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Mistaken Identity: The common dandelion

29 Jul. 2011 Posted by Hannah Mich in dandelion greens, weeds, herbal remedies
dandelion greens, weeds, herbal remedies

The dandelion is probably one of the most common weeds. The bright yellow flower is considered an eyesore whether they are in our yards, thriving on the side of the road or growing between cracks in a sidewalk. By definition a weed is a plant that is considered unwanted and a nuisance, which is a very subjective definition. Meaning, virtually anything could be considered a weed. So what do you know about dandelions besides the fact that they are considered a weed?

As a child, I made little dandelion bouquets and when the flowers went to seed I would enthusiastically blow the seeds off until nothing was left but the stem. I am sure my parents loved that, spreading the seeds of a weed. As I got older and acquired my own yard, I found myself pinching off those little yellow flowers to prevent them from going to seed and spreading. So what changed? Why the shift from loving to pick and admire dandelions as a child to wanting to banish them from my yard as an adult?

Somehow we have gotten into our heads that yards are suppose to be this blanket of perfect green grass with flower beds and trees strategically placed. Obviously if grass yards were natural occurring, we would not have to go to such lengths to maintain this mono-crop of grass. So what is it about dandelions that we do not like? Well, they ruin this image of a “perfect” lawn and therefore are a nuisance.

On the other hand, dandelions have many uses that go unknown to the general population because this would not jive with our current view of it as a simple common weed. Dandelions are also called Taraxacum officinale, which is its Latin name. You may consume the dandelion leaves, flowers or roots. Dandelion greens can be cooked and eaten just like other green leafy vegetables. It is rich in potassium, and vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants. Dandelions can also be dried and combined with other herbs to be used as a diuretic. It can help in the treatment of digestive problems, and conditions that cause water retention such as congestive heart failure, hypertension and PMS.

You are probably starting to think why we call this plant a weed, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. Dandelions may also help to treat jaundice [liver or gallbladder problems], prevent acute bouts of pancreatitis, improve suppressed immune systems, fight cancer and act as an antiviral agent. All of this may be a shock or you may be apt to not belief such things about a weed [refer to my references]. However anyone who sees a herbalist or goes to a naturalistic doctor may be much more enlightened to the health benefits of dandelions.

So I will ask the question, are dandelions really weeds? Or is it a plant that has an array of uses and is just completely misunderstood because of our single-minded view that dandelions do not belong in our grass yards. Can dandelions be a weed and valuable herb at the same time? Either way, it is amazing how a plant became known as a weed in our culture [U.S.] because of our grass yards. That dandelions were thrown aside without another look into what benefits they could provide for us. Let this be a lesson that not everything is what we make it out to be and that the more we explore and learn, the better off we will be as a society. So, does that bright yellow flower seem like such a nuisance now?

Call To Action: 

Change your yard's landscaping to more environmentally friendly
Visit a trusted herbalist to acquire dried dandelions
Purchase dandelion greens at your local farmer's market

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References: 

University of Maryland Medical Center: Dandelion
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/dandelion-000236.htm

“Alternative Medicine Review”; Taraxacum officinale; 1999
http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/4/2/112.pdf

“World Journal of Gastroenterology”; Taraxacum officinale Protects Against Cholecystokinin-Induced Acute Pancreatitis in Rats; Sang-Wan Seo, et al.; 2005
http://www.wjgnet.com/1007-9327/11/597.pdf

“Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine”; The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells; S. J. Chatterjee; 2011
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018636/pdf/ECAM2011-129045.pdf

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Comments

Submitted by Cindy Roth (not verified) on Sun, 07/31/2011 - 11:06 #

Thank you for the information about Dandelion. I plan to investigate dandelion uses at my local health food store.

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