I missed the full moon in April, the new moon too. April came and April went, ha! Sometimes that’s just what happens and you gotta pick-up wherever you can. May’s Full Moon Herb Highlight is one of the most tenacious, health-giving, and misunderstood herbs out there - Dandelion!
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) may very well be one of Mother Earth’s most precious gifts to us. Every part of the plant can be used as food and medicine. It is often one of the very first plants to pop up in our spring lawns - providing valuable food to the emerging pollinators and us. Those generous spring leaves are highly nutritious, diuretic, digestive stimulants, support the liver, and are alterative (meaning they help to alter the body into a state of wellness by supporting elimination pathways.) They are high in vitamin C, vitamin K1, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene. The potassium is particularly useful as many other diuretics can leach potassium from the body, not so with dandelion leaves! The bitter leaves make a delightful addition to salads (don’t forget to sprinkle on the flowers) and can be steamed or added to soups. I like to include some in pesto made with chickweed and spinach - delicious, healthy, and all growing within reach of my back door.
Dandelion roots are the best friend your liver didn’t know it needed. The root increases the function of the liver and decreases inflammation throughout the body. Many herbalists use Dandelion root to kickstart sluggish digestion and stagnation. By supporting digestion and the liver, Dandelion root is a valued treatment for skin rashes, eczema and acne, and hormonal imbalances or tension such as PMS. In addition to all that goodness, the root is also high in inulin, a type of carbohydrate that beneficial gut flora love to gobble up. All that hiding out in your front yard!
Given the incredible therapeutic range of Dandelion it saddens and confounds me that we use an approximated 80 million pounds of herbicides annually in this nation, many specifically targeted at Dandelion! I am on a one-woman mission to push back on the concept of the American Lawn. According to NASA, turf grasses occupy 2% of the surface of the continental US and are the single largest irrigated crop. Two percent on a crop we can’t eat and our pollinators can’t use! The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that running an average gas-powered lawn mower for an hour can create the same amount of pollution as driving a car 340 miles. Just think of the hours spent mowing all those lawns! I invite you this spring to reconsider your own front yard. Is there a small space, perhaps even just a corner, that you can fill with native plants and allow to run wild? Imagine the goodness you can grow!
Creasy, R. (2010). Edible landscaping. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.
de la Foret, R. (2017). Alchemy of herbs. New York: Hay House, Inc.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2005). Lawn surface area in the United States. earthobservatory.nasa.gov