Dandelion is one of the most common herbs that grows wild in moderate climates all over the earth. Often considered a "weed" by many people because of its prolific nature and seed-spreading features, the plant and yellow blossoms aren't always appreciated in manicured lawn-type settings.
However, their root teas and fresh wild leaves called "dandelion greens" have been utilized as a nourishing botanical by herbalists worldwide for many many centuries. In fact, the plant was so highly valued that seeds were originally brought to the Americas by some of the first European settlers.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a low-growing plant with jagged-toothed leaves radiating outward, allowing it to pull sufficient water directly into its thick root system. This encourages deep growth and nutrients even in the most barren of conditions.
Whole dandelion roots have a dark brown color with a somewhat unattractive rugged appearance. When fresh they have a medicinal milky juice that gives the dried root its white center, evident sometimes in the dried root pieces. Often, the tasty bitter-sweet tea decoctions are a popular way to enjoy its many benefits.
So, what's so "dandy" about dandelion root tea and supplements? They are one of the top herbs most commonly utilized because of two intertwining aspects that can assist the body's own natural cleansing processes.
In our own personal herbal apprenticeships with many great teachers of Western herbalism, dandelion root was one of the first herbs discussed in lessons on the LIVER. Dandelion root is traditionally the most basic nutritive herbal tea to begin with for its supportive influence on liver health.
The liver, often deemed the "Master Detoxifier", helps to neutralize and remove metabolic wastes and filter out various toxins that find their way into our bloodstream.
Clean healthy vibrant blood cells deliver essential oxygen, food, hormones and immune cells to all associated organ systems. Therefore, when the liver is functioning optimally to clean the blood, the whole body reaps the rewards, nourishing the bloodstream and keeping it running smoothly.
It is therefore a good idea to do what we can to care for this vital organ during the course of our lifetime through healthy diet and lifestyle practices.
In the botanical kingdom, nature provides us with many herbs, often roots, that can help to foster liver function. Often called "alteratives" or "blood purifiers", they help to assist liver detoxification and are nurturing to this all-important blood filtering system.
And indeed some science does likewise indicate that extracts of Taraxacum officinale root can have hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) influence.
When the liver is clean on the inside, the epidermis usually reflects this with healthy supple skin.
Interestingly, dandelion root was once utilized in some of the original sarsaparilla root beer flavored medicines in the 1800s which were actually made from "roots" and considered blood purifying tonics good for liver imbalances.
Dandelion root tea and supplements are especially popular to consume periodically when cleansing protocols are in order. They can be a great addition to a juice fast to help accelerate the detoxification process.
In Chinese herbalism, dandelion root is called pu gong ying and is in the category of herbs that also clear heat (via its cooling energy) as well as relieve toxicity.
Low-heat simmering one to two tablespoons of dried roots in a quart of water for 10-15 minutes will put a strong yet fragrant earthy aroma wafting throughout your living space.
It is one of our favorite detox teas in the spring, the season that correlates most closely to the liver organ.
The roots are sometimes used with other liver herbs like milk thistle, turmeric and burdock in tea or supplement formulations.
As a bitter tonic, dandelion root tea also works as a digestive aid, promoting better digestion of nutrients and is helpful as a mild laxative. (*) This is also true in Chinese perspectives, as it is believed to work with both the liver and stomach channels.
For some, dandelion root can be beneficial as a daily springtime tea after a long winter when colder climates may have encouraged heavier meals and increased caloric intake.
In the same regard, maintaining a diet rich in fattier foods over time can also cause congestion in the gall bladder/liver system. Dandelion root supplements may be a nice botanical ally in such cases.
Some herbalists even consider teas to be useful as energizing non-caffeinated herbal stimulants as their tonifying influence can naturally amplify energy levels.
Dandelion root tea is often used as a coffee substitute for this reason and it also has a bitter-sweet coffee-like taste that many people enjoy first thing in the morning. While raw dried roots are the most therapeutically effective, roasted roots are also utilized for their enhanced taste.
Likewise, dandelion root in a sense is also considered a nutritive herb containing many vitamins and minerals. It's a source of other healthful compounds such as sesquiterpene lactones, taraxasterol, taraxerol, chlorogenic acid and chicoric acid, which can offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidative attributes studied for their anti-diabetic potentials.
Roots are especially high in the prebiotic fiber known as INULIN, supportive to healthy gut bacteria.