Updated: May 21
Dandelions have been widely used throughout history for a range of different purposes, from medicinal herbs to clothes dyes.
The name we now know for the plant was first used by the Anglo-Saxons, who took it from the Norman's Dent de Lion, (Tooth of the Lion), so named because of the sharp, tooth shaped petals. They were commonly used to by the Romans and Greeks to aid in digestion, liver, stomach and kidney problems as well as a mild diuretic. Arabian physicians and herbalists were the first to record the use of dandelions for medicinal properties, such as liver and kidney diseases and problems. These records speak of a herb named Taraxcacon, a member of the Endive family. The name is a mixture of two different Greek words- taraxos, meaning disorder and akos, meaning remedy. The Roman army used the roots of dandelions in teas and herbal tisanes in order to keep the soldiers healthy and fit in order to fight in battles. Ancient Chinese herbalists have been using all parts of the flower for centuries, mainly for digestive health and gut health and as a method of in take of various nutrients and vitamins which was one of the largest causes of death. However, the Chinese also used dandelions for cleansing toxins and poisons from the blood stream and to boost the immune system as well as keeping it healthy. In the Medieval period, the flower was used for a wider range of medicinal benefits than previous centuries; for example, colds, chilblains, coughs, chest infections, gallstones, bladder infections, boils, dental complaints, mouth and skin ulcers, skin irritation and rashes and even jaundice. If pressed between two large stones or rocks, the milky sap that was released was used to cure warts and boils.The leaves of dandelions were commonly eaten and became popular in salads. The wife of Frederick Delius, a composer from England, first started the trend by using all parts of dandelions from their garden; using the leaves in salads and the flowers for brewing teas.
Dandelions (then commonly known as Fairy Clocks) were believed to be magical flowers and were often used as tools for divination and had numerous superstitions surrounding them. People held the belief that if you blew onto the head of a Dandelion and counted the remaining seeds, that would be how many children you would have: a tradition that is still believed and practised by some today. Another belief was that any dandelions that were picked on the 24th of June (then known as St John's Eve, celebrating the life of St John the Baptist) would ward away witches. Dandelions were used in America after first being brought to the land on the Mayflower in 1620. This was when the Dandelion first became as widespread as it is today, as the settlers in America began to plant the seeds in their gardens and fields in order to remind them of home.
Minerals (especially potassium)
Minerals (potassium, calcium)
Dandelion leaves are used as a tonic for the digestive system.
The bitterness has an antiseptic effect on the liver and kidneys, which helps to improve their function.
Stimulating the bile helps break down fat, and the bitter profile of the plant stimulates digestion, which can improve absorption of nutrients and boost the metabolism.
One of the many chronic dis-eases in the body is caused by swelling - dandelion greens are good at reducing inflammation in the body.
The leaves of the plant are powerful diuretic; many herbs stimulates only the elimination of water and potassium, but as dandelion contains a high amount of potassium itself, no loss of the mineral occurs with use.
It can be used also for treating high blood pressure, by reducing the volume of fluid in the body.
In Chinese medicine Dandelion root is used as a herb to help eliminate toxins.
It gently stimulates the liver and gall bladder’s capacity to clear waste products from the body. Many health conditions that involve chronic toxicity could be eased with its use.
The tea of root can be used to treat constipation, skin problems (eczema), arthritis, reducing cholesterol level, fights bacteria and is rich in antioxidants (substances that can prevent or slow damage to cells caused by free radicals).
Suggestions for use
I have been using dandelion regularly since childhood. I remember picking up young dandelion leaves to be eaten in a salad with my mum, and flowers to make honey to be used in winter against the common cold. If I had a cough, homemade dandelion syrup was the first thing to be made.
Being a big coffee drinker, I have always looked for coffee alternatives to drink in the afternoon and limit my caffeine intake. I like to pick whole dandelion plants in spring, cut off the roots, dry and roast them to use as a coffee alternative.
The taste is unique and I appreciate the bitter flavours as we don’t have enough of these in today’s diet, in addition to the great effect it has on the human body.
Dandelion honey is a good substitute for honey, suitable for vegans.
I usually pick up around 150 dandelion blossoms in spring, add sugar (1kg is optimal, but I use a lot less), 2 lemons and 2l of water.
- The syrup is best made on the same day as you pick up the flowers.
- Soak the flowers in cold water and wash away any insects or bits of dirt.
- Cover with fresh cold water (2l), bring to boil and let it simmer for 10min.
- Filter to get rid of the bits, mix juice of 2 lemons and sugar, stir and bring it to boil.
- When it all boils, simmer on a low heat until the liquid thickens.
- Pour into jars and close it tightly with lid, cover with a cloth until it cools down and then store in a cold and dry space.
- After opening, store in the fridge.
I also like to pick up young leaves in spring, adding them to green smoothies, soup and salad.
My favourite summer use is in a salad, with added pumpkin oil, apple cider vinegar, walnuts, dandelion leafs, tofu and wild primrose blossoms.
In winter, I use more of the dandelion root - I love making dandelion chai latte, mixing dandelion root tea or coffee, almond milk, cinnamon, cardamon, star aniseed and vanilla. Sweeten with dandelion honey or any other sweetener.
Bring to a boil and enjoy to warm you up on a cold winters day.
What is your favourite use? Please, do let us know.
History and Magic, Rei
Health benefits and use, Maja