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Dandelion

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  • Botanical: Taraxacum officinale
  • Family: Asteraceae
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Dandelion

Botanical

Taraxacum officinale

Family

Asteraceae

Known as

Löwenzahn, Gemeiner Löwenzahn,

Old Use

culinary; medicinal

Collection Times

May to June

Parts Used

flowers, leaves, roots

Medicinal

abscess, abdominal pain, acne, allergies, anorexia, arthritis, bronchitis, bowel cleansing, bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, blood cleansing, bile weakness, bronchitis, cholesterol lowering, circulation, constipation, corns, coughs, cramps stomach, cystitis, dermatitis, digestion, dropsy, eczema, fever, flatulence, gallstones, gastritis, gastrointestinal, gout, headache, hemorrhoids, high blood preasure, laxative, liver weakness, indigestion, infections intestinal, jaundice, joint inflammation, joint pain, kidney stones, kidney weakness, menstruation promotion, menopausal symptom, rheumatism, urinary infections, warts, edema, osteoarthritis

Heart & Circulation

circulation, edema

Infection & Inflammation

fever, flu, infections, infections intestinal, pyelonephritis, skin inflammation

Muscle & Joints

arthritis, back pain, gout, joint inflammation

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bowel cleansing, bladder disease, bladder stones, bladder weakness, bile weakness, constipation, cystitis, digestion, flatulence, gallstones, gastritis, gastrointestinal, gastric inflammation, laxative, liver weakness, intestinal inflammation, kidney weakness, stomach pain, stomach cramps, stomach weakness, ulcers, urinary infections

Skin & Hair

abscess, acne, jaundice

Properties

cholagogue, depurative, diuretic, hepatic, stomachic, tonic

Description

Taraxacum officinale grows from generally unbranched taproots and produces one to more than ten stems that are typically 5 to 40 cm tall, but sometimes up to 70 cm tall. The stems can be tinted purplish, they are upright or lax, and produce flower heads that are held as tall or taller than the foliage. The foliage may be upright-growing or horizontally spreading; the leaves have petioles that are either unwinged or narrowly winged.

The stems can be glabrous or sparsely covered with short hairs. Plants have milky latex and the leaves are all basal; each flowering stem lacks bracts and has one single flower head. The yellow flower heads lack receptacle bracts and all the flowers, which are called florets, are ligulate and bisexual. The fruits are mostly produced by apomixis.

The leaves are 5 to 45 cm long and 1 to 10 cm wide, and are oblanceolate, oblong, or obovate in shape, with the bases gradually narrowing to the petiole. The leaf margins are typically shallowly lobed to deeply lobed and often lacerate or toothed with sharp or dull teeth.

The calyculi (the cuplike bracts that hold the florets) are composed of 12 to 18 segments: each segment is reflexed and sometimes glaucous. The lanceolate shaped bractlets are in two series, with the apices acuminate in shape. The 14- to 25-mm wide involucres are green to dark green or brownish-green, with the tips dark gray or purplish. The florets number 40 to over 100 per head, having corollas that are yellow or orange-yellow in color.

The fruits, called cypselae, range in color from olive-green or olive-brown to straw-colored to grayish, they are oblanceoloid in shape and 2 to 3 mm long with slender beaks. The fruits have 4 to 12 ribs that have sharp edges. The silky pappi, which form the parachutes, are white to silver-white in color and around 6 mm wide. Plants typically have 24 or 40 pairs of chromosomes but some plants have 16 or 32 chromosomes

Properties & Uses

The dandelion is a commonly used herbal remedy. It is especially effective and valuable as a diuretic because it contains high levels of potassium salts and therefore can replace the potassium that is lost from the body when diuretics are used. All parts of the plant, but especially the root, are slightly aperient, cholagogue, depurative, strongly diuretic, hepatic, laxative, stomachic and tonic. The root is also experimentally cholagogue, hypoglycaemic and a weak antibiotic against yeast infections. The dried root has a weaker action. The roots can be used fresh or dried and should be harvested in the autumn when 2 years old. The leaves are harvested in the spring when the plant is in flower and can be dried for later use. A tea can be made from the leaves or, more commonly, from the roots. The plant is used internally in the treatment of gall bladder and urinary disorders, gallstones, jaundice, cirrhosis, dyspepsia with constipation, oedema associated with high blood pressure and heart weakness, chronic joint and skin complaints, gout, eczema and acne. The plant has an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Pneumococci, Meningococci, Bacillus dysenteriae, B. typhi, C. diphtheriae, Proteus etc. The latex contained in the plant sap can be used to remove corns, warts and verrucae. The latex has a specific action on inflammations of the gall bladder and is also believed to remove stones in the liver. A tea made from the leaves is laxative. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Taraxacum officinale for dyspepsia, urnary tract infections, liver and gallbladder complaints, appetite loss. 

Other Uses

The flowers are an ingredient of 'QR' herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. A liquid plant feed can be made from the root and leaves. A low quality latex, which can be used for making rubber, can be obtained from the roots of this plant. A magenta-brown dye is obtained from the root. The plant releases ethylene gas, this stunts the growth of nearby plants and causes premature ripening of fruits. A distilled water made from the ligules (thin appendages at the base of the leaf blades) is used cosmetically to clear the skin and is particularly effective in fading freckles.

Cautions

This plant has been mentioned in various books on poisonous plants but any possible toxins will be of very low concentration and toxicity. There are reports that some people have suffered dermatitis as a result of touching the plant, this is probably caused by the latex in the leaves and stems

Distribution

Throughout most of the northern hemisphere, including Britain.

Constituents

Bitters, vitamins, minerals, choline, inulin