There are so many reasons to love dandelion, especially its insistence on showing up absolutely everywhere. From its liver-cleansing properties to the deliciousness of blood-cleansing dandelion wine, this scourge of landscaped lawns is one of our most beloved and valuable cleansing spring tonics.
Dandelion is known as one of the five most nutritious vegetables on Earth. The entire plant is medicinal– roots, flowers, latex, and leaves. The toothy leaves of the dandelion conduct all rainfall directly to the taproot, making this herb a perfect model for transitioning from winter (the season of Water) to spring (the season of Wood).
Dandelion root has a deep cleaning action on the liver, the primary organ of the Wood element. Dandelion is especially helpful after a winter of a higher fat diet and lower activity levels. The root supports fat metabolism and supports the liver as an organ of detoxification. The leaf supports the kidneys in filtering and flushing toxins from the system. All of this detoxification is excellent for hormone balance, clear skin, and removing excess heat and infections from the body.
Both dandelion root and leaf are powerful, cleansing diuretics. The leaf tends to be more diuretic than the root. Dandelion is known as the “perfect diuretic”, as its high potassium content more than compensates for any potassium loss through increased urination. With dandelion, diuresis is a replenishing and rejuvenating experience rather than a dehydrating one.
Young dandelion greens are a classic spring tonic for salads, steaming, and tea. The fresh leaves are tasty and go well with lettuces, chives, butter, and in pestos and sandwiches. When it comes to vitamin and mineral content, they contain more nutrition than spinach leaves. They are bittersweet, cleansing, diuretic, and bursting with Vitamins A, C, B complex, manganese, potassium and zinc. The older greens are much more bitter, too bitter for most to eat, but they can be dried and reserved for tea.
Dandelion flowers share the blood-cleansing properties of the leaf and root, and they can be eaten raw as a sweet, fortifying trail-side snack. Dandelion wine has been made from the sunny yellow flowers for centuries, and it can be made with water and honey alone. Non-alcoholic beverages can also be made from the flowers, and all dandelion flower beverages have the same blood-cleansing and rejuvenating effects as those made with the roots and leaves.
The first time I smelled a jar of dried dandelion root, I was overcome with the rich, warm aroma of freshly baked bread, my liver’s way of telling me it would welcome some dandelion medicine if I would be so kind to brew some. Roasted dandelion root smells even more delicious. The roasted roots can be ground up into “Dandelion Coffee” and added to true coffee, cocoa, chicory, or enjoyed as a savory beverage all on its own. It’s fantastic with cinnamon, cardamom, and cream.
Maude Grieve has this to say about Dandelion Coffee: “It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and keeping the bowels in a healthy condition, so that it offers great advantages to dyspeptics and does not cause wakefulness. ” Sounds good to me!
To make Dandelion Coffee:
1. Cut fresh roots into 1/4 inch pieces (if you’re working with dried roots, skip to the 3rd step).
2. Cover the root pieces with a clean cloth and leave them to dry for a day or two out of direct sunlight.
3. Toss dried pieces in a pan over medium heat and stir until they become brown and fragrant.
At this point, you can either make a hot, creamy tea with butter, honey, and cream, or you can grind up the roots in a coffee grinder for a rich, hot cup of Dandelion Coffee. Add the grounds to regular coffee, cocoa, chicory blends, you name it, and drink to your health!
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