Spicy Fridays with Lynn Quire: Dandelions are Lion’s TeethDATE: April 9, 2021
Dandelions are Lion’s Teeth
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale aka lion’s teeth) “Known principally as a weed, dandelion has an astonishing range of health benefits. In western folk medicine, the leaves, which can be eaten in salads, have long been used as a diuretic. They were recommended in the works of Arab physicians in the 11th century, and in an herbal written by the physicians of Myddfai in Wales in the 13th century. The root, which has a shorter history of medicinal use, is good for the liver” (Chevallier 2016).
Etymology: early 15c., earlier dent-de-lioun (late 14c.), from Middle French dent de lion, literally “lion’s tooth” (from its toothed leaves), translation of Medieval Latin dens leonis. Other folk names, like tell-time refer to the custom of telling the time by blowing the white seed (the number of puffs required to blow them all off supposedly being the number of the hour), or to the plant’s more authentic diuretic qualities, preserved in Middle English piss-a-bed and French pissenlit.
Gender: Masculine; Planet: Jupiter; Element: Air; Deity: Hecate; Powers: Divination, Wishes, Calling Spirits; Magical Uses/Folklore: To send a message to a loved one, blow at the seed head in their direction and visualize your message. It is said that a hot tea made from the root and placed beside the bed, will call spirits. To tell the time: blow three times at the seed head. The number left is the hour. Variation of that is how many times to blow them all off is the number of the hour.
Dandelions are lion’s teeth but their leaves serve as a diuretic. Diuretics can be of concern for long-term use due to the loss of potassium. Dandelion leaves actually are full of potassium and cause a net-zero effect which makes it actually an aquaretic (only eliminates water).
Uses: The roots, when dried and roasted, make an excellent coffee alternative. I drink it every morning as a part of my no sugar coffee alternative, with chicory, cacao nibs, and reishi mushrooms (recipe to follow). The root is a great prebiotic, supporting a healthy gut flora. Self-help uses include constipation, detoxification for a hangover, and fluid retention.
Identify: There are no poisonous look-a-likes for dandelions, but to accurately identify, the stem will be hollow, smooth, and extrude a milky, bitter latex substance. The leaves are hairless and serrated. The single flower is yellow with many narrow petals, that will close at night and during rain.
Harvesting: The leaves are best harvested for salads when they are small and young. The bigger, older leaves are much more bitter. The flower petals can also be used in salads, teas, jellies and infused in oils for salves and balms to use externally. Roots are generally harvested the second year from October to March. Before harvesting any plants, be sure the area is a spray-free environment, and away from major roads.
Recipe for Coffee Alternative:
One quart of water
2-3 tablespoons cacao nibs
2 teaspoons roasted dandelion root
2 teaspoons roasted chicory root
1 teaspoon licorice root (adds a bit of sweetness, optional)
1 medium slice of reishi mushroom (this is optional, but an amazing addition)
Put cold water in a nonreactive pot. Add all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes and reduced by about ⅕-¼. Strain and serve. I add it to warmed and sometimes frothed, milk for a latte.
Next week join me for a field walk to find dandelions and other common “weeds” that are all edible.
Chevallier, A. Encyclopedia of herbal medicine.
Cunningham, S. (2019). Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (2nd ed.). Llewellyn Publications.
Wildblood, G. What lies behind the etymology of the word dandelion?. Retrieved 8 April 2021, from https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/401122/what-lies-behind-the-etymology-of-the-word-dandelion