Monograph: Dandelion

The term monograph when applied to herbalism is generally defined as close study of a specific plant. The information collected is for use in one's own practice, and often collected in one's own Materia Medica. There are virtually thousands of examples online and in print. The posts (which I have collected here), labeled as Monographs, represent the plants growing within my property's boundaries and, which I intend to use as plant allies in my medicine-making. The information will be collected from various sources, personal observations/experiences and will be ever-growing.

The image carousel will eventually include images of leaf, stem, flower, fruit and root.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Family: Asteraceae

Growing Season (North America): April to November

Identification

Leaves 

  • radiate outward from a basal root (a central taproot)

  • form a basal rosette (no leaves appear along the flowering stalk)

  • thin at base and widen as they radiate outward

  • bright green lance-shaped

  • edges are toothy, irregularly serrated

  • bald, smooth on all surfaces (top, undersides and ribs)

Stalk

  • grow individually from basal rosette (with a single flowering top on each)

  • straight (2 to 18 inches tall)

  • unjointed (there is no branching, only individual flower stems)

  • round

  • smooth

  • hollow

  • pale green

  • secrete sticky, white sap (bitter-tasting, sweeter in springtime)

Flower

  • bright yellow

  • emerge at basal rosette (appear as tight bud)

  • bloom atop single stem emerging from basal rosette of leaves

  • composed of hundreds of individual flowers

  • fruit (achene): produced on a globular seedhead; carried on hair-like parachutes (pappus)

Root

  • deep (up to 10 inches), underground taproot

  • may be branching with rootlets

  • white-beige skin, fleshy inside

  • sticky, white sap when broken or bruised

  • storehouse of vitamins and minerals from soil

Why Dandelion?

First, she is non-toxic and considered generally safe (see below). There is little fear involved in using dandelion - you may use any part (flower, seeds, leaves, stem parts, and roots!). 

Medical Actions

If there is one aspect of herbalism I find most confusing, it's understanding the medical actions associated with each plant. The terms are unfamiliar and my understanding of their definitions - if read too hastily - is sometimes flawed.

Example...dandelion is a hepatic. Hepatic is defined as reducing congestion and draining the liver. This does not refer to nasal congestion, or chest congestion...it refers to liver dysfunction and the the congestion of bile! 

I am studying the terms associated with common herbal actions to better understand each; I will publish individual essays that define and describe each action and link to those posts as they are published. The following information, specifically regarding the use of dandelion, comes from Blair (2014):  

  • Anti-inflamatory - reduce swelling and inflammation of tissue

  • Aperient - acts as a mild laxative

  • Cholagogue - increases flow of bile

  • Depurative - reduces impurities or heterogenous matter

  • Diuretic - increases flow of urine

  • Galactagogue - stimulates flow of breast milk

  • Hepatic - reduces congestion and drains the liver

  • Stomachic - strengthens and tones the stomach

  • Sedative - reduces anxiety, stress, irritability or excitement

Side Effects & Interactions

There are only a few precautions associated with using dandelion; it is not completely free of side effects or interactions.

  • Do not use dandelion if you have an allergic reaction (skin irritation or mouth sores) to any plants in the family Asteraceae such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, asters or (obviously) dandelion

  • Do not use dandelion if you have an allergic reaction to iodine; dandelion is naturally rich in iodine (as well as other vitamins & minerals - these elements are absorbed from the soil in which the plant grows)

  • Herbal actions of dandelion may cause undesired drug interactions. If taking medication(s) which perform the same action, the effect when taking dandelion will be doubled, if taking medications to perform the opposite action, the effect when taking dandelion may render the prescribed medication ineffective - either may pose a danger to the individual

[ Information regarding drug interactions may be obtained from the herbal database at PSHMC


September 2018

When I was a little girl my Gram cooked dandelions and served them at Sunday dinner. I liken them (in my memory) to overcooked spinach. This could be - sorry, Gram - that they were simply not cooked properly...or, my palette had not yet evolved to like dandelion! In fact, I love spinach now (raw) and when I was a little girl...I probably hated it. So, maybe I should give cooked dandelion greens another try...or, not.

Dandelion is considered one of those all-around great plant allies. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, easy to find anywhere (except Antarctica) and every part of her is edible...how can she possibly be ignored by anyone learning to use plants for healing? 

In early spring I made my very first tincture...and I used fresh, young dandelions (harvested from my own backyard). I harvested leaves, blooms, and some of the roots; leaving most of the broken off taproots in the ground (to replenish my supply - it worked, I still have plenty of dandelions thriving out back...nearly five months later).