Posted by kristenjoy on:
When I think about the roots of herbalism, this is the first one that comes to my mind. It happens to be found on six continents, in different shapes and sizes, with similar properties...which is why I call it the traveler's best friend. Just about anywhere you go in the world you will find them, growing in the distressed soils of vacant lots, in fields, and even bursting through the little cracks in the pavement. I'll include a photo here of one I found growing in a Chiapas gutter.
Rule number one in guerrilla herbalism: NEVER pick a plant that has been growing in or near the street. Do you really want car exhaust and toxins in your body? Definitely not.
Rule number two in guerrilla herbalism: ALWAYS make sure you know that herbicides/pesticides/other chemicals have not been recently dumped on the plants. You don't want that stuff in your body, either. If you don't know for sure, it's probably best to avoid them.
Do you have any idea where dandelions come from? Before I tell you, pause for a minute and talk a wild guess.
The first (recorded) use of dandelions was by Arabian physicians. The plant is native to areas of the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe. One theory suggests that as a result of the inquisition and colonization, the dandelion made its way around the globe. It quickly became naturalized in the U.S. and studies have shown that it was incorporated into Native American medical traditions.
A tonic of good health, dandelion is a blood purifier, aids the liver in detoxification, and stimulates digestion. It is also mildly laxative, diueretic, and at the same time one of nature's most abundant sources of potassium. If you haven't ever eaten dandelion greens, go to a local health food store and try some. You can also find dandelion leaf and root in the bulk herbs section. The dried leaf is great in combination with nettles and red clover for a daily tonic tea. The roots can be boiled for a much more intense purifying effect, and they almost taste like coffee (very bitter). You can also find all sorts of natural supplements which containt dandelion as a key ingredient for detoxification.
OR...if you are into guerrilla herbalism, go source some yourselves from the wild. This, however, takes a little more knowledge of when and where to look. Perhaps the most important thing to do is not confuse dandelions with another common weed we all know called sow thistle. I'll write about sow thistle another time, as it is also edible and medicinal, but it is different. We'll focus on dandelion today. The main thing you need to look for is that the plant is young enough to be eaten, and that it has the characteristic rosette of leaves at the base, with one single flower at the end of each stem. Sow thistle, on the other hand, has multiple flowers on each stem, and leaves shooting off in an alternating instead of rosette pattern.
The name "dandelion" comes from the French dent-de-lion meaning "lion's teeth."
Whether you decide to use dandelion medicinally or not, it is pretty cool to know a little bit more about a plant that you see almost every day.