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Herb Lore and the Benefits of Dandelion

Defending the Dandelion
Dandelions are herbs, so why do we consider them weeds? In this post I will cover some reasons to ditch the weeder and take advantage of the many benefits of dandelions for our health, our magic and our gardens.
Every spring, we often see our yards suddenly blanketed with dots of bright sunny yellow flowers. Although many suburban homeowners see dandelions as the bane of their existence and spend significant amounts of money and time trying to eradicate them from sight, the fact is that dandelions have a long and rich folkloric history, both from a magical and medicinal perspective. Let’s look at some of the ways people have utilized dandelions throughout the ages.
Much of the dandelion folklore has evolved into childhood tales – ask any child and they’ll tell you that if you blow on a dandelion puff, the tiny seeds will carry a wish for you. Hold a dandelion bloom under your chin – if your skin appears yellow, you’ll be rich some day. This particular legend dates back to medieval times. Some people use dandelions to enhance psychic abilities. In his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, author Scott Cunningham recommends the use of dandelion roots in a tea to aid in divination and prophetic dreaming.
In some magical belief systems, the dandelion is associated with growth and transformation – after all, a few dandelion flowers soon turn into hundreds of seeds waiting to travel around the neighborhood, repopulating other yards. There’s also a connection to moving on – if you’ve got a bad habit you want to get rid of, associate it with a dandelion puff, and then blow it out away from you.
These hardy yellow flowers will grow just about anywhere, adapting to a variety of soil conditions. Take advantage of their resilience and use dandelions to represent strength and your ability to overcome adversity. In some magical traditions, dandelions are associated with the goddess Aphrodite because of her connection to bees. In others, this plant is connected to the underworld, by way of its association to the goddess Hecate.
If you’ve got dandelions popping up everywhere, sure – you could try to get rid of them. But wouldn’t it be far more useful to embrace them and reap the benefits of the magic they have to offer you?
Dandelion as a Benefit to the Garden
Dismissed as a weed, eradicated at all costs, cursed and scorned for its stubbornly long taproots that often refuse to give from the earth, it’s earned a reputation for invasiveness and uselessness.
Today I will make a case for the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), which you might be eyeing right about now, weeder in hand, as a galaxy of yellow blooms starts spreading across your lawn.
While you might consider it the bane of an otherwise perfectly manicured lawn, here are eight good reasons why the lowly dandelion is the unsung hero of your yard.
 1. Dandelions are not as invasive as commonly thought.
Though they’re non-native to North America (originally hailing from Europe), dandelions are not considered invasive by federal agencies. An annoyance, perhaps, but far from being aggressively spreading plants that alter natural habitats, the hallmark of a truly invasive species. Dandelions have naturalized throughout all 50 states (as well as most of Canada and even Mexico) and are believed to have been brought over by the Pilgrims, who planted the herb as a medicinal crop.
2. Dandelions add color to the drab landscape of early spring.
As soon as frost has passed, dandelions begin to dot the southern slopes, brightening the brown and gray landscape with pops of beautiful and bright chartreuse color.
In a matter of weeks, those same dandelions start to unfurl into a carpet of gold against all the new green — a brilliant bloom of color and texture, all without you sowing a seed or lifting a trowel.
3. Dandelions are an important source of food for wildlife.
When bees, butterflies, and other pollinators emerge in early spring, a tricky time with few other flowers blooming, they depend on dandelions as an early source of pollen and nectar. The flowers provide nectar for nearly 100 species of insects, while the seeds and leaves feed over 30 species of birds, chipmunks, and other wildlife.
Got backyard chickens? Let them party down on a patch of dandelions after a long and dreary winter. The greens provide plenty of nutrients for rich golden yolks, and happy chickens scratching (and pooping) in the dirt means healthy aerated soil.
4. Dandelions encourage biodiversity.
Their presence alone attracts and supports several key species in the local ecosystem, including bees, butterflies, moths, and birds, which in turn pollinate fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other flowers that feed even more species. Hummingbirds use dandelion down to line their tiny nests, and beneficial insects seek shelter under the low-growing leaves (which often rest on the ground in a dense rosette).
5. Dandelions protect the soil.
They do so just by growing.... the roots hold the soil together to help prevent wind and water erosion. Since the plants grow so quickly, they spread widely to cover bare soil and act as a natural mulch by providing shade and conserving moisture.
6. Dandelions aerate and condition distressed soil.
The long, strong taproots of dandelions push through into dry, cracked, compacted earth, helping to break it up, create channels for air and water to penetrate, and maintain a loose soil structure that allows earthworms to do their work. The plants draw calcium, iron, and potassium from deep in the earth into their leaves. When they die and decompose, they leave behind mineral-rich organic matter that nourishes the soil.
(Gardening tip: To maintain their spread, cut the plants back before the seeds disperse into the wind. Tuck them under the mulch for a tidier garden, or let the plants compost in situ. Leave the roots in the ground. As a perennial plant they will often regrow, or eventually decay and enrich the soil food web.)
Dandelions also make great compost heap additions, but they can go to seed even after they’re picked. If you don’t want dandelions throughout your yard, turn the compost regularly so the heat of the mound can kill the seeds.
7. Dandelions are edible from root to flower.
Though we typically think of dandelions as flowers, the plant is a perennial herb and is one of the oldest herbs used for food and healing — since before Roman times! Every part of a dandelion is edible, from root to flower.
As a relative of chicory, dandelion root can be dried and roasted and used as a substitute for, or addition to, coffee. The root can also be peeled and cooked like a turnip.
Young dandelion leaves are among the most nutritious you’ll find of any leafy green, and can be used in a salad, on a pizza, or in a pesto. Mature leaves can be sauteed or added to soups and stews. As for the flower, it can be tossed with a salad, steeped into tea, or turned into wine.
8. Dandelions have medicinal value.
For thousands of years, various parts of the dandelion plant have been used in medicine to naturally detoxify the body and support healthy liver function and kidney function.
The herb is well-documented as a diuretic, hence its other French name, pis en lit (which sounds much more romantic than its English translation, “piss the bed”).
Dandelions have been used holistically to stimulate the appetite, settle upset stomach, improve skin issues, and treat a host of other ailments including heartburn, mastitis, inflammation, constipation, and hormonal imbalance. Preliminary animal studies also suggest that dandelions may help normalize blood sugar and lower cholesterol. We will cover more of the medicinal uses later in this article.
Magical Properties
Dandelion has a number of properties associated with metaphysical skills: it’s used in dream work, divination, especially effective in spirit communication and summoning, and will supposedly aid psychic development. When the leaves and root are burned they can be used as an incense to boost clairvoyance and divinatory abilities.
The leaf, root, and flower have a few different aspects, but are mostly similar as far as magic goes.
Dandelion is associated with wind and air spirits. It was also supposedly used in invocations to Hecate and death related deities.
Bury or plant dandelions at the northwest corner of your home to bring favorable energies and draw good luck.
They are also used for: purification, wishes, healing, positivity, and protection from bad dreams.
Health Benefits Of Dandelion
In the second half of this post we will discuss the medicinal value of this amazing pant. The health benefits of dandelion include relief from liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, cancer and anemia. It also helps in maintaining bone health, skin care and is a benefit to weight loss programs. These and other health benefits are currently being studied for complete validation by a number of international institutions.
Despite the health benefits of dandelions, they are considered the bane of the garden by most. There are many varieties of dandelion, but the common dandelion is scientifically known as Taraxacum Officinale. In terms of history, the plant is believed to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia.
Dandelion, which literally translates into “lion’s tooth” in French, is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium and detoxifiers which explains its common inclusion in medicines. Below, we will discuss the different things that benefit can do for us, besides decorating our gardens
Bone Health: Dandelions are rich in calcium, which is essential for the growth and strength of bones, and they are rich in antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin, which protect bones from age-related damage. This inevitable damage is often due to free radicals, and is frequently seen as bone frailty, weakness, and decreased density.
Liver Disorders: Dandelions can help the liver in many ways. While the antioxidants like vitamin-C and Luteolin keep the liver in optimal function and protect it from aging, other compounds in dandelions help treat hemorrhaging in the liver. Further, dandelions aid in maintaining the proper flow of bile, while also stimulating the liver and promoting digestion. Proper digestion can reduce the chances of constipation, which in turn reduces the risk of more serious gastrointestinal issues.
Diabetes: Dandelion juice can help diabetic patients by stimulating the production of insulin from the pancreas, thereby keeping the blood sugar level low. Since dandelions area natural diuretic, they increase urination in diabetic patients, which helps remove the excess sugar from the body. Diabetics are also prone to renal problems, so the diuretic properties of dandelion can help removing the sugar deposition in the kidneys through increased urination. Dandelion juice is slightly bitter to taste, which effectively lowers the sugar level in the blood, as all bitter substances do. Consistently lower blood sugar and a more regulated system of insulin release prevents dangerous spikes and plunges for diabetic patients, so dandelion extracts can be a perfect solution!
Urinary Disorders: Dandelions are highly diuretic in nature, so they help eliminate deposits of toxic substances in the kidneys and the urinary tract. The disinfectant properties of dandelions also inhibit microbial growth in the urinary system.
Skin Care: Dandelion sap, also known as dandelion milk, is useful in treating skin diseases which are caused by microbial and fungal infections. This treatment stems from the fact that the sap is highly alkaline and has germicidal, insecticidal and fungicidal properties. You should be careful while using this sap, and avoid any contact with the eyes. This sap can be used on irritated skin, ringworm, eczema, and other skin conditions without the risk of side effects or hormonal disturbances commonly caused by pharmaceutical skin treatments.
Acne: Dandelion juice is a good detoxifier, diuretic, stimulant and antioxidant. These four properties make it a great treatment for acne. Before we know how it treats acne, we must know what causes it. Acne typically arises during the teenage years, when the body undergoes many physiological and hormonal changes. The flood of new hormones that bring about the changes in the body must be regulated, but if they don’t remain at a healthy ratio, they tend to deposit somewhat toxic substances into the body. These toxins tend to come out along with sweat through the sweat glands or sebaceous glands on the skin.
During these hormonal changes, these glands secrete more oils which, when mixed with dead skin, block the pores and the secretion of toxins is obstructed. Therefore, the toxic substances cannot escape and eventually result in acne. This situation is exacerbated by the microbial infections on the effected places. Dandelion juice, being a stimulant, diuretic and detoxifier in nature, can help regulate proper secretion of hormones, increase sweating and widen the pores. All of these factors help to facilitate the removal of toxins through sweat and urine. Furthermore, dandelion sap, if externally applied to areas with acne, can inhibit microbial infection and reduce the frustrating signs of acne. Also, it can speed up healing due to its vitamin-C content, so the scars and ugly red inflammation that traditionally follows acne treatment will be less noticeable.
Anemia: Dandelions have relatively high levels of iron, vitamins, and protein content. While iron is the integral part of hemoglobin in the blood, vitamins like vitamin-B and protein are essential for the formation of red blood cells and certain other components of the blood. This way dandelion can help anemic people keep their condition in check.
Weight Loss: Our urine consists of up to 4% fat, so the more we urinate, the more water and fats are lost from the body. Dandelions, being diuretic in nature, promotes urination and thereby helps lose the dreaded “water weight” without causing many side effects. Furthermore, dandelions are low in calories, like most leafy greens, but for the small expense of calories (~1oo cal./4 cups), you get a huge amount of beneficial side effects.
Jaundice: Jaundice is primarily a disorder of the liver in which the organ starts overproducing bile, which ultimately enters the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the body’s metabolism. The excess bile is also reflected through color of the skin, and eyes, which typically develop a yellow tint. The treatment of jaundice includes three main steps. First, you need to curb the production of bile. Second, you must remove the excess bile from the body, and third, you have to fight the underlying viral infection.
Dandelions are very helpful in all of these steps. It promotes liver health and regulates bile production. Being diuretic in nature, it promotes urination, where the excess bile can be eliminated. Finally, as an antioxidant and disinfectant due to the presence of vitamin-C and Luteolin, it fights viral infections as well. It is most beneficial when taken with sugarcane juice, since it replaces the sugar in the body that is significantly lowered due to the impact of excess bile. A lack of sugar can cause extreme fatigue and weakness, so dandelions help boost your energy levels after infection!
High Blood Pressure: Urination is an effective way of lowering blood pressure. In fact, most of the modern medicines for lowering blood pressure are based on this phenomenon. Dandelion juice, being diuretic in nature, increases urination, both in quantity and frequency. Therefore, it helps lower high blood pressure. The fiber in dandelion is also helpful in reducing cholesterol and thereby assists in lowering blood pressure, since cholesterol is one of the factors that increases blood pressure. Finally, there is the high potassium content of dandelions, which is very effective in lowering blood pressure by replacing sodium.
Gall Bladder Disorders: Dandelions are very beneficial for the gall bladder and liver, because they improve their general functioning, protects them from ill effects of oxidants and infections, and regulates the various secretions from both organs.
Constipation: Certain components of dandelion, namely the high levels of dietary fiber, make it a beneficial aid for digestion and proper intestinal health. Dietary fiber stimulates healthy bowel movements by adding bulk to stool, and also reduces chances of constipation as well as diarrhea. It regulates bowel movements, which can prevent more serious gastrointestinal issues. It is commonly prescribed for children who are experiencing constipation, as it is relatively soothing on the stomach. It has also been used to stimulate the appetite, particularly following trauma or surgery.
Other Benefits: Dandelions can also be used as a vegetable and is a good source of fiber. It promotes digestion, and in the past, it was used to treat scurvy, because of its high levels of vitamin-C. It also has healing effects on dyspepsia, infections in the stomach, intestines and urinary system.
Warning: Dandelions can be helpful to diabetics by lowering blood sugar, but for patients already taking blood-sugar modulators, this can result in hypoglycemia, an equally dangerous condition. Consult your doctor before adding dandelion supplements on top of your normal treatment. Also, the milk sap of dandelions has been known to cause itchiness, irritation, or allergic reactions on the skin, and should be kept away from the eyes. Finally, dandelions contain inulin and some people have a predisposed sensitivity or allergy to it which can be quite severe. When first adding dandelion greens to your diet in any way, start small and closely monitor your body’s response.

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