The Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale, Weber, T. Densleonis, Desf; Leontodon taraxacum, Linn.) belongs to Asteraceae (Compositae) family and it is widely known for his medicinal properties in Europe and Asia. The name probably had derived from Greek “taraxos”, which means disorder and “achos”- remedy.
However the common name- dandelion has been used in France as the “Dent-de-lion” (lion’s tooth), “Dens leonis” in Latin and “Leontodon” which was assigned by Linnaeus. In the past, dandelion was often referred as piss-in-bed, wet-a-bed or bitterwort which indicated the herbaceous uses of the plant (Weed, 1989).
Botanical description of Taraxacum officinale
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) tap root appears long and thick with kind of brownish colour, from where the leaves are radiating just above the ground in the shape of rosette. This physical appearance help maintain in Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) the adequate water level and nourishment. The leaves as mentioned before are basal and they are lying in the shape of rosette. They margins looks like they have been cut and wavy especially is noticeable in mature plants. They are also divided into lobes (segments) which are running into the centre of the plant. The stem is straight, hollow and leafless, which posses single flower head in the end of the stalk, called scape. Inside the stem is white/milky juice running which have bitter taste.
The flower of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is bright yellow with golden hints, which consists of many, close packed tiny, disc shaped ray florets. In the centre of the flower, each stigma consists of tube with developing seed under and sticking out anthers with pollen (Grieve, 1995). The bloom is supported outside by green bracts- the involucres. When the flower head matures the florets become to shed’s away and in its place the fruit appears called achenes, which is attached to parachute-like extension called pappus, hence its name dmuchawiec and pushki use in Eastern European countries which is subscribed to the flying seeds of Dandelion.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a perennial plant, it begun to flower from early spring to late summer. Dandelion is recognized world widely as a herbaceous and weed plant. It can be found everywhere from Europe to Asia along with different species of this plant (see images 1-3 below). Dandelion grows in moist habitat where there is full access of sunlight and helps restore natural balance of minerals in poor soil.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is widely cultivated by farmers and gardeners. The flowers are great source of nectar for honey producers whereas the leaves found they place in menu in many farm animals. Leaves are great for rabbits and birds, where the roots are mainly used by collectors for their medicinal purposes. Grieve has suggested that sowing Dandelion seeds should be placed one foot apart from each other otherwise they can spread out really quickly. The soil should be also cleared from stones as the root could developed branches which can be hard to dig up (Grieve, 1995).
In the past, many farmers where following the natural cycle of the moon as they believed that if the moon can affect human body can also affect the plants as well. As the rule applied, the sowing and planting of the plants and vegetables that grows above the ground should be done on the waxing moon, where plant roots should be done on waning moon. The reason for that is, on the waxing moon plants stores they content in the aerial parts of the plant, where in the waning moon their context is moving towards the roots. Furthermore, the transitions of the lunar cycle from one zodiac sign to another was indicating which particularly moment is more favourable to collect flowers, fruits, leaves or roots. Earth signs like Taurus and Virgo is excellent day for sowing or collecting roots, they will preserved much longer in the good condition(Paungger, J., Poppe, T., 2000).
The Dandelion root (Taraxacum radix) could be used fresh or dried. The dried roots should be collect until October or early spring due to their nutritive context (Inulin) and then washed and cut into small pieces. After drying process they should be kept in the dark and dry condition. If they are break easily with white appearance the roots is ready to use (Grieve., 1995). The favourable moment for the leaves is on the water days of Scorpio which involves sowing, planting and harvesting.
The Dandelion leaves are often picked up during the early spring so they don’t have the bitter taste. As for the flowers, they should be planted and harvested on the air days of Libra. The blooming flowers of Dandelion are really good to collect before the noon when they are fully developed (Paungger, J., Poppe, T., 2000).
Historically, it was popular as a “spring tonic” or “ blood purifier”. In Chinese medicine, Dandelion was known in 659 CE as diuretic, for the liver issue and lymphatic. The plant is “drying” and cooling in nature which takes away excess fluids from the body hence used for enlarged lymph nodes and cancer (Wood., 2008?). The Dandelion appeared in Europe in the 15th century, it was known later on as a “spring tonic” and “blood purifier”. It was described in “Complete Herbal” by Culpeper (1653 ed.) as cleanser, diuretic, liver, spleen and gallbladder problems under planet Jupiter [accessed online].
In the 16th century Dandelion was used in Polish folk medicine for liver spots, fevers and digestion. The root was dispensed in wine and vinegar with fennel. The whole plant was collected in May and the fresh leaves were used for cuts and wounds (Hodorowicz., 1999). Although Dandelion become popularised as a “spring tonic” in Europe, it has also been known as main ingredient in beer production. Often was combined with nettle to increase their purifying action and smooth stomach ailments (Buhner, S. H., 1998).
In Modern medicine Dandelion root has mainly hepatic properties due to compound named taraxacin which is more prominent in the roots. Another important substance found in Dandelion is Sesquiterpene lactones which have anti-inflammatory properties. Leaves of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) perform different actions, due to their high potassium and sodium level. The leaves act as diuretics and restore mineral balance in the body. The research done by M. Wood (1998), indicate that Dandelion could be used for many specific conditions:
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) teas should be prepared from 3-4 teaspoons and infused for 15min, the tea could be drunk one time per day (Bartram., 1998).
Dandelion (Taraxacum radix) decoction: 1 teaspoon of the root cover with boiled water and leaved for 15min to infuse. The decoction could be taken half of the cup daily (Bartram., 1998).
Tinctures of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) should be dispense 1-5 parts in 25 per cent of ethanol (Bartram., 1998).
Tablets or capsules for urinary flow: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) powder 90mg; Horsetail (Equisetum arvense L) 10 mg and Uva Ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) powder 75mg (Bartram., 1998).
Dandelions should be used with caution for those who suffer with allergy for any plant from Compositae family. The symptoms may include dermatitis and light sensitivity. There has been also reported parasite infection and gastrointestinal disorders. Dandelion should be avoided when taken anticoagulants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Women during pregnancy should not use Dandelion herb (NCAM., 2009).
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