The following information has been gathered and compiled through personal experience while traveling in France, teaching T’ai Chi, Qi Gong, Chinese Herbal medicine, martial arts and contains feedback from students and anecdotal information from readers of my columns. The following are my opinions and deductions from those sources.
In France they cultivate dandelion, plus eat and relish it as a green. In the US most people consider it to be an obnoxious weed and spray it with chemicals: chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic and involved with other serious health problems.
Herbalists, and those involved with folk medicine, have recognized the medicinal benefits of dandelion for thousands of years. Daniel Mowrey Ph.D. writes in his book The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine and Herbal Tonic Therapies, that “Dandelion root heads the list of excellent foods for the liver.” The root has been used for centuries to treat jaundice and other liver problems. Eating the leaves help remove excess water from the body. You can eat the entire plant including the flowers which contain a high percentage of lecithin.
James A. Duke Ph.D. in his book The Green Pharmacy, says that dandelion, besides being good for the liver, is also beneficial for treating osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, bladder infections, problems connected with breast-feeding, pneumonia, swelling, tonsillitis and warts. An impressive list, to say the least.
Osteoporosis: Dandelion is high in calcium, boron and silicon, all are involved with strong bones. Alzheimer’s: lecithin is involved with increasing the percentages of acetycholine which has shown positive affects in brain function of laboratory mice. Dandelion is high in both lecithin and choline, precursors to acetycholine. As a diuretic effective in bladder infections, dandelion contains eudesmanolides, germacranolides and potassium, all of which help flush toxins from the bladder. In Chinese Herbal medicine, an ounce of finely chopped root is boiled in two cups of water until only about one cup liquid remains and then compresses soaked in the liquid and used to treat mastitis. Cooked greens, root and the juice left after cooking have all been used successfully by herbalists when treating pneumonia, upper respiratory problems and bronchitis. Dandelion, and its diuretic action, works to reduce swelling by eliminating excess fluids from the system. Chines herbalists simmer an ounce of root in two cups of water until only half the liquid remains and then use it to treat tonsillitis. Some herbalists claim to have had success applying the milky latex sap from the leaves and stem to remove warts. James A. Duke says it didn’t wok for him but I had a wart on my elbow and it worked for me. There are no known side effects or contraindications, so what can it hurt.
Bitters (bitter herbs) have been used for centuries to improve digestion and to increase glandular secretions. According to Heinermann’s encyclopedia of Herbs and Spices, some German doctors have reported that certain bitters have shown promise in improving cardiac function. There are many reports of improved digestion when eating various bitters. Dandelion is a mildly bitter herb and much more readily available to most of us than some of the exotics. Again, there are no known side effects or contraindications connected with dandelion, unless it’s been sprayed with herbicides or other toxic chemicals. Know your source.