Lincoln used to say that God must have loved the little people, he made so many of them, and he certainly must have loved the thousands of wildflowers and useful weeds that grow unheralded, uncared for, even despised. One of my very favorite wildflowers is the dandelion. Perhaps if it were as rare as the showy orchid, we would pay more attention to it, but because it grows everywhere, including the middle of our lawns, we ignore it as a pest.
Food Oddly enough this seeming pest is a favorite eating herb of many cultures, and I have passed down many highways in the spring and noted whole families collecting the young dandelion leaves. In April the leaves can be picked as they push through the earth, and after rinsing they can be mixed with toasted soy bits, lemon, oil, a touch of nutmeg, and several hardboiled eggs to make a delicious and healthful spring lunch.
NeutralizerThe salts in dandelion act to neutralize the acids in the blood, and thus dandelion is considered a cleansing tonic. But the leaves have to be gathered when they are young, otherwise they are too bitter. Later in the season you can infuse the tops (flowers and some leaves) into an oldfashioned curative tea, useful for biliousness and for reducing swelling in the ankles. Use a handful of the tops to a pint of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes or so, strain, and add honey. Drink this several times a day.
The bitter dandelion root is beloved in folk medicine and it is especially used to stimulate a sluggish liver. The old recipes say to drink from two to four ounces. Simmer two ounces of the freshly sliced root in two pints of water until the water is reduced to one pint. Add one ounce of compound tincture of horseradish (herbal pharmacies have it).
Coffee Coffee made from dandelion root is available in some health food stores. It is thought to be a liver cleanser and also has a tonic effect on the pancreas, the spleen, and the female organs.
To make your own dandelion root coffee, gather some fresh root. Wash it, and allow it to dry in a warm place. When it is shriveled, roast it slightly and grind it into a fine powder by using your food processor, a nut grinder, or an oldfashioned hand grinder. To make the coffee, add a cup of boiling water to each teaspoon of the powder. This is a bitter drink, but one with no side effects and no acid.
Gallstones Dandelion is also an old folk remedy for gallstones. To help with this problem, the following combination was recommended by ancient herbalists: one ounce each of dandelion root, parsley root, lemon balm, with a half ounce each of licorice root and ginger root. Add two quarts of boiling water, simmer down to one quart, strain the liquid, and drink a half glass every two hours. Be sure to check this problem with a physician.
China "The "barefoot doctors" of China use the whole dandelion plant in their healing practices, The leaves and the tops are simmered together in a decoction, or they are crushed as a poultice on breast abscesses (this poultice can be used on boils or abscesses on other parts of the body, or added to honeysuckle flowers).