This article has been featured in the UK regional magazines: In Cheshire and Prestbury Living. The October edition of Veggie Magazine, online in the College of Naturopathic Medicine Enews and the Green Parent. Referencing available upon request.
This Spring and Summer many of you will have seen the TV commercials demonstrating the powerful weed-killing effects of ‘Round Up’, a toxic chemical used against common weeds such as dandelion.
Many of us consider dandelions as nothing more than annoying weeds to be destroyed, yet humble dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have an array of health benefits and are frequently used in Western herbal medicine.
They are beautiful perennial plants with delightful golden flowers, growing wild in most parts of the world. In continental Europe they are cultivated for their young, tender Spring leaves, filled to the brim with powerful nutrients such as vitamin A, B, C, D, and K1. Added raw to salads or juiced for cleansing and tonic benefits to restore ‘health, tone, vigour and function’ to the kidneys. Two-year-old plants are harvested in the Autumn for their roots, and dried to use as herbal medicine for the liver and gallbladder. The roots are powerful and effective for detoxification, aiding in the removal of waste products. The leaf and root, bitter tasting, act as agents to stimulate healthy digestion.
Dandelions are amazingly useful little plants. For example, the diuretic action of the leaves enables the increase of urination and excretion of metabolic waste products (nitrogen compounds, water, CO2, phosphates, sulfates etc), without displacing the mineral potassium. This is because dandelions contain high levels of potassium, unlike pharmaceutical diuretics which cause loss of potassium. This makes dandelion a feasible option for conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) by safely reducing fluid retention in the body.
‘Round Up’, on the other hand, contains glyphosate, a herbicide yet to be fully tested for safety, yet documented as having a high correlation with ‘cancer, endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, and malformations of the reproductive, neurological, and developmental systems of animals and humans’, as well as polluting our soil and water.
It seems ironic that there is now promising research indicating dandelion root extract in the prevention and treatment of many types of cancer. In 2016 this potential anti-tumour benefit is being studied in preclinical settings, with clinical trials in the pipeline at the University of Windsor, Canada.
Avid gardeners might be intrigued to learn that dandelions ‘create drainage channels in compacted soils, restore mineral health to abused soils, and aerate and attract earthworms in all soils.’ Dandelion blooms are also an important food source for honey bees, necessary to help pollinate plants that provide our food. Herbicides are strongly implicated in the demise of bees, and other insects and birds!
Next time you spy a dandelion on your lawn or peeping through the crevice of a manmade landscape, will you be spraying it with ‘Round Up’, or collecting it for food (dandelion fritters), for a drink (dandelion flower wine), for herbal medicine or simply admiring and embracing its bountiful pharmacy?
A Light and Refreshing Dandelion Green Juice
Skill: Easy Serves: 1 to 2 Time: 10 to 15 minutes
This is my recipe for a light and refreshing dandelion green juice. A Spring tune-up packed with bio-available nutrients, easy to assimilate and digest. Like an injection of vitamins, minerals and trace minerals, this recipe is quick and easy to add to one’s seasonal diet.
- 1 romaine lettuce
- 1 bunch celery
- ½ cucumber
- 4 to 6 dandelion leaves
- ½ lemon or lime, remove peel
- 1 tbsp cold pressed quality omega 3:6:7:9 oil
- 1 apple, remove core
- Blend the finished juice with ¼ of an avocado to help keep blood sugar stable, if you are sensitive to juice on its own!
Wash and prepare the vegetables and fruit, and press the ingredients through your juicer. Stir the ingredients and sieve the juice before drinking to remove any fibres, as this may irritate sensitive digestive tracts. Sip the juice slowly but immediately, drinking within 20 minutes to maximise nutrition. Place any leftovers in a stainless steel thermos flask and store in the fridge, consuming within 24 hours.
N.B If you intend to go foraging for wild food or medicine, please take care to identify plant species accurately and to harvest away from polluted areas such as busy roads and industry. My favourite beginner’s guides for wild food for free and herbal medicine identification, including recipes are:
- Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 2nd Edition, by Andrew Chevallier.
- The Wild Food Cookbook by Roger Phillips.
- Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers by Roger Phillips.
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