It really is a “jack of all trades” medicine. All parts of the plant are edible and have beneficial uses. The bitterness stimulates the salivary glands and intestinal peristalsis, aids in digestion and improves bile flow. It is especially helpful for the liver to relieve liver congestion, gallstones, and jaundice and for the treatment of hepatitis. It is a powerful diuretic for eliminating excess fluid and at the same time balancing the body with necessary potassium. One ounce of leaves contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B1 and C, calcium, sodium, potassium and other trace minerals. For centuries European herbalists used the boiled root for the treatment of diabetes. The compound levulose is a sugar easily assimilated by diabetics and is contained in the root of the plant in spring. By autumn, the sugar changes to inulin, which is an easily digested prebiotic nourishing the beneficial gut flora. Scientific research into the plants properties has shown that the plant produces antibodies to cancer and buffers blood glucose levels. Due to its healing abilities it has been used for fevers, arthritis, eye problems, heartburn, appendicitis, building the blood, curing anemia and skin ailments.
This amazing plant survives in spite of our determined efforts to rid it since lawns became fashionable. Somehow, we thought a monoculture of green grass was more desirable. Sure, there is a certain aesthetic to a swath of green carpet as a minimalist extension of our interior homes and perhaps speaks to a deeper expression of our consciousness. Could it be that we have a tendency to cast out anything that is not homogenous? Are the green seas of lawn in suburbia the manifestation of our need for uniformity, similarity, and unquestionable conformity?
Is conformity less scary because we know what to expect of others? Does it make life simpler if everyone follows the same rules, has the same ideas, the same values? Are we afraid of competition or difference?
As far as ridding the lawn of dandelions, we first change the given name of this unique plant and lump it in with a whole ensemble of other individual and unique plants and call them “weeds.” It is a derogatory term, which serves the purpose of banishing any thought about the valuable and wholesome qualities of each. They are suddenly a vile group that must be eradicated….sort of like “terrorists.”
It is not for ease of maintenance or increasing the health of the ecosystem that we purge our lawns of anything but grass, in fact it takes hours of engagement and diminishes the fertility. It requires putting on dangerous chemicals, which not only kill the “weeds” but also reduces the microbial activity of the soil required for a healthy lawn and ecosystem. Weeds including the dandelion are nature’s gift to the soil. Their tough resilience and long taproots bring up minerals and nutrients to the surface, help aerate the soil, increase the moisture content and reduce compaction. Beneficial insects feed on the nectar. Weeds arrive due to poor soil conditions. They are a precursor to enrich the soil and a signal that the earth is not ready for the thirsty needs of more tender plants.
Is there a correspondence between our disdain for weeds and their fortitude and a belief that we are “more tender” and cannot live amongst humans with divergent strengths and differences? If we get rid of the tough resilient “plants” will that help us survive? In a strange twist of fate, we make ourselves weaker. Not only by abolishing the incredible and unique healing attributes of particular plants and humans, but also by eliminating the interdependence necessary for balance and survival. In the case of grass, the chemicals we put on it to kill the weeds disturbs the balance of nature and thus the ecosystem we depend upon. As children walk upon the land or we eat food sprayed with herbicides the same chemicals that kill the “weeds” wreak damage to us. Many herbicides are neurotoxins, such as “Round-up” containing glyphosate linked with cancer, brain damage and endocrine disruption. We have no clue about the long-term effects.
As we drive out “others” that are different than us, what qualities are we losing? What are the consequences? Are we so arrogant to think that we can decide what species or what humans are to live or die?
Nature is far wiser than us. It has created cycles that balance all life forms into a cohesive, vital and essential part of an interdependent thriving ecosystem. Plants, animals and humans of every species, culture and flavor are an essential part of that system.
I am lying amidst a bounteous expanse of big fat creamy yellow lion mane caps on long stems reaching skyward towards the beaming sun on our verdant land. Visitors come and pick the enormous leaves exclaiming what a delicacy it is to eat our dandelion greens. My brother, sister and I play a game putting a dandelion flower under each other’s chin to see if the pollen rubs off. If it does, it means you are in love. I am in love with their beauty as I watch the butterflies alighting and bees happily frolicking from flower to flower. Later the golden discs turn into white puffballs, and we make a wish, blow on them and watch the tiny parachutes float gently into the air and onto the earth.
Do you think our children and grandchildren will experience the joy of dandelions, or bees, or butterflies, or milkweed, or birds….or the rich palette of humanity?
Dandelions don't care about the time
Dandelion don't tell no lies
Dandelion will make you wise
Tell me if she laughs or cries
Blow away dandelion, blow away dandelion
~ The Rolling Stones