Dandelion, the bane of gardeners and lawn owners everywhere….
“No!” you say. “Not another bland article about the same old yellow weed.” Fine, then! But dandelion’s not just a yellow weed….
Common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is The King of Herbs. And why? Before even going into medicine, let’s have some fun facts. Open up your imagination, because chances are you’ve been snubbing the most common medicinal plant on Earth!
- Dandelion is found all over the world, even on some remote islands. It grows from just above sea level all the way up to the Himalayan mountain range!
- Yellow dandelion flower heads open and close at almost the same time every day, making it a great survival watch.
- If you step on a dandelion or pluck its head off, it’ll repair itself in a day or two. (Sometimes it grows so quickly that you have to wonder if it’s the same dandelion, or if you just never noticed another fully grown one being there.)
- Damage to the root is the same way… in fact, if even a smidgen of the healthy root is left in the ground, it can regenerate the entire plant, sometimes even within two days! (Mark this fact; the liver does the same!)
- Individual dandelion plants can survive for longer than two years. The seeds have been speculated to cross great distances – even including the ocean. Animals of all kinds (even carnivores) are known to eat dandelion both during the spring and when they’re sick.
- Dandelions are most often seen growing where they’re needed. There’s a story that unless the dandelion is needed for medicine, food, or as a “seat for the fairies,” it won’t grow.
- In Greek legend, the hero Theseus went to the Labyrinth in Knossos to defeat the evil minotaur… and to attain the strength he needed to do it, feasted on dandelion salad for 30 days!
And that’s not all. Traditional medicine practices from hundreds of places have come up with their own stories, from fairies and elves to associations with gods and planets to Pu Gong Ying, the savior of a suicidal young woman.
Countless festivals and superstitions are based around or involve dandelion for health and religious applications. So many stories have been told about it that it would take ten other well known herbs to match the number.
All parts of the plant can be used, even the seeds and stem. While just about every disease in history has at some point been treated by dandelion, my favorite uses are as follows:
- Cancer: if you’ll allow me to be so bold, dandelion is a perfect therapeutic herb for all types of cancer. While that doesn’t mean it can affect every case, it’s been used since the most ancient times specifically for cancerous tumors. Off the top of my head, I’ve read success stories for: melanoma, brain tumors, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer. Some of these stories were told by regular family doctors, some by registered naturopaths, and some were passed down through generations. While ten years ago you might have had better luck winning a rigged carnival game than googling “natural cancer treatment,” today even the US government is being candid, posting study after study of the medicinal uses of common herbal medicines. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov is one free source of information where combining the names of plants with the word “cancer” is no longer taboo. Chinese medicine and ayurveda both recommend dandelion for cancer. Folk medicine, myths, and legends include at least a few stories of cancer being treated with wild harvested dandelion. Stories and studies abound, so if you or someone you know has cancer, do your research and consider this herb as an adjunct.
- Urinary and kidney problems: dandelion makes a wonderful remedy for frequent and infrequent urination, depending on the cause. Unless you’re taking potassium-sparing diuretics or have hyperkalemia, you can use dandelion sparingly to stimulate urination and kidney function, or generously to cleanse urinary tract infections and prevent (or in some cases dissolve) kidney stones and adrenal fatigue.
- Liver disease: from hepatitis to gallstones. I can’t think of a liver condition that doesn’t benefit from a little dandelion. In fact, “It’s so effective that the first stages of cirrhosis of the liver have been known to be alleviated by consistent use.” (Jack Ritchason, N.D.)
- Cleansing: out of my five favorite uses, this and the next make dandelion the King of Herbs, along with its omnipresence in traditional medicine and lore, its botanical persistence, and its flexibility of use. “Heavy metals,” gall sludge, colon grime, parasites, pylori, excess fluid – you name it, dandelion can help to cleanse it.
- Digestion: and by this, I don’t mean that dandelion is good for just the stomach. In fact, every organ and every cell in the body that breaks anything down into smaller pieces can in some way derive benefit from dandelion. In Ayurveda, digestive force is called “agni.” You can think of it like the metaphorical fire in the stomach, intestines, liver, and other places. If the fire is extinguished, our body no longer has the ability to transform food into energy and living tissues. Dandelion fans this fire and moves fluids in the body, meaning you digest more efficiently and get the nutrients to where they need to be. Because of its cholagogue (bile creating) effect, it’s contraindicated for people with very large gallstones, but generally effective for those with IBS, ulcers, intestinal parasites, and a whole list of gastric complaints. It’s also a very strong prebiotic for raising the good bacteria in your intestines.
And that’s that! My favorite source for dandelion is Mountain Rose Herbs! In my next dandelion article, I’ll give more information on purchasing. How to gather and prepare will be discussed as well, so don’t miss out!
-The Little Herb Encyclopedia (Jack Ritchason, N.D.)
-Charaka Samhita (Atreya, Agnivesa, Charaka, and Drdhabala; Vol. I & II translation by P.V. Sharma, edited by Gabriel Van Loon)
Dandelion (Yashpal (Paul) Chhabra; herballegacy.com/Chhabra_Medicinal.html)
TCM Treasures – Dandelion (shanghaidaily.com; Wing Tan) Taraxacum officinale; Dudhal; Dandelion (Anne McIntyre; annemcintyre.com)
Pu Gong Ying (tcmwiki.com/wiki/pu-gong-ying)
Individual Herbs – Pu Gong Ying (americandragon.com)
Various Studies (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)