Ask Your Herbalist - Dandelion  by J. Zane Walley

In French: dens leonis or dent-de-lion translated to "lion's tooth" probably because the leaf and the taproot resemble teeth. The scientific name Taraxacum derives from the Greek: taraxos, which means disorder, and akos, meaning remedy. Its laxative and diuretic functions are reflected in European common names including pee-a-bed, piss-a-bed, and mess-a-bed.

Scientific Facts

Flower_WEB.jpg (10528 bytes)The leaves contain a compound called taraxcin which functions as a laxative. The green uncooked leaves have 14,000 international units of vitamins A, .19 milligrams of thiamin, .26 mg. riboflavin, 35 mg. vitamin C, 198 mg. calcium, and 397 mg. potassium per 100 grams.

Historical and Folk Uses:

During the crusades, the Knights Hospitallers treated the sick suffering with liver, kidney, blood and rheumatic problems with the root, flower and leaves of the Dandelion.

The American Indians used the whole plant as spring bitters to purify the blood after a long winter. Frontiersmen used the plant to treat yellow jaundice.

They also believed that it was an effective treatment for heart problems.

Medical Use and Preparation

To prepare bitters, the plant is picked when in flower, washed and put into an earthen or stainless steel vessel, allowed to sit overnight, then steeped for five hours. A crock-pot works great for this process. The plant should not be boiled. When ready, strain and mix with a clear liquor such as gin or vodka, one part liquor to four parts tea. Store in a dark cool place or keep in the fridge. Dose is four ounces per day. If you are adverse to spirits, vinegar may be substituted. The bitters will be strongly diuretic and are used to treat jaundice, liver, and kidney complaints.

As a frontier medication for heart problems, the flowers only were boiled until the water was very yellow and used as a before breakfast drink daily for one month.

A light tea made fresh from the flowers is excellent to quiet the quivers of a tired, stressed-out stomach and relieve heartburn.


Dandelion Coffee once prepared can be stored in airtight containers for up to a year. Gather and wash the roots at the end of the season when they are at their strongest. Roast them on low heat with the oven door slightly open. When they are completely dry, crisp, and browned throughout they are ready to be ground and stored. The grounds can be used alone or mixed with equal parts of coffee.

Dandelion Greens

Gather the young tender leaves and unopened flower buds. Use as a raw salad or boil slightly as you would spinach or kale.

Dandelion casserole

Saute the young leafs slightly in butter. Add previously cooked sliced mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste, add enough sour cream to dampen the leaves and bake at 250 degrees for fifteen minutes.

Dandelion Roots

Collect, wash and peel young roots. Slice into pieces about one half inch thick and boil in salted water. To remove the tinge of bitterness, boil a second time, again in salted water. Because of the taraxcin content, the roots will have a slight laxative effect.

Dandelion Wine

My Uncle Atwell was a powerful preacher, proselytizing hellfire and brimstone, particularly when delivering a sermon on Lucifer's liquor to likely sinners as they squirmed uncomfortably on hard wooden benches in the backwoods church. His thundering orations blistered paint on the meeting house door, and made collection plates tremble on the deacons' bench. Tragically, Uncle had a predicament, a dire secret he didn't share with his flock; rheumatism and arthritis plagued him regularly. It was mighty hard on his old bones jumping around the pulpit, and wrestling demons out of the brethren, 'specially after plowing a team of mules all week.

The pain must have been wicked, for almost every night, he'd have to dose it heavy with his secret remedy; a honey-colored liquid he made by the gallons in springtime. Uncle would sit at the kitchen table, chubby Irish cheeks lit up, reading the Good Book, tippling his curative, and getting fuller of the joy-of-the-Lord with each golden glass. When he commenced to acting odd, and didn't seem to be feeling any pain at all, his rotund, gray-coiffured wife, Aunt Ottie, would whisper, "Don't pay no attention to your Uncle Atwell; he's a-suffering something awful, and having to treat his arthritis."

Next to their prim cottage was a meadow carpeted in thousands of yellow dandelion blossoms. Uncle rarely let them go to waste. "Parson Motley shore does like that ole dandelion tea." the neighbors noticed, as he picked it by the burlap sack and hauled it into his root cellar. Wafted scent of dandelion flowers "bubbling" in earthen crocks enveloped the entrance. Atwell spent a lot of nighttime hours there: stirring, tasting, testing, dipping, and sipping. Why, some folks worried the good Minister was brewing spirits in his basement.

But of course, he was just painstakingly concocting his secret arthritis "medicine".

Parson Motley's Secret Arthritis Cure

Pick a gallon of flowers making sure no stems are included. Put these into a two-gallon earthen crock and cover with one gallon of boiling water. Cover and let set three days. Strain the resulting mass through a cheesecloth, squeezing all the juice from the flowers. Mix the juice and thinly sliced pulp and rind of three oranges and three lemons. Add three pounds of corn sugar and a wine makers yeast (Available from brew-your-own stores.) Return to the crock, cover with a cloth, and let it ferment three weeks.

Strain, bottle, and enjoy.