Discovering Dandelion Uses: The Loathed Weed and Cure-All of the Lawn

| 4/18/2012 11:16:28 AM

Tags: Jennifer Heinzel, Dandelion, Herb To Know, Herb Profile, Weed, Hated Weed, Cherished Weed, Dandelion Uses, Dandelion Health Benefits, History Of Dandelion, Taraxacum Officinale, Tips,

J.HeinzelFreelance herbal writer, community herbalist and medicine maker Jennifer Heinzel hails from the cold city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Visit Thymes Ancient Remedies to read more from Jennifer. 

“Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney sweepers, come to dust” —William Shakespeare

 Dandelion was one of the most loved and “esteemed plants of the herbalist," especially by the famous Arabian herbalist Avicenna, and was referred to as “blessed medicine" in the 18th century in Europe. Though a native to Greece, it has been used medicinally and as food throughout the world, but more so in Germany, China and England. Across the world it has been loved by foragers and herbalists alike, such as Rosemary Gladstar who is “convinced, [that dandelion] is one of the greatest herbs of all time. The entire plant is restorative and rejuvenating." Besides its popular reputation by historical and current-day herbalists alike, there is no other herb in the United States that is so “well known, so easily recognized, so much hated, so systematically singled out for extermination—and so little understood—as the dandelion." Despite most people in the U.S. seeing the dandelion as only a weed, it is “ironically just those long, tenacious roots which contain the major portion of its wealth in natural minerals and alkaloids!” So before you spray your lawn, think twice about exterminating this restorative herb.

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), which is a part of the Asteracea family, ironically has many folk names for being such an aggressive, but medicinally useful, weed. Some of the more famous names include wild endive, blow ball, lion’s teeth, goats beard, fairy clock and peasant’s cloak, though it’s more interesting how the dandelion got its name. It started as the Latin Dens Leonis, to the Greek Leotodum. Once it crossed borders again to France, it changed to the French’s dent-de-lion, and lastly to the current day English version dandelion. Also, true to its name, the dandelion possesses long, lion teeth-like leaves that emerge from the taproot (usually around 2 to 12 inches long), forming a rosette of green leaves.

This is an historical profile of the tenacious dandelion.
Photo courtesy
Edible Communities Publications

Some of the first records of dandelion being medicinally utilized were of the Egyptians, described by a Greek scholar 300 years before Christ. However, it was the Arabian physicians of the Middle Ages who first “officially recognized the plant’s medicinal properties and named it Taraxacon, from the Greek taraxos, for 'disorder,' and akos for 'remedy.'" Another folk name-related medicinal use comes from the French name for dandelion,“piss en lit”, or literally “piss in the night." Dandelion has strong diuretic properties and was commonly used by 18th century French squires for gout.

elderberry, echinacea, bee hive


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