Dandelion is abundantly infesting my lawn (maybe yours, too). This is no reason to dispair, since dandelion is and has been a prized medicinal plant throughout human history for its many healing properties of gastric complaints, spleen and liver issues, hepatitis, even anorexia.
There is no way with my ecological and health sensibilities that I would use herbicides like Roundup, which are linked to fatal kidney disease in many countries, one of the most toxic herbicides and pesticides,125x more toxic than the isolated glyphosate. Glyphosate is bad enough with its endocine disruption effects, damaging the metabolism and respiration of our cells, but Round up has a surfactant named polyoxyethyleneamine which makes the glyphosate more penetrable to our cells and DNA, causing much cellular damage and carcinogenic effects. Polyethoxylated tallowamine (POEA), an ingredient declared to be inactive previously, was shown to be more fatal to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than glyphosate, the “active” ingredient.” Enough of the bad stuff – this post is to commend one of the greatest weeds out there.
Dandelion’s Latin name Taraxacum officinales means „Official Remedy of Disorders,” and it is a well deserved name. High in vitamins A, B, C, and D, and minerals like iron, potassium, and zinc, dandelion also has a stimulatory effect on the salivary glands, kidneys (dandelion leaves), and liver (mainly the root), has potent antioxidant and anticarcinogenic (provoking the production of antibodies) properties, works to thin the blood and lower blood sugar. No wonder the Puritans and other European settlers brought over this „weed” to the Americas.
Dandelions grow in many places, and are associated with many plants like sagebrish and blueberries. Bees gather dandelion pollen for honey, birds and other small animals can feed off them, as well as poltury and pigs. The only problem is that they an be a bit invasive, with their strong taproots growing up to 10 feet deep, but the taproot can be used in so many ways – like tea.
As a digression, there was an episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman where Dr. Quinn cured (and accurately diagnosed) her mother of hepatitis after the Boston doctors declared her incurable with daily infusions of dandelion root tea (yes I know it’s fiction, but the writers could’ve based the story on some truth).
The leaves and shoots can also be eaten ( blanching them makes them tastier, less bitter). Flowers can be gathered for a delicious wine or an elixir for respiratory tract infections due to a substance called mucilage (which works as a wonderful cough expectorant).
The procedure is quite easy, if not a bit of a workout. The main work is pulling the dandelion plant with a maximally intact root (since intact taproots will regrow, and as much as I love dandelion, no need for an infestation). Using a sturdy pitchfork or a garden screwdriver (I’m not sure if it’s actually called that, but it does the trick), the job can be done.
To get roots for dandelion tea or coffee, you have to cut off the roots, wash them in a bucket of water or the sink about 2-3 times (until they are maximally free of mud/debris), lay them out to dry. After they are decently dry, cut them on a cutting board and set aside to further dry – depending on weather and conditions it can take about 1-2 weeks. For tea, just store and add boiling water to infuse. It’s good to mix a tablespoon of dandelion root, with a teaspoon of chamomile, linden flower, and mint. Most aromatic herbal leaf or flower combinations work well.
For coffee, the excess drying is not necessary. Blend them in a food processor until they are coursely ground, and them either heat then in a cast iron pan or pot until they are evently cinnamon brown (about 7-10 minutes, depending on heat), or roast them on a sheet in the oven, 250 F (120 C) for about an hour and a half, mixing them every 30 minutes. The leaves can be dried alongside the roots, or frozen for later.
The flowers can be gathered for wine, or for a cough expectorant elixir, which I can vouch for. You need about 100-120 flower heads (it’s actually not that hard to gather on a lawn). A quart or liter glass jar will be the incubator. Take a few heads, pour a little brown sugar or honey on them and mash, doing half inch (1 cm) layers of flowers, adding the sugar or honey, and repeat until the jar takes in all the flowers. Put in a cool dark place for a few days until all the juices let out. Drain the elixir in a bottle and store.
After that I add some more honey (about 2 tablespoons), pour over with spirits, and let the flowers infuse their full potential into the spirits (ethylene alcohol – 90% is good 😉 ). After about 2-3 weeks, the flowers will appear drained. Store in cool dark place as well. Here’s to that – cheers and good health!