Herbs we love: Dandelion

Tipper Lewis

Tipper Lewis

Writer and expert

In this month’s herb blog, our Brand Ambassador, Tipper Lewis, shares her knowledge of the dandelion herb and the ways it can support wellbeing all year round.

dandelion flower

Spring is here and if you wander outside in any green space, urban or wild you’ll see the sunny faces of dandelion flowers smiling up at you. Dandelion is one of the first flowers to appear in spring and the last to fade away in winter, making it a valuable food source for pollinators tempted out by sporadic warm weather.

What is Dandelion?

It’s often one of the first flowers we play with as a child, blowing dandelion clocks into the sky. Much maligned by lawn enthusiasts and considered a weed by many, this plant is one of the most valued herbal remedies commonly available.

The Latin name of dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. Officinale tells us Medieval monks grew it in their apothecary gardens, while the common name dandelion comes from the French ‘dent de lion’, or lion’s teeth, referring to the jagged teeth-like shapes of the leaf edges. The French have another common name, ‘pis-en-lit’, or ‘wet the bed’, indicating dandelion's diuretic properties, and a vital clue that this isn’t a herb to use before bed.

Dandelions are a springtime herb, shooting up fresh new growth before many other plants are even waking up. Historically it was used as a food alongside other spring staples like nettle, as a source of nutrients after a winter of poor nutrition and few fresh foods. The leaves were traditionally eaten much like salad leaves and cooked as spring greens, and they’re delicious steamed and drizzled with olive oil, with some salt and pepper.

Dandelion: leaves and roots

Interestingly, in herbalism we use both the leaves and roots to support the body’s natural cleansing processes, but each part identifies with different body systems.

Much like other spring greens, the leaves are slightly bitter, and they’re known for their diuretic properties. They’re also a great source of potassium, helping replace what’s lost through increased urination.

In contrast, the root has an affinity for digestion. It’s also bitter-tasting, encouraging the natural production of bile and is classed as a gentle and mild laxative.

Herbs that support the natural cleansing processes of the body have many uses,; and can be used for a spring cleanse, as they help to remove toxins, wastes and excess water from our system, which benefits the skin, joints and general wellbeing.

The leaves and roots are also prepared differently. The leaves are treated as a regular infusion; 1 teaspoon of the dried herb can be covered with freshly boiled water and steeped for 5-10 minutes before straining. The roots should be decocted; 1 teaspoon of the root with a cup of water can be gently simmered in a covered pan for ten minutes, then strained.

If you wish to use both leaves and roots, decoct the roots first, turn off the heat, add the leaves, leave to infuse for a further 5 mins, strain, and enjoy.

Dandelion: our products

If this sounds too much like hard work, an easier solution comes from tinctures, or an alcohol extract of the herbs. We sell dandelion leaf and root individually, or you can pop into your local Neal’s Yard Remedies store and they can prepare you a blend.

Dandelion & Burdock Formula is a useful tincture blend, hand-made at our eco-factory, in Peacemarsh, Dorset. Dandelion root works synergistically with nettle, yellow dock, burdock root and cleavers. It’s simple to use; 2ml in a little water, three times daily.

Our organic and Fairwild™ Bright Start Tea is a lovely way to start the day. Refreshing and clean-tasting, it blends dandelion root with lemon, nettle, rosehips, and aromatic spices. All in a convenient, biodegradable and compostable tea bag made with abaca (from banana), instead of paper.

If you would like to find out more about Dandelion and more springtime herbs, check out our Healing Herbs book.