as a mild choleretic, diuretic, appetite-stimulating bitter, adjuvant in liver and gall bladder disorders, and for digestive complaints, especially incomplete digestion of fat. It combines well with other herbal preparations, especially for the liver, and is mild, wholesome and safe.
Surprisingly the dandelion is quite nutritious. It is a rich source of minerals, particularly potassium, as well as iron, magnesium , zinc, manganese, copper, choline, selenium, calcium, boron and silicon. It is also a rich source of vitamins A, C, D and B complex, and is relatively high in protein, fibre and linoleic acid. Other constituents of the plant include taraxacin, a crystalline, bitter substance; taraxacerin, an acrid resin; inulin, an indigestible sugar that replaces starch in many of the members of the sunflower family; sugars, sterols; pectin; glucosides; choline; phenolic acids; gum; resin; potash and gluten.
Dandelion leaf has been found to have a greater diuretic action than the roots, without causing potassium loss due to the leaves’ high potassium content. However the most well-known traditional use of dandelion is the root as a liver tonic. Studies suggest that the bitter constituents are responsible for an increase in the production and flow of bile which is thought to also contribute to the roots mild laxative effects. Modern science reveals that the virtues attributed by the ancient herbalists to dandelions were not a bit over-rated. In Europe, many scientific experiments have been conducted with this plant which have confirmed the traditional belief that its use is beneficial to the health of the liver.
For those who would like to add dandelion to their diet without having to look for dandelions in the nearest paddock, Nature’s Sunshine Products provides powdered dandelion root as a single herb capsule, and also in several of our combination herb products.