Dandelions grow in northern places and are cultivated in India for their health benefits. Every child loves to play with the seeds; blowing them and watching them scatter on the wind. We used to call them dandelion “clocks” in Wales, but my grandfather told me that if I picked a dandelion and ate it I would “piss in the bed”, so I never picked them after that. This comes from the French name for the dandelion, pisse-en-lit, and refers, no doubt to the plants diuretic properties. The ancient Welsh physicians of Myddfai had many uses for the dandelion, as recorded in The Red Book of Hengist which is part of “The Mabingion”. Here is an extract for a dandelion remedy: -
§13. For intermittent fevers. Take dandelion and fumatory, infused in water, the first thing in the morning. Then about
noon take wormwood infused in water likewise, drinking it as often as ten times, the draught being rendered tepid. Let bread made with pounded wheat be also taken, or oaten cakes, goat's whey, the flesh of a young fowl, husky porridge in water, milk being abstained from, and indeed every kind of milk diet. If the ague does not then terminate, the patient must be put in a bath, when the paroxysm come.”
   The Latin name Taraxacum comes from the Greek, taraxos meaning disorder and akos meaning remedy. The dandelion has been used for centuries in the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders, and medical science has found that these remedies have some scientific foundation, but say that more trials are needed to confirm these initial findings.
  In India they are used to remedy liver problems and in Britain they have long been used to counteract the same problems. The parts used in medicine are the root and the leaves, with the flowers made into dandelion wine.
    The name dandelion is a corruption of the Latin name for this plant; Dens leonis which means lion’s teeth and it is believed that the name refers to the shape of the leaves. In an ancient German manuscript dated 1532, “Brunfel’s Contrafayt Kreuerbuch”, the leaves of the dandelion are illustrated and they look like a lions teeth. In the “Ortus Sanitatis” manuscript of 1485 it is written “ The herb was much employed by Master Wihelmus, a surgeon, who, on account of its virtues, likened it to ‘eynem lewen zan, gennet zu latin Dens leonis’, (a lion’s tooth in Latin called Dens leonis)
   It could be, of course that as the dandelion flowers in August it coincides with Leo in astrological terms, so it could be that lion from which the plant got its name.
   In the Middle Ages it was referred to as “Priest’s Crown” which is what the head of the flower looks like after the seeds have scattered. The shaven tonsures of priests were then often seen.
    The plant is mentioned in Arab manuscripts dating from the 10th and 11th centuries and it was used by Ibn Sina among others. These physicians referred to it as the “wild endive” and Taraxcacon.
    The root can be roasted and then ground to make a coffee substitute which tastes fine and doesn’t leave you wide awake at night. The plant has been used to make beer too, and dandelion stout was once a favourite drink in the Midlands in Britain. It is also good as beer when mixed with nettles and docks, and there is a fizzy drink that was originally called “dandelion and burdock”, which has a very different flavour to most carbonated drinks.
  You can make a soup from the young dandelion leaves with sorrel leaves and nettles, and add the young leaves to other soups. They are good in egg sandwiches, liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, and the young leaves may be added to salads, making a good substitute for spinach. You can also boil them and then cook with spinach as a side dish that is rich in iron.
  The whole plant is rich in vitamins A, B complex, C and D, iron, potassium and zinc. Dandelions have been used to cure fevers, as a mild laxative, to stop diarrhoea, for eye problems and various other ailments. Research has shown that they may be valuable for diabetics as they can regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol levels.
 There are many remedies which use dandelions roots, some of which are given below. If you go out to harvest the roots, look for large fleshy ones, and do this in autumn when the latex is at its most potent; ignore ones that are slender and forked. It is said that you can use the milky sap from the flower stalks to get rid of warts. You can use a juicer to get the sap from the leaves, and have a teaspoon of it 3 times a day as a general spring tonic. Tisanes have been used for weight loss, as they rid the body of fluid and keep the bowel clean. One tisane can be prepared by using 1 oz of the plant to 1 pint of boiling water. Pour the water onto the plant and leave to steep for 10 minutes. This has been used to stop nausea and vomiting.
   A decoction of the root, which is said to dispel gall and kidney stones, is to use 1 part of sliced root to 20 parts of water and boil this for 15 minutes then strain and sweeten with honey. This also aids digestion and cures flatulence and improves the appetite.
   For eczema and other skin problems, try this decoction: 2 oz plant or root and 2 pints of water. Bring this to the boil and then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Take a small cup of it every 3 hours
If you have liver problems, then you might want to try this: 1 oz dandelion root, ½ oz caraway seeds (kala zeera) ½ oz ginger root, ½ oz cinnamon quills, ¼ oz senna leaves and 3 pints of water. Boil all these ingredients and simmer until the water has reduced to half. Strain and cool, then add sugar, ½ lb, and boil again, removing any scum that appears on the top. Cool and take in teaspoonful doses frequently. Alternatively you could try this one for liver and kidney health: 1 oz broom (the plant) tops, ½ oz juniper berries, ½ oz dandelion root (fresh or dried), 1and a half pints of water. Boil for 10 mins then strain and add cayenne pepper to taste. Take 1 tablespoon 3 times a day.
   For a leaf tisane, take an ounce of fresh leaves and 1 cup of boiling water. Pour the water over the leaves and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes, strain and take 1-2 teaspoons 3 times a day as a mild laxative.

½ lb fresh young dandelion leaves
½ lb spinach
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion finely chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
butter or oil for frying
Put dandelion leaves in a pan of water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain then pat dry.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a pan and add the spinach and dandelion leaves, cook over a low heat until they have wilted.
Add the pine nuts to the pan and coat in the oil and fry the garlic and onion if you want to, although this isn’t necessary.
Mix the all ingredients together well and serve.
This has Taste and is a Treat.