Monday, May 16, 2011

The Dandelions Are Here!!

The Dandelions Are Here!! I am completely biased: I LOVE DANDELIONS! Perhaps your idea of a gorgeous yard involves a lawn as green and weedless as Astroturf, and you are among the masses that spend much time and energy pesticiding, mowing, and pulling out dandelions. We’d do much better to appreciate the dandelions and harvest them for food and medicine rather than poisoning our home-spaces and then spending money on supplements and pharmaceuticals that contain some of the same medicinal qualities that dandelion itself provides! Yup, it’s true! All parts of dandelion are medicinal and they’re completely free – a perfect example of medicine for the people! To me, dandelions embody Persistence, Resilience, Abundance, and Radiance. I love that it grows nearly everywhere – both an urban and rural plant ally.

I have a special place in my heart for dandelion and its far-reaching seeds. In my correspondence with U.S. Political Prisoners (please see Writing to (Political) Prisoners and resources listed under U.S. Political Prisoner Resources) I often draw dandelions in their various stages – green buds about to burst open, blossoms at their height of radiance, and a seedhead sending forth its seed in the wind. I love that no matter how much barbed wire and concrete walls they build up to separate us, confine life, and stamp out signs of hope, still the dandelions find their way in! On my first visit to a particular prison the guards were acting immature and unprofessional and the one escorting me to the visiting area was particularly dodgy. As I entered the area where I’d soon finally see my friend after filling out forms, locking up my belongings, going through the metal detector, and getting stamped, in a crack between the brick wall and cement-covered ground an enormous dandelion plant with about 20 blossoms was thriving! I’d never before seen so many blossoms on one plant and the sight brought me away from my anger at the conditions of the place to total joy at this embodiment of exuberant resistance, and made me more present for a better visit.

Here is information and recipes from “The Dandelions Are Coming!”, a workshop that I taught a couple years ago. Please let me know if you have more info and recipes to share! Don’t hate those weeds, eat those weeds! Make medicine and share knowledge! Hooray for the underdog!

Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale
AKA: Diente de Leon, Caisearbhán, Piss-in-bed/Pissenlit, Tell-time, Clockflower
Plant family: Asteraceae/Sunflower, along with Chamomile and Daisies
Soil uses: Dandelion helps loosen up compacted soil
Best time to harvest: early spring greens and roots, autumn roots, and blossoms anytime they’re out

Identification: The toothed leaves grow in a rosette, then send forth a hollow stalk upon which a golden blossom forms, 1”-2’ across. The root is brown on its exterior, and white on the inside. The root, leaves, and stems all bleed a milky juice when cut.

The WHOLE Plant is Medicinal!
Flower~ has pain-relieving properties, great as an infused massage oil for releasing tension held in the muscles. Can also be taken as food, wine, and mead.
~ contains latex-y sap that, when applied daily for many weeks, is said to get rid of warts 

Leaf~ is rich in Vitamins C and B and minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron. The early spring greens have traditionally been eaten to cleanse the body of the heavy foods of winter and prepare for the warmer months. It is a urinary tonic, relieving water retention without depleting the body of potassium, as pharmaceutical diuretics do. Can be eaten fresh or cooked, taken as a tea or tincture.
~ has long been used in liver disease, jaundice, hepatitis, gall-bladder infections, and to dissolve gallstones. It can ease PMS, headaches, skin problems, and other ailments that indicate a sluggish liver. Mildly laxative. Increases insulin secretion, which can help with diabetes and hypoglycemia. It supports those who are in recovery from drug or alcohol-dependence, eating disorders, or long-term use of antibiotics. Can be added to soups and stir-fries. Both the leaf and root are bitter, and this taste activates the digestive system.

Seeds~ The seeds are said to be messengers, “if you whisper the words of love to your favourite person and blow the seeds gently towards him(/her), the seeds would carry the words to your beloved.” The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre
Energetics~ Dandelion helps to “relieve emotional stagnation and enhances expression of repressed emotions such as anger, resentment and grief.” ~The Complete Floral Healer
Flower essence: “Dandelion suits people who have a tendency to cram far too much into their lives. They are so full of enthusiasm for life that they take on too much and become compulsive ‘doers’. They overplan and overstructure their lives in an effort to fit in everything they want to do, and leave little room for relaxation or reflection, until the point is reached where they no longer know how to be quiet or relaxed. They leave little space in their lives for spiritual or emotional expression, and as they push themselves beyond the body’s natural capacity, they no longer listen to the needs of their bodies. Such harsh physical demands and unexpressed inner life creates great tension, especially in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Dandelion helps to release this tension, allowing the body to relax and emotions to be release and expressed. It can be added to massage oils and used in bodywork. It enables you to listen more closely to emotional messages and bodily needs, and shifts the emphasis from being a human ‘doing’ to a human ‘being’. Energy, activity and enthusiasm become balanced with a sense of inner ease.” ~The Complete Floral Healer
Sound familiar to anyone else? Aye!

Dandelion concoctions - clockwise from middle: Dandelion Green Vinegar, Dandelion Flower tincture, Dandelion Flower essence, image by Larken Bunce, my Dandelioness Herbals business card, Tigress Balm with Dandelion Flower-infused oil, Radherb patch and wilting blossom, Dandelion Blossom Elixir, and Dandelion Root tincture. (Most of these are on my Dandelioness Herbals Etsy shop.)

Dandelions that I'd dug up from my garden to eat the
leaves and roots went to bloom before I ate them!

Dandelion Blossom Elixir
To preserve the fresh sunnyness of the blossoms all year round.

1½ cups Blossoms (only the yellows)
1 cup Honey
12 oz. Brandy

Twist off all the green bits of the blossoms, leaving only the yellow. Place the unwashed blossoms in a glass quart jar. Cover blossoms with honey and stir. Cover the blossoms with the brandy, being sure to leave at least 1” space from the top of the jar for shake-ability. Shake and let infuse in the sunshine for a day or two. Then move to a spot out of direct sunlight and shake daily if possible. After one month, strain out and compost the blossoms, and then bottle and label your elixir! As the honey and brandy are natural preservatives, your elixir will last years.

Dandelion Blossom Massage Oil
Infusing fresh dandelion blossoms into oil makes a lovely oil for self-massage.  And remember breast/chest massage and self-exams are for all of us – not only cisgender (non-transgender) women!  We can all benefit from this practice, whether we want to promote circulation and lymph movement, release held emotions, connect with and better know our own bodies, and/or to be aware of any changes that may occur so that we can get them checked out by a healthcare provider.  You can purchase a special balm for these self-massages such as Love It Up! Breast & Chest Massage Balm or make your own.

Dandelion Blossom Oil can be used for general all-over massage, as well, to relieve tension. (This is why I include it in my Tigress Balm warming muscle rub.) Infusing this oil is tricky, since the blossoms are so very juicy and not particularly anti-bacterial like other herbs, such as Calendula and St. Johnswort, which helps to prevent mold. If you’d like to wilt your flowers to release some of its moisture, lay out your blossoms in a basket or on a piece of paper bag paper in a well-ventilated space for a few hours or overnight.

Place your freshly harvested blossoms into a clean, dry glass jar, filling it halfway or two-thirds full. Cover the blossoms with Olive oil (or another oil such as Almond or Sesame) filling almost to the top, stirring with a chopstick to release air bubbles as you go. Pour the blossoms and oils in a double boiler. Slowly warm the herbs on very low heat for at least 30-60 minutes. Make sure that the oil is not too hot - you don’t want to cook the flowers in the oil, just warm them. The longer you’re able to warm the oil at a low temperature, the stronger medicine your oil will be. Pour your blossoms and oil back into the glass jar and leave to infuse out in the sunshine or a sunny window, leaving the lid off if possible, to let any moisture out. Usually oils are left to infuse for a full lunar cycle, but dandelion blossoms are apt to mold. You can strain your oil after its day in the sun, or if you’re up for the challenge, you can try the full month and keep a vigilant eye out for mold, removing any if it appears, and wiping out any moisture from the sides of the jar with a towel or napkin. Whenever you are ready to strain your oil, pour it through a mesh strainer or cloth into a dry bottle and label. Store out of the sun and use within a year.  Some folks add a few drops of Vitamin E or essential oils such as Lavender or Rosemary to help preserve this oil.  Just remember that the skin on our breast/chest area can be sensitive so add just a few drops.

Another way to make Dandelion Blossom oil with fresh blossoms is to pour the oil over the blossoms and add a bit of grain alcohol to prevent bacterial growth. I usually add just a teaspoon of organic grain alcohol per quart of oil.  It's still a good idea to keep an eye out and remove any moisture or mold from the oil.

Fresh Dandelion leaf, flower, buds, and stem.

Chopping it up to marinade in apple cider vinegar.

Marinated Dandelion Greens
This recipe requires no cooking, making it a great way to get your greens during the busy spring and summer months.

1 bunch Dandelion Greens, chopped
Olive Oil
Honest-To-Goodness Apple Cider Vinegar (or other local a.c.v.)
1 clove Garlic, crushed and chopped (optional)

Clean your Dandelion greens thoroughly and chop. Place greens in a bowl, drizzle on the olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and stir. If you need an immune boost or vampire protection, crush a clove of garlic, letting it oxidize for a couple minutes (to get its full medicinal benefits ), finely chop, and stir in with the greens. Cover your bowl and leave it to marinate for a few hours or overnight. And there you go, your greens are ready! If you don’t eat them all right away, store them in the fridge.   (You can buy Honest to Goodness Apple Cider Vinegar in Central Vermont Coops, or buy it in bulk directly from them.  Call: 802-685-3061 )

Dandelion Leaf Infused Vinegar
Vinegar itself is an old folk remedy. Dr. Jarvis, who practiced medicine in Barre, VT starting in 1909, recorded Vermont remedies in his book Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health, singing praises for its many uses. Vinegar is a digestive tonic and is high in minerals. Recent studies show that it’s beneficial for diabetes and treating jellyfish stings! Adding tonic herbs such as dandelion leaf adds even more medicinal properties, and gives you a nutrient-rich base for salad dressings and sauces.

Fill a glass jar halfway with fresh, clean chopped dandelion leaves, and then fill the jar with vinegar. Cover with a glass or plastic lid, or a cork, as metal will rust. You can also put a layer of plastic wrap or waxed paper between a metal lid and jar, but I've still had metal lids rust through the layer. Let the herb vinegar infuse for an entire moon cycle, shaking daily if possible. Strain out and eat or compost the herb, and pour the infused vinegar into a sterilized glass bottle with a glass or plastic lid. Store in a cool, dark area such as a cupboard. Folks have varying opinions about how long herbal vinegars keep. Some say 6 months, most say years.

Fresh Dandelion Root

Roasted Dandelion Root Brew
I’m not going to risk upsetting coffee-drinkers or dandelion itself by calling this drink a coffee substitute, but if you are seeking a bitter brew without the jitters or adrenal depletion, you may want to check this out.  Dig dandelion roots in autumn.  Cut off the leaves, eating if they still look vital, composting them if not.  Wash the roots and slice them into small pieces.  When they are dry, roast them in an oven at a very low heat.  Check them often and remove when they seem well-roasted.  Grind them and either brew them in a percolator or simmer the roots alone or with other herbs and spices.  You can add milk (cow/ rice/ coconut), sweetener (maple syrup/honey), and a pinch of cinnamon after you simmer the brew.

Some herbalists make and sell instant beverages that contain contain Dandelion root and can be stirred right into hot water, no simmering necessary.  Even though it's delicious, I stopped buying Dandy Blend, as there are much more local companies (I'm talking Poland where DB is made, not Ohio where the company is based) to get it from, that don't support hateful, anti-immigrant politics.  Let's support business that support justice!

Dandelion Blossom Fritters made by folk herbalist and 
food educator Sandra Lory of Mandala Botanicals

Dandelion Blossom Fritters
If you need something a bit heartier to go along with your Dandelion Blossom Elixir, Roasted Dandelion Root Brew, and Marinated Dandelion Greens with Dandelion Leaf Infused Vinegar, try this recipe. If you’re more into deep-fat frying, you can also dip fresh blossoms in a tempura batter and fry them up! 

1 cup Flour (millet, buckwheat, wheat, etc)
1 cup Water
1 Egg
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 cup whole Dandelion flowers
Pinch of salt 
Optional ingredients: Chives, Dandelion greens, Stinging Nettles (the young leaves finely chopped), Mushrooms, etc.  

Beat the egg, add water and oil. Stir the liquid into flour, and then add in the flowers. Warm coconut oil or another oil in a pan and cook like mini pancakes. Serve them warm with jam, syrup, butter, sweet and sour sauce, herb-infused vinegar, the juice left in your pickle/fermentation jars, spicy salsas, chutneys, etc.  Serves 2 generously.

Dandelion Root Stir-fry
Harvest the whole plant, digging around it with a shovel or spade and lifting it out of the ground. Cut off the greens and steam, marinate, or add them to soup. Clean the roots, cut into slices, and add to a stir-fry the way you would carrot or burdock root.

Dandelion Mead
A recipe morphed together from an old-time mead (honey wine) recipe and some internet suggestions.

Pour boiling water to 1 gallon over:
(meaning you should have 1 gallon total between both the water and the ingredients listed below)

2 quarts Dandelion blossoms, with greens attached (the green part of blossom, not the leaves)
2 sliced organic Lemons
2 sliced organic Oranges
1 lb organic Raisins minus one handful (reserved to add when cool)

When cool:
add 1 quart local Honey (about 3 lbs)
1 1/4 tsp Baking Yeast
the reserved handful of Raisins

Cover and let ferment in a place with consistent temperature, stirring daily. Bottle after 15 days. (Check out bottling instructions if you're not familiar with this process, or better yet, have an experienced friend help you with this til you're comfortable doing it on your own.) Let ferment at least 6 months.

Notes:  A wine yeast specifically made for mead-making may create a better-tasting mead.  This recipe makes do with baking yeast, which is usually much easier to find.

In lieu of this recipe, it has been suggested: After 10-15 days you should siphon the mead into a new vessel that has an air lock and leave it for 3-6 months and then bottle it. This will insure that all of the yeast has fallen out making a clear beverage and fermentation is absolutely complete.

Dandelions in the field to the stone tower, 
Kinvara, Co. Galway, Ireland

Dandelion remedies available on Dandelioness Herbals' online Etsy shop.

Dandelion References:  ●The Roots of Healing: A Woman’s Book of Herbs (or A Woman's Book: The Healing Power of Natural Remedies) by Deb Soule ●The Complete Floral Healer (or Flower Power: Flower Remedies for Healing Body & Soul Through Herbalism, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, & Flower Essences) by Anne McIntyre ●Herbal Remedies from the Wild by Corinne Martin


  1. thank you. the fields are richly dotted with dandelions & the sight of them cheers my winter weary soul...i look forward to integrating the dandelion into my life in so many other ways! xo

  2. Your post reminds me of a friend who loved dandelions and promoted their wonderful-ness. Rose passed two years ago but we celebrate every time we see dandys!

  3. Dana, this is awesome! Next time I see you I want cooking lessons! I'm going to try some of the stems with T to get rid of some warts that 3x of freezing did not rid for him.
    A very professional site!!!!

  4. I had my oil infused dandelions heads in a slow cooker - I just got it and had it on low thinking it would not boil, but it did - do I have to throw it out?

  5. Hmmm. I've never infused herbal oils with a slow cooker, just the heat of the sun or placing the jar near a stove or other heating source, so I've never had this happen. I guess it depends on the kind of oil you used and how it smells/feels now. Listen to your intuition as well, if it feels unvital, questionable, I'd compost it and start again. While the Dandelions are still around! :)

  6. I was needing info on how to freeze the blossoms I have now, to use later. I have a desert tortoise (who is currently still in hibernation) who LOVES dandies. I call them 'candelions' because he gobbles them up like a kid with candy! If someone sees this comment, who has suggestions, please let me know. I have a 'bumper crop' of these beauties right now, but hate to see them go to waste. When Sheldon wakes up in late May, they will be much scarcer.

  7. Do you know where to buy dried Dandelion Flowers? I have had no luck at the local or online stores I know and trust! They're not in season any more and I'd love to make an infused oil out of them.

  8. Hello, do you sell the dandelion buds? Just the white puffs! Do let me know pleae! Thank you so so much!

  9. Hi there Dana can I subscribe to your blog? This article is amazing, thank you!

    1. Thanks! There is an area on the right that says "Follow by Email: Receive New Posts" where you can enter your email. That may only be viewable on a computer or if you are using a phone/gadget you can click on "View web version" at the bottom of the page if you don't see it.