Even Grandma, repeating and repeating the fine and golden words, even as they were said now in this moment when the flowers were dropped into the press, as they would be repeated every winter for all the white winters in time. Saying them over and over on the lips, like a smile, like a sudden patch of sunlight in the dark.
Dandelion Wine. Dandelion Wine. Dandelion Wine.
(Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine)
I laughed out loud upon my first visit to France, when I saw Dandelion for sale as a tea. Pissenlit, the label everywhere read.
Literally translated: “piss-in-bed”.
Mais oui. One of Dandelion’s primary uses is as a diuretic.
It has been blooming for a couple of months now hereabouts (I still haven’t recovered from the odd sensation of seeing the flowers in January) and is one of a handful of herbs that is delicious and versatile in the kitchen: wine, vinegar, beer, salad, fritters…
It is the Spring Equinox this week: wherever you are, hopefully you’ll start seeing Dandelion, too–and start experimenting. (If you want to start out traditionally by tasting a leaf, look for the youngest ones, in a rosette of leaves that are healthy and standing up from the earth, in a spot away from roads or any place where there has been chemical applications. Remember never to taste anything unless you are absolutely sure what it is! Get a guide if you aren’t certain.)
Dandelion is also a plant that, despite its revilement in the West, is so tied to our childhood memories, songs, and games. I still sit down each summer and blow away the seeds to find how many wishes might stay with me. Growing up in Wisconsin, we used to coyly ask someone “do you like mustard?”, and if they said yes, lean over and smear the blossom on their skin, hard, so the stain had the appearance of the condiment.
Dandelion | Taraxacum officinale
Taraxacum: deriving perhaps from the Greek nouns ἡ ταραχή (“disorder” or “disturbance”) and το ἄκος (“remedy”). The Greek word ταραχή actually referred to physiological disturbance (for example, of the bowels) in ancient literature.
Dandelion: Understood to be derived from the French Dent de lion (Lion’s tooth), which goes back to the equivalent Latin (Dens leonis) and Greek (Leontodon) names. There is, however, confusion as to which part of the herb—leaf, root, or flower—inspired the appellation (for more on this, cf. Grieve).
Common names: Fairy’s clock, Gowan, Lion’s tooth, Pee in the bed, Piss-a-bed, Priest’s crown, Puffball, Swine’s snout, Wild succory; French: Chicorée savage, Coq, Couronne de moine, Dent-de-lion, Fleur d’or, Florin d’or, Groin-de-porc, Groin de cochon, Laitue de chien, Liondent, Pissenlit, Salade de taupe, Sou d’or, taupinet; Latin: Dens leonis; Ancient Greek: Leontodon.
Dandelion leaf is widely used as a diuretic (it is much stronger than the root in this application due to higher potassium, but otherwise somewhat similar to the root). In teas you’ll often find both root and leaf mixed together. The leaf is employed as well for its bitterness, which aids digestion and traditional springtime detoxifications. The root is traditionally used for detoxifying the liver.
If Ray Bradbury gets under your skin, here’s a recipe for Dandelion Wine.
You can read more in-depth about Dandelion in the Materia medica.
Do you remember playing with Dandelion as a child? Share your stories below.
I am a doctor of philosophy, not of medicine. While I am a holistic practitioner, this information is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent conditions and diseases. It is a compilation of current and historical research combined with personal experience. Use herbs with caution, do your own research, and consult with your own health practitioner(s).