By Gladys Kubinec, Neighbors Vitamin Shop
“What is a weed?” Emerson wrote. “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
By one definition a weed is just a plant growing in an inappropriate place – like that thistle in the raspberry patch or the quack grass (crab grass? You know the one I mean) in the flowerbed. Weeds can certainly ruin our carefully planted garden rows and flowerbeds, not to mention the dandelions in the lawn. You have to admit though that there were some beautiful fields this spring where that first flush of green was sprinkled with a gorgeous sweep of yellow. Too bad those fluffy white seed heads followed so soon.
Did you know that dandelions are not native to North America but brought by European settlers as a medicinal herb and nectar source for honey bees. A very common plant, dandelion grows wild almost everywhere. A native of Europe and Asia, in India it is found through to the Himalayas. Nutritionally, the dandelion has remarkable value. It contains almost as much iron as spinach and four times Vitamin A content. An analysis of dandelion shows it to consist of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Its mineral and Vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sodium, Vitamin A and C. The roots contain choline and the flowers lecithin, both beneficial to the liver.
The first use of the dandelion as a medicine was by Arabian physicians who speak of it as a wild endive, in the 10th and 11th centuries. References to the use of dandelion as a medicine was also found writings of physicians in Wales in the 13th century. Thanks to some modern herbalists the dandelion’s virtues have been well documented and its use as a medicinal herb continued.
As published in Medicinal Plants in Your Backyard:Exploring Biodiversity Through Ethnobotany by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation:
Today, dandelions are still used as food; many enjoy the dandelion leaves boiled like spinach or mixed in salads. Baby dandelion leaves are often found in haute cuisine. The root, when dried, has been used in coffee substitutes. But it is as a medicine that dandelion continues to shine. Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic, but an unconventional one. While most diuretic preparations leach potassium from the body, dandelion leaves provide an abundant source of potassium. Leaves are also used to treat high blood pressure because of their ability to reduce the volume of fluid in the body. Dandelion root has been shown to stimulate bile production by the liver and is used to cleanse the liver. The root is also a gentle laxative. It is considered one of the most effective detoxifying herbs. It works on the liver, the kidneys and the gallbladder to accelerate the removal of toxins from the body. It also is used to relieve constipation, skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis, to prevent and possibly dissolve gallstones, and to treat osteoarthritis and gout. Parts of the dandelion may be consumed in a tea, a wine, an extract or tincture, or in combination with other medicinal herbs and flavorings in a reduced broth. Research: Various clinical studies have demonstrated the legitimate use of dandelion as a diuretic, a bile production stimulant, a mild laxative, and an excellent source of potassium.
Dandelion sold in health food stores is organically grown, harvested and dried. It is also bagged, encapsulated or distilled depending on its purpose, but you can also harvest your own. So don’t spray that weed, you may just want to eat it.