Spanish: ChicóriaFamily: AsteraceaeGenus/Species: Taraxacum officinaleAcommon plant and broadly distributed throughout temperate regions of our world, growing from sea level to above 10,000 feet …
Genus/Species: Taraxacum officinale
A common plant and broadly distributed throughout temperate regions of our world, growing from sea level to above 10,000 feet in the mountains, the dandelion is perhaps one of the most despised "weeds," having literally tons of poison and herbicides dumped on it each year to maintain the culture of monoculture lawns.
Dandelion is an efficient traveler and anyone who has blown the top off a "dandelion puff" can see how easily it travels up and away to faraway lands. The name dandelion comes from the French "dent du lion" meaning tooth of the lion and referring to the toothed appearance of the ray flowers lining the outside of the flower head.
Although considered a weed by many, dandelion in fact is a very useful plant both as food and as medicine. As medicine, dandelion contains Taraxasterol (which has been studied for its anti-inflammatory properties), taraxerol (which has been studied for its effect in the reduction of cell death rate, or apoptosis), fructose, inulin, inositol, choline and pectin. This sounds like a lot of chemicals, but they effectively make dandelion a useful diuretic, increasing both urine volume and metabolic waste. Dandelion is a kidney "tonic," reducing inflammation in mild kidney irritation, and a mild stimulant to the liver, reducing the accumulation of cholesterol and fat. The roots contain inulin, which is what we call a "prebiotic." Prebiotics are food for healthy intestinal bacteria that help support the good balance of organisms in the gut.
Dandelion is one of those herbs that are more like a food than a drug in that its effects are nutritive, supportive and tonic. Dandelion is a traditional "spring green" cooked and eaten like spinach or even as a raw salad green. The leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins. What's more, dandelion greens provide a substantial amount of several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Dandelion leaves are bitter and as they appear early in the season and are eaten as part of a traditional diet, their bitterness helps stimulate enzymes and digestive juices that assist in the change from a winter diet of dried foods to a spring and summer diet of vegetables and fiber.
If after all of this you still do not want dandelions growing in your yard or lawn, know that this useful little plant does not like acidic soil, so pouring some white vinegar on each plant is an environmentally safe way to control them.
Rob Hawley is co-owner of Taos Herb Company. For information, call (575) 758-1991 or go to taosherb.com.
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