Dandelion--The Wild, Bitter Weed

Dandelions are weeds. And a good thing too! They are common, and easy to get to know. But being weedy, many folks resist their springtime show, favoring tulips and heart’s-ease on a well-kept border to yellow dandelions all over the lawn. We’re here to remind you that dandelions are good herbal medicine, though that may be hard to believe (some think herbal medicine must be rare, and expensive, and far from the front door).

Over a century ago, a Scottish country doctor by the name of Guthrie Rankin visited the London School of Clinical Medicine to talk all about digestion, liver health, gas and bloating: the lecture was enticingly titled “On Colic”. In one case he detailed, the humble dandelion was the star of the show. At the time, using plants in hospitals and clinics was falling out of favor, but the country folks in Dr. Rankin’s neighborhood had never stopped using dandelion all year round. They--and he--knew it works*.

Physicians in the US, during the late 19th century, recommended dandelion root for “torpor” in the liver, and as a “stomachic tonic”. These historical nods are right in line with Dr. Rankin’s suggestions to use dandelion for liver health and digestion, and echo the European view of this plant. But indigenous people native to North America have also used dandelion as a “blood tonic” and “purifying herb”--a nod, in part, to its bitterness. Around the world, herbal traditions tell us dandelion and bitters can prop up the liver’s daily detox work and support skin health (qualities both linked to “good blood” in many indigenous healing systems)*.

If you’re noticing the dandelions blooming this spring, take a moment to get to know this plant. All its parts are edible, from the flowers, which can be made into tea or fritters, to the leaves which make a crunchy, mildly bitter salad. And its root is a gentle yet effective way to experience the benefits of bitters: simmered into tea or extracted into a tincture, it stimulates digestion and helps relieve gas and bloating*. Check with your herbalist or doctor before starting with dandelion, and to get the right doses and preparation tips for you--but as the good Dr. Rankin might have told you, there’s hidden treasure in the everyday weeds.

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