The other day I passed by my neighbor’s house and admired their exceptional crop of dandelions. They had yellow flowers and puffs of seeds all over their lawn. I knew their next-door neighbor sprayed regularly, and I imagined his dislike of their lawn practices. I wondered if they felt pressured to spray? Suddenly, I wanted to leave them a note of thanks – I wanted to let them know I appreciated their yard, their dandelions and the fact that they weren’t spraying herbicides.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many dandelions? I know, they are prolific seeders and their seeds travel far and wide. They are also very successful at growing in disturbed areas, and let’s face it, humans make lots of disturbed areas – we dig stuff up, we cut stuff down. Even our lawns are disturbed areas. After all, do you ever see a natural ecosystem that has one type of grass? Never.
And it isn’t only our ecosystems that are disturbed. So are our bodies. We eat all kinds of things that aren’t really foods, such as preservatives, food colorings, and synthetic flavorings. We use antibiotics that disrupt our own ecosystems – our microbiomes. We are exposed to all kinds of pollution in our air, soil and water.
I think we have so many dandelions because we need them. They grow in our yards and waste places, trying to set right what we have put out of kilter. I think they are generously offering their services, those sweet, precious plants! Honestly? I’m humbled.
Dandelions are truly wonderful plants. They are a nutritious, wild edible food. You can eat the entire plant, including the seeds. The roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The yellow flowers, which are extremely high in beta-carotene, can be pulled apart and sprinkled into salads, or made into wine. The leaves make a bitter and extremely nutritive addition to salad, soup or herbal tea.
Dandelion is a useful medicinal herb that supports the liver, digestive system, skin and kidneys. It has been used as a medicine for over ten centuries. The leaf is a useful diuretic, helping to remove excess water from the body through the kidneys and urinary tract (in other words it makes you pee). At the same time, it is high in minerals, helping to replace electrolytes lost through the urine.
The root is high in mucilage, making it a useful digestive herb. In higher quantities it is a helpful, gentle laxative. It is an excellent liver herb, promoting the production and release of bile. The root has also been studied for its ability to help lower blood sugar levels due to its high inulin content.
Applied regularly, the milky sap of the stem is useful for eliminating warts.
In celebration of this fabulous plant, and in hopes that we will stop poisoning our lawns, waters, insects, pets, wildlife, children and ourselves with herbicides and the like, I came up with a celebratory note for my neighbors. You can download it free here, and disperse it widely, much as the dandelion disperses its own seeds.
© Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist 2015
About the Author:
The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, MT, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. An artist and writer, Elaine has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons.