Right around the Spring equinox there in Portland Oregon the dandelions (Taraxacum officicinale) start to sprout up like some wild jagged toothed friendly golden haired freaks from down the road. These are the botanical creatures that drive many home owners nuts. You can see them with their cans of spray desperately trying to eradicate anything but the tame blades of grass that carpet their lawn front and back. Dandelion is seen as a scourge, an enemy to be controlled and eliminated. But dandelion is unruly, doesn’t listen very well- sprouts wherever it can find a foothold and doesn’t easily leave its perch once well established. Queen of the weeds, friend to every herbalist, dandelion has much to offer and we would do well to tend her patches and bring her into our life as a dear friend.
Lets start at the beginning. Dandelion originates from the french name dent-de-lion, teeth of the lion. And indeed her jagged leaves appear like teeth. The french have another name for dandelion- “pis en lit”- meaning piss in bed. Thats because dandelion is a diuretic and can help us to excrete excess waste through urination. Dandelion comes to us via Eurasia where it originates. But truly dandelion has found its way into every corner of the globe as it is so tenacious and grows easily.
Dandelion is thought of as an invasive species, but really it doesn’t do battle with too many native species. Truly it loves human habitats- disturbed roadsides and uncontrolled lawns, underneath bridges and by the side of freeways. Watch as the yellow blossom turns to a puffball and the seeds disperse on the wind and find new hold in some backyard or in the cracks of alleyways. Dandelion is nothing if not sturdy and opportunistic. Often we revile that in invasive species but its hardiness is key to its good medicine. Hey maybe if you become a good friend to this plant you will start to blow the puffballs to help it reproduce and grow wild and far.
Lets take a look at the different preparations we can make with dandelion. The entire plant can be used- from the flower to the root. We don’t have to worry too much about over gathering and it is almost impossible to eradicate once it has established a foothold somewhere. But we do want to be mindful that pollinators love these flowers and we want to make sure they have enough.
Look at those beautiful green leaflets known as bracts that encircle the dandelion flower. The flower itself is a whorl of yellow rays that make up a rosette that eventually morph into a puffball of seeds. Dandelion flowers can be cooked and made into fritters or added to a base for making dandelion mead. The petals themselves can be eaten as a snack, or as a garnish on a salad to brighten the meal.
Dandelion mead recipe
Hey mead was drunk by most of our ancestors who had access to honey. Mead is amazing for a few reasons. One is that it is a fermented beverage that is incredibly healthy for promoting better gut health. The other is that honey itself carries important nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes. You can also improve the medicinal quality of mead by adding fruits and herbs such as dandelion flowers. Finally, I like to think of making an alcoholic beverage out of more flowers. Honey is literally made from bees bringing the sugars of flowers back to their nest. So if you purchase honey from a local ethical source, you are connecting to your bioregion in a deeper way.
1 gallon water
1 quart of local wildflower honey
1 quart of dandelion petals.
A half cup of golden raisins
1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 gram of Red Star montrachet active dry yeast. (About 1/5th of a packet)
Gather dandelion heads. You’re going to need a lot- like maybe 100-150 heads. Now remove those rays from the head of the flower. You don’t want any of those green bits that impart a lot of bitterness. You should end up with about a quart of the flower rays. Then bring the water to almost a boil and add the dandelion flower rays. Cover and allow to steep until the water cools down to about 100 degrees. Basically you are making dandelion head tea.
Then strain out the dandelion and add the “tea” to a fermenter (big food grade plastic bucket.) Add the honey, raisins and lemon juice. Stir the honey in well until it is completely dissolved. Then add the yeast and wait until it is starting to get bubbly and active. Then stir it in and put a cap on the fermenter with an air lock. Wait about a month for the fermentation has slowed down considerably. Then transfer via siphon to a glass jug. After another month transfer again to another glass jug and leave the dregs. After 3-6 months your mead will be ready to consume.
Dandelion head fritters
This is a great way to connect to dandelion in a way that is tasty and nutritious.
1 pint of dandelion heads.
1 cup of whole wheat flour (or any other kind of flour you want)
1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 cup of milk (hemp works great for a non-dairy alternative)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Gather dandelions and remove as much of the green bracts as possible (nutritious but bitter). Then in a bowl crack the egg and mix it up and add the milk. Then add the wheat flour, salt and mix together until its the consistency of pancake batter. Then add oil to a pan with medium heat until it melts. Then dip the dandelion heads one at a time in the batter and then add to the pan. Brown each side and then set aside one by one. Enjoy!
The best time to gather the leaves of a dandelion is in the early part of the season and often before the first flower has bloomed. The leaves are young and still somewhat sweet. By summertime the leaves will appear rangy and taste increasingly bitter. A little bitter is good. Too much will feel unpalatable. The bitter taste is one of the most unappreciated tastes in our modern times and it is incredibly important for health. I will let my other article on the subject do the talking here…Bitter Herbs, Nature’s great healers
Ok so what do you do with those nutritious leaves? My favorite way is to make a wild salad with Spring leaves and flowers. That means adding it to some chickweed, miner’s lettuce, candy flower and violets along with spring greens. You can also simply add it to any salad as part of a meal. Again pick the youngest freshest leaves.
Dandelion leaves can also be added in tea formulas for its nutrient density. Dandelion leaf is especially rich in iron, calcium, manganese, vitamins A, C and K. The leaf also acts as a diuretic and is helpful for damp conditions such as bloating, swelling and edema.
Take a trowel and dig deep around the dandelion and you will pull up a long tap root. Usually we don’t get it all and some part is left to reproduce and grow again. Hey thanks dandelion! Dandelion roots are a traditional bitter that will help improve hepatic function as well as improve digestion, assimilation of nutrients and elimination. Through its alterative action, it helps improve the metabolism of the hepatic/digestive system. This in turn helps improve other conditions in the body such as inflammation and skin eruptions like eczema and arthritic symptoms. Dandelion is also a diuretic and is useful for those with edema, bloating, and also high blood pressure.
Furthermore, dandelion roots contain inulin, a wonderful prebiotic that feeds healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. Novel research on certain strains of gut bacteria have shown that they improve mental health and reduce episodes and symptoms of distress by “tickling” the vagus nerve and signaling a shift to the calming parasympathetic state. (Great article here on the subject- “Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?“)
Of course like dandelion leaf, dandelion root is rich in vitamins and minerals and is one of our premier “nutritional bitters”. Unlike many other much stronger bitter roots (yellow dock, Oregon grape) dandelion root is gentler, tastes sweeter and more palatable and is something we can consume regularly and has been traditionally offered as part of alternative coffee formulas.
Dandelion is specific for someone who appears hot, flushed, overtaxed, heavy, stagnant who appears pent up, frustrated with heat signs such as eczema.
1/4 cup roasted dandelion root
1/4 cup roasted burdock root
1/4 cup roasted chicory root
1/4 cup roasted cacao beans (optional- does contain caffeine)
1/2 teaspoon licorice root
1 tsp powdered cinnamon (other spices such as cardamom and fennel as desired)
Take roots and spread on a sheet and roast in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove and powder everything in a coffee grinder including the cacao beans. Add the cinnamon in to mix thoroughly. Take powder and place in a labeled jar and store in a cool dry place. Take 2 tablespoons of powder to one pint of boiling hot water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes and then strain and drink. Add milk if desired.
Common Name: Dandelion
Latin Name: Taraxacum officinale
Taste: Bitter, slightly sweet
Temperature: Cooling, drying
Parts used: Flowers, leaves, roots
Actions: Leaves: nutritive, diuretic, stomachic
Roots: Nutritive, alterative, diuretic, cholagogue, hypotensive, slight laxative
Conditions: bloating, swelling, edema, eczema, psoriasis, high blood pressure, digestive aid, liver stagnation, constipation, inflammation, arthritis, nutrient depletion,
Make: See above. Also- tincture root at 1:2 fresh 40-50 % ETOH, 3-5 ml 2x/day for digestive hepatic bitter effects. As tea, 1-2 tablespoon per pint hot water simmered for 20 minutes.
Mental Health: Dandelion is specific for those who appear hot, flushed with heat symptoms along with an appearance of being bloated, stagnant and heavy. Emotions appear to be wired, frustrated, pent up and tight. Dandelion cools, drains, helps hepatic digestive metabolism to become more efficient.
Contraindications: Those with low blood pressure or on blood pressure meds. Avoid where there is severe hepatic distress. Occasionally there are those allergic to the Aster family of plants.
If you have a backyard or an old weed patch nearby go and take a look. Undoubtedly one of the weeds growing there is dandelion. This tenacious creature grows so easily that we can gather it without fear of over harvest though we do want to save a number of flower for the nearby pollinators. Our modern fast paced world and too much rich, processed, sugary food is making many of us feel stagnant, heavy, stressed, overheated and frustrated. Dandelion helps cool, drain, release and improve how we digest and process. Instead of bemoaning dandelion as an invasive weed, we should be lionizing and befriending this bright, tenacious beauty.
This article written by Jon Keyes, Licensed Professional Counselor and herbalist. For more articles like this, please go to www.Hearthsidehealing.com. You can also find me at the Facebook group Herbs for Mental Health.Follow me on Instagram