Our Herb of the Month for April is dandelion! For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this sunny, cheerful, persistent little weed makes it's appearance now. It provides welcome nectar for foraging pollinators, as well as other early spring flowers. In spite of its reputation as an invasive weed, it is not really that difficult to manage in the garden, and can quickly revive our winter-bored palates as a source of wild forage.
All parts of the dandelion are edible and useful for food and medicine. The flowers in some regions are prized for wine and the little yellow petals can adorn your spring salad. Taraxacum officinal, it's extra fancy official name, refers to its reputation as a "remedy for disorders." Its child-beloved name, dandelion, originates from the French for "tooth of the lion," in reference to its jagged dental-shaped leaves. These leaves are tastiest in the very early spring, when they are still small and tender. Their bitter quality is a bit tamer then, but still potent enough to stimulate the digestion and boost the liver - no double-blind studies on this one that I know of - just a long history of use as a spring liver tonic, digestive aid and mild diuretic (makes ya' pee).
The root is best dug in the autumn after the first hard frost. This concentrates the valuable sugars, notably inulin, down into the root. Inulin, a source of soluble fiber and food for beneficial gut bacteria, is a bit of a rock star in digestive news these days. It offers a host of health benefits, mostly by its action in the colon.
Living in the countryside, I am forever stunned and delighted by large open fields in late April, studded with the merry golden heads of dandelion. This is a site to behold, and one not seen often in suburban neighborhoods where lawns are more carefully manicured. Still, even on urban streets you will see the feisty Lion's Tooth, emerging from cracks of concrete, even though its seems almost impossible that it can possibly find enough soil. It's long tap root digs deep and find the nourishment it needs.
Flower essence practitioners prize the yellow blossoms as medicine for those people who carry a load of tension in the body and mind. Anne McIntyre explains in her book Flower Power, "Dandelion suits people who have a tendency to cram far too much into their lives. They have so much enthusiasm for life that they take on too much and become compulsive 'do-ers.'" Hmm...that reminds me of someone. I think I will have to get my hands on some of that flower power today! How about you?
(To learn more about this generous plant and its medicinal lore, tune into the GingerJuice Cafe this month, our online community of women dedicated to natural health).