DANDELION LEAVES Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion is probably the most commonly recognized wild flower - every child knows the sunny blobs that appear in early spring and sprinkle the fields with floral sunshine. Their sight delights the heart, for they are a sure sign that spring is near. Only gardeners look upon it with dismay, for their profuse seed disposal and rampant roots that won't be defied not matter how hard one digs at them. From the tiniest bit left in the ground new Dandelions will sprout. But instead of cursing them we should be grateful for their profusion, for there are few more healthful herbs so easy to come by. Its name Dandelion is an adaptation of Dent de Lion - Lion's tooth, in allusion to the fearsomely jagged profile of the leaf margins. Its other French derived name 'Pis-en lit - 'Piss-a-bed', is not particularly charming, but tells us something about the leaves effects. Children love playing with all parts of this little flower, weaving garlands, or running water through their hollow stems, or blowing their beautifully delicate globe of helicoptered seeds to the winds. Some country folk still remember the healthy virtues of this plant in spring and use it as a vegetable - eating the leaves as salad, roasting the roots as vegetable or as a coffee substitute, and making wine from the flower heads.
Dandelion Leaves are a tonic for the kidneys. They are a great cleansing herb to use in spring cleansing diets, as they are strongly diuretic and help to flush out all metabolic wastes from the joints and tissues. The leaves can be used as a supportive remedy for arthritis, gout and rheumatism, as well as to relieve water retention due to heart problems. It is unique in its property of replacing the potassium that is washed away with the urine as the leaves themselves are very rich in potassium, so no shortage can result. The bitterness present in parts of the plant stimulates the stomach and the digestive juices, though the roots are more specific for this use.
Children divine all kinds of oracles by blowing on the seeds - depending on how often they have to blow until the last seed has been taken by the wind they determine the time of day, the number of years until one will be married, how many children one might be blessed with etc. This use of Dandelion as a flower clock certainly explains kid's odd sense of timing. In the old days Dandelion was an important herb in spring rites, many of which were cleansing and protection rituals - it was included in the 9 herb bundle and it was considered essential to eat Dandelion on Maudy Thursday in order to prevent sickness for the rest of the year. Witches are known for their evil doings, such as stealing the milk from innocent cows, but Dandelion in their diet would is sure to restore it. Dandelion is a herb of prosperity, health and protection, and anybody would do well to honour it.