DandelionsAh, the ubiquitous weed – bane of gardeners and ‘wet-the-bed’ to old wives. The flowers of the humble dandelion herald the start of the honey bee season and provide a rich source of nectar. Food for bees and food for us – what’s in your salad?

Traditionally used for its cleansing and detoxifying properties for the blood and digestive systems (along with a variety of skin conditions, including exzema), the milky juice of the Dandelion has an anti-bacterial action. If applied externally it can help heal wounds and fight bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Bacillus dysenteriae and many more. The juice of the stalk is also effective as a wart remover.

Dandelion is a very strng diuretic, hence the name ‘wet-the-bed’, but unlike other diuretics Dandelion replenishes potassium loss due to its own high levels of potassium and calcium. Dandelion tea taken during the day can help with combating bed-wetting by readjusting the body’s natural rhythm. Dandelion and Burdock – a favourite for many children – is naturally fizzy and has been used in the UK since around 1265 as a liver tonic.

Dandelions are very nutritious and have been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. Although quite bitter tasting to our modern palette, the young Spring leaves are less bitter. Taste can be improved by boiling and re-boiling (some vitamin loss can occur) or cooking in butter, like spinach.

Leaves and roots can be harvested at any time of year, flowers in Spring. The flowers and leaves make great additions to salads, even the very young, unopened flowers. Roots are best harvested in the Autumn when they are fattest. Scrub them well but don’t peel, dry them thoroughly and roast until brittle. Once ground they make a great coffee substitute. Fermented flowers can be used to make a medicinal and flavoursome herbal wine.

And you thought they were just an annoying weed!

A potted history of the genus can be found in Wikipedia.

[Natural Pathways strongly suggests that any use of herbal preparations be under the supervision of trained practitioners and is strictly the responsibility of each individual.]