It’s spring! The ancients created festivals of gratitude and great joy to honor mother earth in springtime. The dandelion is one of the first wildflowers we see on our lawns. Often the dandelion is ignored – except by hungry bees. For some people, dandelions will cause a great deal of ire and aggravation and they will head out to purchase poisons for their eradication. (We should note here that anger issues are a sign of a bad liver. Perhaps a bit of “Mindfulness” might help those types realize that the dandelion has come to aid and assuage their maladies.)
Others who have endured lean times, even in our country as in many others – and even now, as in the past – will be overjoyed as a dandelion- sighting signals an end to famine and fasting when resources dwindle in late winter. Supermarkets and cheap gas have made us oblivious to the feelings of well-being and good fortune found in foraging for one’s dinner. Cultural indifference (or the smart phone) has lead to the forgetting of the mythology that once kept us all together (or at least on the same plate!)
Farmers have mostly chosen to listen to pundits selling fast food for crops instead of learning to create more sustainable relationships using natural elements to produce nutrient rich goods. For example, underneath the Dandelion‘s leaves and flowers are soil and roots conjoining to bring together silica and potassium for the benefit of all nearby plants. (See Rudolf Steiner).
Taraxacum officionale – from the Greek” disorder remedy”- was used in ancient times by many other cultures including the Chinese, Arabs, and Indians. By the 17th century, the dandelion’s medicinal reputation had spread widely in Europe. It was brought to North America by the early colonists who then introduced it to the Native American people. By the 19th century, herbalists had so overused the dandelion that it became overrated, despised and labeled as a weed.
Now however, hearing our plea for natural healing, contemporary herbalists and naturopaths have made a place for the dandelion. Herbal medicine pioneer, Maria Treben says the dandelion “Is Nature’s greatest healing aid for suffering mankind.” It is useful in treating disorders of the liver and gallbladder. It is a spring tonic for eczema, gout, and jaundice. The root, according to David Winston is a bitter tonic which stimulates hydrochloric acid and bile in secretions of the liver, pancreas ,and small intestines and it promotes the growth of healthy bowel flora. The leaf eliminates urine without depleting potassium.
Others say that a diet of greens improves the enamel on teeth. The roasted root ground can be added to coffee. In “Foraging and Feasting”, Dina Falconi says ” The roots may be consumed to strengthen one’s entire being”. Although the flavor profile of the plant is bitter, she adds, the roots are sweeter than the leaves and the flowers are sweeter than the roots. In “Healing Wise”, Susan Weed gives a whole chapter over to the many virtues of the dandelion. She focuses on the plants physical attributes, as well as its many medicinal usages. She also gives recipes for the incorporation of the dandelion into both cuisine and drinks (think beer and wine). I recommend reading through it (if you don’t mind the French accent sported by a first person singular dandelion speaking about itself!)
In “the Secret Teachings of Plants”, Stephen Harrod Buhner asserts that the plants communicate with us in a very subtle way. “We must cultivate a perceptive awareness of all their responses and feel them in our hearts.” Recent discoveries in neuroscience and neurobiology, in particular, bear out these assertions. In “Brilliant Green”, Stefano. Mancuso and Alessandra Viola provide us with a new paradigm in our understanding of the “vegetal world”. Plants are really intelligent and aware.
In light of all these revelations, it is my hope that we may gather together each spring to celebrate with our ubiquitous dandelion friends – They who gladly give us their beautiful golden flowers so that we may make our wine and beer and again toast our Mother Earth with ever greater reverence!