How to use herbs for maximum benefit. Short and sweet descriptions and uses written by our on-staff Nutritional Herbalist. Always remember that herbs should be treated as a medicine. Almost all of our modern-day medicines are derived from compounds found in herbs and plants. If you have not used a particular herb before, try a half dose at first to make sure you do not have an unfavorable reaction to it.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale.
Medicinal Properties: A kidney cleanser and diuretic predominately, it is used to improve digestion, stimulate the liver, reduce swelling, treat gallstones, jaundice, cirrhosis, chronic joint and skin complaints, gout, acne, psoriasis, edema associated with high blood pressure, urinary disorders, and in Chinese medicine for breast and lung tumors, mastitis, abscesses, hepatitis, urinary tract infections and snakebite. Bees love dandelions, so don’t spray them and find a way to get used to looking at them if you want to help stop the extinction of honeybees.
And yet so many people poison this beneficial plant because they don’t know about its medicinal properties or how to use it.
How to Use: Drink a tea or apply externally as a poultice. Dandelion root has been roasted and used as a coffee substitute although large root can be somewhat bitter, when roasted they have a slightly chocolate taste. Not to exceed 2-3 cups of tea a week.
Dandelion greens can be steamed and eaten like any leafy green, but it’s advisable to only use the young, small leaves that come out early in the spring as they will be a little less bitter. However, it is the bitter herb quality that gives them their digestive benefits. You’ve heard of bitters? Bitter tasting plants and herbs are a digestive aid.
And then there is dandelion wine, something many settlers used to make at home. When mixed with other berries or fruit to make the wine, you can disguise the often bitter taste of the dandelion greens and flowers used to make wine.
How To Roast Dandelion Root:
Dig up the plants in the spring. The bigger the rosette of leaves, the bigger the root and only the bigger roots are worth all the trouble.
Soak the roots in a bucket of water to loosen the dirt on them, scrub them clean and let them dry slightly overnight. Chop them up in a coffee grinder until they are fine enough to use as tea. Don’t let the roots dry too long before you grind them up or they will be too hard to grind and may break the blade in your grinder.
One ground to the consistency you want, spread them out on a cookie sheet and slow roast them in a 300º oven for 2-3 hours or until they become a dark brown. For the best “chocolate-like” flavor, roast the root until they are as dark as they can get without being burnt.
Parts Used: Leaves, root, flowers.
Growing: We all know where to find this annoying “weed”, but you may think differently about this plant next time you go to pull one or spray it; just remember all its good qualities listed above.
Some Herb Basics: Most herbs work better on an empty stomach. A few exceptions are garlic, goldenseal and cayenne due to stomach upset. Herbs work in a cumulative fashion meaning they are not a “one dose wonder.” They need to build up in the system a little, usually within 2-3 doses, before any real affect can be noticed. Fresh herbs always work better than old herbs and science is always proving the fact that a whole herb usually is more effective than one isolated compound of that herb.