The Latin name for dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, translates to “official remedy for disorders.” Dandelion is a native of Europe and the name comes from the French term “dent-de-lion,” meaning lion’s tooth, which refers to the dark-green, sharply toothed leaves characteristic of this plant. A prominent herbalist, Gregory Tilford is quoted as saying, “Dandelion is one of the most complete plant foods on earth. All the vital nutrients are conveniently contained in a single source, in quantities that the body can easily process and fully absorb.” One source I consulted during research for this article suggested that “dandelion greens are so good for you that you would do well to dry and powder them and place the powder in a saltshaker to be sprinkled on all your food as a nutritional supplement.”
Called the “King of Weeds” by old timers, the Chinese have known about the antibacterial properties of the juice of the dandelion since the 7th century. In fact, it is one of the top 6 herbs in the Chinese medicine chest. In Chinese medicine, it is regarded as a blood cleanser, tonic, digestive aid, and used in the treatment of diabetes. It is ground and applied as a poultice to snake bites. In Canada, dandelion leaves are considered to be safe to eat, and dandelion root is already marketed as a registered diuretic drug by Health Canada. Canada imports most of its dandelion from the U.S.A. although it could be easily cultivated in Canada.
The whole plant is valuable as a general tonic as it is a general stimulant to the system, particularly the urinary organs. It may be taken as an infusion of the leaf, a juice extraction, a root decoction, a fluidextract, or a tincture. Fresh leaves may be added to salads. The juice extraction is the most potent for medicinal purposes. The milky latex from dandelion can be used as a mosquito repellent.
Dr. Peter A. Gail, in his book, “The Dandelion Celebration – The Guide to Unexpected Cuisine” writes that dandelion eaten as part of your daily diet prevents or cures liver disease; assists in weight reduction; cleanses skin and prevents acne; eliminates or drastically reduces acid indigestion and gas build-up by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods; lowers serum cholesterol by as much as half; prevents or lowers blood pressure; prevents or cures various forms of cancer; and prevents or controls diabetes mellitus, while at the same time having no negative side effects and selectively acting on only what ails you.
Dandelion leaf is a good natural source of potassium and will replenish any potassium that may be lost due to the herb’s diuretic action on the kidneys. The leaves are the richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, contain more iron and calcium than spinach, are rich in fibre, sodium, magnesium, Vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, phosphorous, iron, a good source of protein, and rich in micronutrients such as copper, cobalt, zinc, and molybdenum. You can buy dandelion greens at speciality-produce sections of most grocery stores; leaves, tinctures, and products at organic grocery and health food stores, or grow your own.
WARNING If you are harvesting dandelions, make sure the plants have not been sprayed with any pesticides or herbicides, as they will contain poisons. Getting rid of lawn dandelions using pesticides may pose health risks to adults, children, and pets.
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