Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) grows as perennial native herb throughout the northern hemisphere and as a weed in other temperate zones. It has a long history of both medicinal and culinary use. In western herbal medicine, Dandelion leaves are used as a diuretic and the root as a liver tonic. Dandelion leaves are added to salads, providing a good source of minerals and the roasted root is used as a coffee substitute.
Its name originates from the French ‘dent de lion’ (teeth of the lion), referring to the jagged edges of the dandelion leaf. This plant has its roots firmly planted in the historical use of herbs as medicines. The first mention of the Dandelion as a medicine is in the works of the Arabian physicians of the tenth and eleventh centuries.
The benefits of dandelion tea have been known for centuries and the combination of dandelion and burdock in mead, a drink made during the Middle Ages in Britain, has seen the drink evolve to various forms in cordial, wine, a carbonated soda, and even beer. Dandelion leaves are a powerhouse of nutrition, containing beta-carotene, vitamin C, D, B complex, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, manganese, calcium, copper and particularly potassium. It also contains protein, fibre and linoleic acid, so the leaves are a good addition to salads, sandwiches and soups.
Dandelion herb is renowned for good liver health. There are some differences between the leaves and root which distinguishes their use in herbal medicine.
Dandelion leaves have been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a diuretic and in Ayurvedic medicine they have been used for a variety of urinary ailments. Dandelion leaf has a greater diuretic effect than the roots without causing potassium loss because of the leaves’ high potassium content (approx. 4%).
Traditionally, dandelion root is understood to stimulate digestion. The bitter constituents in the root are believed to be responsible for increasing bile. Anything we consume that is bitter starts the digestive process from the mouth all through the digestive system, so it has been used as a support for various digestive complaints including indigestion, constipation and lack of appetite. Dandelion root tea makes a great coffee substitute because of its roasted, bitter taste. It has a supportive, tonic effect upon the liver rather than the demands placed on the body by caffeine-containing drinks. It exercises a stimulating influence over the whole system, helping the liver and kidneys to do their work and helps to keep the bowels healthy.