Use Your Dandelions!

Dandelions are rich in minerals, especially potassium, and vitamins including A, B, C and D, but people have largely forgotten them as a food source.  Up until the 1800s Americans pulled up grass from their yards to plant dandelions, while before the First World War dandelion was grown as a commercial crop in Britain.  In Britain the roots were lifted from two-year-old plants to make dandelion coffee.  The roasted and ground roots were sold for two shillings per pound.  However, when food is scarce, people remember and during the Second World War the British radio doctor Charles Hill recommended dandelion leaves as a food.

The leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, boiled like spinach, or made into a tea.  You can pop a dandelion leaf into a sandwich.  Pick the young leaves in early spring for eating (the older ones get bitter), before the plant has flowered.  For a more delicate flavour, you can blanch the plant in a similar way to endives.  Put a flowerpot over the plant during the winter.  

The root can be boiled as a vegetable or added raw to salads.  The root may be roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee.  Gather the roots during the autumn.

The flowers can be eaten raw or used to decorate salads, and taste slightly sweet, or try dipping them in batter and deep frying them.  Macerated Dandelion Flower Oil can be used in salad dressings.  Dandelion Vinegar can be used as a salad dressing.  Dandelion Honey is a vegan alternative to honey.

Dandelions can be added to tonic beers and wines, which aid digestion.

COSMETIC USES:

Dandelions are great for the skin as they are rich in antioxidants, and vitamins A, C and E.  They have anti-aging properties, are anti-inflammatory, help prevent free radical damage, reduce fine lines and the appearance of scars, as well as encouraging healthy skin cell production, evening out skin tone, and stimulating circulation.  Furthermore, they can have a protective effect against sun damage and improve skin hydration.  Do you still want to weed out your dandelions?

Macerated Dandelion Flower Oil can aid dry skin and is especially good for the delicate skin around the eyes.  You can also use the oil in the preparation of your homemade skin care products.

Make a dandelion infusion and use as a face wash for the treatment of large pores, age spots, blemishes, sunburn and chapped skin. 

Dandelions are also good for the hair.  Rich in vitamins and minerals, they can stimulate root growth.  Use dandelion infusion as a hair rinse, or dilute Dandelion Vinegar half and half with water as a hair rinse, or massage dandelion tincture into your scalp. 

MEDICINAL USES:

Every part of the dandelion can be used medicinally, and it has been described as a self-contained pharmacy.  [1] Dandelion is a good all-round health tonic, rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, and minerals including potassium and calcium, sesquiterpene lactones, triterpenes, coumarins, caratonoids, taraxacoside and phenolic acids.

The bitter nature of dandelion leaves aids digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive fluids and promoting the appetite. 

Dandelion root is a powerful detoxifying herb, encouraging the elimination of toxins due to infection and pollution, including hangovers, by working on the liver and gall bladder to remove waste products, plus stimulating the kidneys to remove toxins in urine.  This is useful in many conditions including constipation, acne, eczema, psoriasis, boils, arthritic conditions including gout.  It is a safe liver herb and stimulates bile production, and is used in the treatment of jaundice, hepatitis, gallstones and urinary tract infections. 

Dandelions are diuretic and can be used to treat swollen ankles and fluid retention, but without the consequent loss of potassium of orthodox drugs.  Use dandelion tea.

For rheumatism and arthritis take Dandelion Leaf Tea or Dandelion Coffee to help the joints and the removal of acid deposits.  Macerated Dandelion Flower Oil can ease muscle tension and stiff joints when rubbed into the affected parts. 

Macerated Dandelion Flower Oil applied to the skin helps reduce inflammation and irritation, and may help soothe eczema, psoriasis, acne and skin rashes.

In folk medicine the white latex sap within the flower stem has been used to treat warts and pimples, simply by breaking the stem and dabbing it on the affected area.   

A few dandelion flowers can be eaten raw and may cure a headache.  [2]

CAUTION:

Dandelion is considered safe in food amounts and safe for most people in medicinal quantities.  However, medicinal amounts are best avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding to be on the safe side.  If you are allergic to ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums or marigolds, you should avoid using dandelion or use with caution.  Some people find that they have a reaction to the white latex found in dandelion stems.  Dandelion may decrease the efficacy of some antibiotics, so check with your healthcare provider.  Do not take if you are on lithium or taking other diuretics.  Dandelion root should not be used by individuals with gallstones, gallbladder complaints, obstructed bile ducts, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis, or ulcers.  Dandelions slightly lower blood sugar, so diabetics should carefully monitor levels.  Do not use medicinal amounts if you are already taking prescription diuretics. 

Dandelion Leaf Infusion

Pour 500 ml/1 pint / 2 ½ cups boiling water on 50 gm/ 2 oz leaves.  take 3 times a day.

Dandelion Vinegar

Gather fresh dandelion blossoms and leaves, and pack them into a glass jar.  Cover with white vinegar or cider vinegar.  Put on the lid.  Leave in a dark place for a month, shaking daily.  Strain the liquid vinegar into a clean jar and put the leaves and flowers on the compost heap. 

Macerated Dandelion Flower Oil

Pack a jar with dandelion flowers. Cover with vegetable oil. Fit the lid. Place on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain the oil into a clean jar.

Dandelion Fritters

110 gm / 4 oz plain (all purpose) flour

Pinch salt

1 egg

140 ml/ ¼ pint milk

Dandelion leaves

Sift the flour and salt together, add the beaten egg and some milk. Beat well and stand for 30 minutes. Dip the leaves in the batter and deep fry till golden brown.

Vegan Dandelion ‘Honey’

2-3 large handfuls of fresh dandelion flowerheads

½ lemon, sliced

500 ml water

2 cm cinnamon stick

Sugar

Put the water, dandelion flowers, cinnamon and lemon in a pan. Put a lid on and simmer 15 minutes. Take this off the heat and leave to infuse overnight. Strain and measure the liquid.  For each 500 ml add 500 gm sugar. Bring to the boil, simmer for around 15 minutes. Pour into clean jars.

Dandelion Wine

1.8 litres/ 3 pt.  dandelion flowers (when lightly pressed down)

1100 gm/ 2.5 lb.  sugar

2 oranges

Yeast

2 litres/ ½ gallon boiling water

1 litre/ 2 pt.  warm water

Collect the flowers on a sunny day and remove the green stalks.  Place in a fermentation bin and pour on the boiling water.  Leave for 2 – 3 days and then strain into a demijohn.  Dissolve the sugar in the warm water.  Start the yeast off separately.  Add all to the demijohn and top up if necessary with lukewarm water.  Add the grated juice and rind of the oranges.  Fit an airlock and leave until fermentation is complete.  Rack off into a clean demijohn and leave for at least 12 months.

Dandelion Beer

225 gm/ ½ lb.  dandelion plants, including the roots

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

15 gm/ ½ oz root ginger, bruised

25 gm/ 1 oz yeast

500 gm/ 1 lb.  brown sugar

25 gm/ 1 oz cream of tartar

Water

Wash the dandelions well, place in a pan with the ginger root, lemon rind and 3 pints of water.  Boil for 15 minutes.  Strain into a fermentation bin, add the sugar and cream of tartar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the rest of the water and the lemon juice.  Sprinkle the yeast on top.  Cover the bin and leave in a warm place for 5 days, stirring daily.  Strain into screw topped bottles.  It is ready to drink in 4 – 7 days.

Dandelion Coffee

Pick as many roots as you wish and wash them thoroughly.  Let them dry off, then put them on a baking tray.  Roast for around 45 minutes in a very low oven (100°C /200 F/gas mark ¼) until they are dark brown and completely dry but take care not to let them burn.  Cool the roots and then grind them in a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar.  You are then ready to brew your natural caffeine free dandelion coffee just as you would your usual ground coffee.  

Dandelion Root Decoction

Put 2 – 3 teaspoons of the root into 250 ml/1 cup of water.  Boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.  Drink 3 times a day.

Dandelion Leaf Infusion

Pour 500 ml/1 pint / 2 ½ cups boiling water on 50 gm/ 2 oz leaves.  take 3 times a day.

Dandelion Tincture

The whole plant can be tinctured, including the roots.  To make a tincture put 100 gm.  of dried herbs or 200 gm fresh herbs into a clean jar and pour on 500 ml of vodka or brandy.  Seal and keep in a warm place for 2-4 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain through muslin and store in a dark bottle in a cool place for up to 2-6 years.  Because a tincture is much stronger than an infusion or decoction, you only need a few drops in a glass of water as a medicinal dose.  Alternatively, a few drops may be added to a salve or bath for external use.  Take 10 drops in water twice a day. 

Dandelion Facial Steam

Put a heatproof bowl on a mat and fill it with boiling water, add 8 dandelion flower heads.  Leave them to infuse for 5 minutes, and then put a towel over your head and lean over the bowl for 10 minutes. Wash your face with cool water and apply your usual moisturiser.

© Anna Franklin, from the forthcoming Hearth Witch’s Garden Herbal, Llewellyn, 2023


[1] Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal, Hedgerow Medicine, Merlin Unwin Books, Ludlow, 2008

[2] Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal, Hedgerow Medicine, Merlin Unwin Books, Ludlow, 2008

Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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