Dandelion: Healing Your Gut Since 659 B.C.E.


Well, that is to say, that the first actual written records of its use date to 659 B.C.E, coming from the Tang Materia Medica.  Which means that unless someone just decided to record their first experiments as an herbal and we've all been test subjects, the plant's actual history is rather longer-lived. If it works, it works though, so I'll keep on with the dandelions.

One of the most commonly seen and often unwelcome plants, the dandelion (Taraxicum officinale), is relatively easily distinguishable with its iconic, serrated or toothed leaves and domed flower heads.  It is actually the leaf shape that gives the dandelion its name, stemming from the French "dent-de-lion," or "lion's tooth."  Keep in mind, however, that there are several plants with similar characteristics.


They exist on almost every continent. As yet, no specimens have been found on Antarctica, but who knows.  Perhaps, in the five million year overlap between dandelions evolving 30 million years ago and Antarctica becoming its present icy self 25 million years ago, seeds germinated that we've not found evidence of yet.  These plants are some of the most easily self-seeding, with their wind-dispersal method and can germinate and grow successfully in virtually any patch of dirt, especially if it's been recently disturbed.  

Young leaves, that is to say the leaves on young dandelion plants, are tender and often eaten in salads.  They can also be treated like other leafy greens and be stewed, sauted or otherwise cooked. The flowers are also eaten raw, in salads or cooked.

Dandelion does not help treat bladder infections by fighting the bacteria that causes them, but by helping to clean out the urinary system. Dandelion is a very powerful diuretic, and is believed to help remove bacteria from the bladder by flushing the bacteria out along with urine.
— Sandra Ketcham, AViVA Health

Roasted dandelion root is sometimes called "dandelion coffee" and is thus sometimes used as a substitute for those who cannot, for whatever reason, have regular coffee.  Note: While un-roasted dandelion tea is perfectly fine and enjoyed by some, I find that roasted varieties are far more palatable and, at least in my case, achieve the same effect.  Roasted tastes somewhat like coffee.  Un-roasted tastes a bit like unappetizing socks.

In addition to being widely edible, there is the added bonus of being high in vitamins and minerals, providing a broad-spectrum boost when needed.  Furthermore, dandelion is a strong diuretic, so it is exceptionally useful for dealing with and treating digestive issues like constipation and decreased urine production.  However, while this widely-available plant is largely beneficial, it is often detrimental for those who either have gallstones or general gallbladder problems.  When the stems are cut the white latex inside can be a topical irritant for some people, causing anything from a brief itch to full contact dermatitis and a rash that lasts several days, though it is usually shorter.

On another note, the dandelion is actually rather beneficial to the general ecology in which it grows because, like members of the clover family, dandelions are nitrogen-fixing plants.  This means that rather than simply using nutrients from the surrounding soil, the dandelion adds nitrogen to the the soils around it.  Nitrogen is also an integral part of chlorophyll, allowing plants to photosynthesize.  

I hope all is well with you.  May the dandelions in your gardens help your gardens bloom.  Till next time,



1. Ketchem, Sandra, "Herbal Treatments for Bladder Infections" http://www.avivahealth.com/article.asp?articleid=100

2. Yarnell E, Abascal K. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale and T. mongolicum). Integrative Med. April-May 2009;8(2):3 34-38. (Excerpt) http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/378/review050496-378.html?ts=1524812952&signature=5265a1c0652d8e000da9fd645dbba81f

3. Traditional Medicinals, "Roasted Dandelion Root Tea" https://www.traditionalmedicinals.com/products/roasted-dandelion-root/