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dandelion taraxacum officinale
Dandelion is a common meadow herb of the Asteraceae or sunflower family. There are about 100 species of dandelion, and all are beneficial.
This sun-loving beauty is a native of Greece, naturalized in temperate regions throughout the world, and familiar to nearly everyone. The perennial dandelion grows freely wherever it can find a bit of earth and a place in the sun.
Dandelion's nutritive and medicinal qualities have been known for centuries.
Dandelion's common name is derived from the French dent de lion, a reference to the irregular and jagged margins of the lance-shaped leaves. There are numerous folk names for this widely-used herb. They include pissabed, Irish daisy, blow ball, lion's tooth, bitterwort, wild endive, priest's crown, doonheadclock, yellow gowan, puffball, clock flower, swine snort, fortune-teller, and cankerwort. The generic name is thought to be derived from the Greek words taraxos, meaning disorder, and akos, meaning remedy. Another possible derivation is from the Persian tark hashgun, meaning wild endive, one of dandelion's common names.
The specific designation officinale indicates that this herb was officially listed as a medicinal. Dandelion held a place in the United States National Formulary from 1888 until 1965, and the dried root of dandelion is listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) .
Dandelion may be distinguished from other similar-looking herbs by the hollow, leafless flower stems that contain a bitter milky-white liquid also found in the root and leaves. The dark green dandelion leaves, with their irregular, deeply jagged margins, have a distinctive hairless mid-rib. The leaves are arranged in a rosette pattern, and may grow to 1.5 ft (45.7 cm) in length. They have a lovely magenta tint that extends up along the inner rib of the stalkless leaf. When the plant is used as a dye, it yields this purple hue. Dandelion blossoms are singular and round, with compact golden-yellow petals. They bloom from early spring until well into autumn atop hollow stalks that may reach from 4-8 in (10.2ndash;20.3 cm) tall. The golden blossoms yield a pale yellow dye for wool. After flowering, dandelion develops a round cluster of achenes, or seed cases. As many as 200 of these narrow seed cases, each with a single seed, form the characteristic puffball. Each achene is topped with a white, feathery tuft to carry it on the breeze.
Dandelion's tap root may grow fat, and reach as deep as 1.5 ft (45.7 cm) in loose soil. The root has numerous hairy rootlets. Dandelion is a hardy herb and will regrow from root parts left in the ground during harvest.
Dandelion has a long history of folk use. Early colonists brought the herb to North America. The native people soon recognized the value of the herb and sought it out for its medical and nutritious benefits. The entire plant is important as a general tonic, particularly as a liver tonic. It may be taken as an infusion of the leaf, a juice extraction, a root decoction, or a tincture. Fresh leaves may be added to salads or cooked as a potherb. The juice extracted from the stem and leaf is the most potent part of the plant for medicinal purposes. It has been used to eradicate warts and soothe calluses, bee stings, or sores. Infusions of dandelion blossoms have been used as a beautifying facial, refreshing the skin.
Potassium is often flushed from the body when synthetic diuretics are taken. But dandelion has an abundance of potassium to off-set this problem.
The feathery seed balls of the dandelion were once used by young girls to determine if their true loves were really true. They would blow on the dandelion fuzzy ball 3 times; if at least one of the fuzzy seeds remained, it was taken as an omen that her sweetheart was thinking about her.
Since the 7th century, the Chinese have known about the antibacterial properties of the juice of the dandelion. Researchers recently discovered that dandelion may protect against cirrhosis of the liver. In Europe, the dandelion first appears as being used medicinally in 1485. The name dandelion was invented by a 15th century surgeon, who compared the shape of the leaves to a lion's tooth, or dens leonis. Old timers called dandelion the "King of Weeds. "
A French authority claimed that the flowers and stems of dandelion are "enormously rich in estrogen. " Dandelion was brought to the New World by the early colonists. They used the whole plant. The flowers made wine, the leaves made salads, the stems and roots dried and used medicinally. According to stories, dandelion never grows where there are no human inhabitants. The early pioneers found no trace of them in western America. After a few years, up sprang a dandelion head and soon there were millions of them. Native Americans learned to love them and would walk miles to gather them if they could not be found locally.
Dandelion coffee is made of high quality roots, now grown on specialized farms. Proper harvesting, drying and skillful roasting methods give dandelion a remarkable roasted flavor that many people readily accept as a coffee substitute. Dandelion coffee has been found to be of benefit to dyspeptic people, who cannot tolerate real coffee. The roasted root has no caffeine, so drink it as often as desired, even as a night cap.
Roasted dandelion root has almost a magical effect upon milk. Steep 1 heaping tsp. of roasted root in 1 cup of hot, not boiling, milk, for 5 to 10 minutes and strain. Sweeten if desired. The resultant liquid tastes like rich cream. Of course with fewer calories. Try on breakfast cereals, it is great. Also, try this dandelion milk in recipes that call for milk as an ingredient.