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Common name: Dandelion, blowball, cankerwort, Irish daisy, monk’s head, priest’s crown, swine snout, wild endive, witch gowan, and yellow gowan
Arabic name: الهندباء
TCM name: Pu gong ying
Ayurvedic name: Simhadanti
Parts Used: Entire plant.
Actions: Diuretic, Cholagogue, Bitter, Tonic, Hepatic, Alterative, Aperient, Nutritive.
Taste: Bitter, slightly sweet, slightly salty – leaf.
Energy: Cooling, drying.
Native To: Eurasia.
Geographic Distribution: North America, South America, Europe, southern Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and India.
Botanical Description: Perennial with basal leaves that are spatulate to lanceolate, and deeply toothed. The stalks are hollow and leak a milky latex when broken. Each stalk holds one flower. What look like tiny petals on the yellow flower head are actually individual flowers themselves called florets. Roots are thick and unbranched.
History and folklore: The name dandelion is derived from Old French, dent-de-lion, translating as “tooth of a lion” or “lion’s teeth.” Since the plant’s arrival in North America, dandelion has been an important food and herb for many Indigenous peoples of North America. For the Anishinabeg, dandelion historically served as an important source of nutrients at winter’s end when food was scarce. The Anishinabeg have also traditionally used the plant as a blood purifier for addressing skin issues. Karuk herbalist Josephine Peters mentions using dandelion for anaemia and as a diuretic for kidney and bladder issues; she also notes topical uses that include applying the fresh sap to warts and applying a wash made with the whole plant for impetigo. The Lumbee have traditionally employed dandelion leaf tea for jaundice, constipation, and kidney infections, and have also made a wine with the blossoms to boost the appetite. Dandelion has also been utilized among the Cherokee for gout and rheumatism, and as a diuretic and liver tonic. While these uses certainly attest to dandelion’s versatility, this is by no means an exhaustive list, as many Indigenous peoples have used and continue to use the plant for a wide variety of applications.
Uses: Dandelion leaf is an effective diuretic through its stimulating effect on the kidneys, encouraging proper elimination of uric acid, thus clearing out metabolic wastes. This is helpful in the case of water retention, urinary and prostate infections, gout, arthritis, and rheumatism. Dandelion’s high potassium and other mineral content offsets the resultant potassium and mineral loss through the urine. Thus, dandelion is a safe diuretic to use even in the case of water retention associated with cardiac conditions. Dandelion is an excellent mild bitter tonic to offset the sweet tastes typical for the Western diet. Bitter herbs help to stimulate appetite and activate digestion and metabolism by stimulating secretion of bile, gastric enzymes, and pancreatic enzymes. As a choleretic, dandelion root increases the amount of bile produced by the liver and gallbladder, aiding the digestion of fats. Due to its gentle improvement of bile flow, dandelion acts as a mild laxative. Herbalists celebrate dandelion as a supreme liver tonic as it excels at clearing excess heat (inflammation), clearing stagnation (congestion), and supporting detoxification of metabolic wastes. It is also considered an alterative, supporting the liver in removing metabolic wastes from the blood, which helps clear eruptive skin conditions like eczema. As Ellingwood described, dandelion “encourages the eliminative changes carried on by the liver.” This includes elimination of hormones, thus providing hormonal balance during menstruation and easing the skin eruptions caused by hormonal fluctuations. The white, milky sap in the stem of dandelion is a natural latex that effectively dissolves warts when applied topically. Those with a latex allergy should proceed cautiously and do a skin patch test first.
Safety: In general, dandelion is a safe tonic herb. Dandelion is in the Asteraceae family and may rarely cause reactions in people very sensitive to other asters (ragweed, etc). Those with gallbladder or kidney issues should ask their doctor before taking dandelion. Those on blood thinners or diuretics should avoid dandelion. Dandelion is contraindicated in the case of acute gastric inflammation as it stimulates stomach acid