I will never forget my first encounter with Taraxacum officinialis at Easter, many years ago in North-East Germany at the border with Poland. The fresh and juicy grass was filled with yellow spots from the countless flowers while the black and white cows lazily munched on them. Complete with that perfect blue sky and the warm afternoon sun to make it whole.
Enchanted, I drew closer to that small plant that rarely exceeds 30 cm. It reminded me of bitter chicory and I was impressed by its rich, jagged leaves that in many countries give it the name “Lion’s teeth”- “dens leonis” along with its firm golden- yellow flower. Taraxacum Officinialis in Greece is difficult to uproot. It is a plant that lasts for over 50 years with strong roots firmly planted in the earth. The root can reach depths of 50 metres. In my eyes, this herb shows generosity, liveliness and pride. Everything on it says “abundance”; be it its strong root system, rich leaves, firm golden/yellow flower or countless seeds. Particularly, the seeds are transformed into a sizeable ball that the wind carries along spreading the plant in every available spot. We used to call these balls of seeds “thieves” when I was young because of the way they’d fly with the wind. I cut some of the flowers and some leaves and my hands were covered in milk. A milk that made my fingers sticky and left a very bitter aftertaste.
Everyone would agree that milk makes us think of the warm motherly hug, of sweetness and security and of peace and warmth. The image of the caring mother with her baby on her hug is archetype for such things. Even in the animal kingdom, there are thousands of species such as lambs, sheep, lion cubs etc that will instinctively seek the life force of milk as soon as they are born. Things are different as far as plant life is considered, where we rarely come across any type of milk and when we do it is usually toxic. But there is one family whose milk is nurturing and helpful. This is the family of Taraxacum Officinialis.
Lets see some of the other families that “produce milk” and their effects on the human body:
The most commonly known family is the one of the poppies (papaveracea). A family with numerous healing plants, many of which require deeper herbalism knowledge for processing such as the white poppy, Papaver somniferum and even Chelidonium. Their milk contains alkaloids, in small or large amounts, that affect our nervous system. The red poppy is well known for its anticonvulsant action for the stomach and the orange poppy (or California poppy) for treating insomnia and stress. The alkaloid milk of the white poppy can become a dangerous and addictive drug. It is also known as opium and has the ability to “send” someone back to infancy. It loosens conscience, reduces pain sensitivity, removes mental alertness and opens widely the doors of dreaming while putting the hunter and creator inside us to sleep. But, as Paracletus said “the amount makes the poison”, since the milk of the white poppy has been vital to medicine for years.
Another milk-bearing family is the one of Euphorbiaceae (spurge family). Their milk is poisonous and caustic. For example, a goat could mistaken some spurge for dried weed and eat mix it with its food; It would get poisoned and its milk could pass on the poisoning to whoever consumes it. In the past, Spurge milk was a good treatment for moles and warts.
The fig tree also produces caustic milk and much is said for the deep sleep one has if they fall asleep under its shadow.
How about the Taraxacum? What effect does the bitter milk of this small bodied king have on animals and humans? Why are goats, cows and sheep so eager to eat it? What do they get from the sharp “Lion’s teeth”? What is it that makes this small prant a very important green healer?
Taraxacum officinalis, the common dandelion (often simply called “dandelion”), is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae (Compositae) that includes most of or known edible weeds such as chicory, bitter chicory, cichorium and lettuce of all shapes and colors. Taraxacum is both sustenance and treatment and it has been used for ages as a tonic for the digestive system with its detoxifying, anti-rheumatic, diuretic and hepatoprotective properties.
To live means to transform, adopt and flow through all levels of our existence. We eat vegetables, fish and meat and our body transforms them into energy, structural elements for the body, protein, fat, hormones etc. It keeps whatever it can use and discards the rest. The same is true for opinions, ideas and emotions. Let’s focus on food metabolism. Our digestive system is responsible for the success of this process and the process starts at the mouth. Triggered only by the smell of a freshly cooked meal, the saliva generating glands in the mouth begin to “drool”. This means that the process of digestion has become with saliva being released into the mouth and digestive enzymes into the stomach. Our whole system is preparing to accept foreign bodies and assimilate them. In this transformation; the pancreas, the gallbladder, the small intestine and the liver all have a role to play. Inside the small intestine, processing happens, and the food is broken into its basic components and digested. The useful components will be transported to the liver, our biochemical factory, while the useless ones keep on their course for the exit. It is important to remember that good health in the digestive system equals good health in general. A good digestive system amounts to more life energy, a stronger immune system, more flexibility and by extent longevity.
This is where Taraxacum Officinialis and its bitter milk come in!
The word bitter in biochemistry is a general term that covers many different water-based biochemical solutions that taste bitter. There are herbs considered aromatic bitter such as Angelica and Acorus calamus, or just bitter such as Gentian. There is also the exquisite bitter milk of the family of Taraxacum Officinialis.
Everything bitter works through taste. They activate the digestive glands that produce the enzymes needed for a successful digestion. Taraxacum milk also works as an emulsifier . We all know that it’s impossible for fats and water to become homogeneous without an emulsifier. This is also true for our bodies. Taraxaco’s bitter milk supports the proper function of our digestive system and helps with metabolising fats. It lessens the amount of triglycerides and helps turn them into HDL. Taraxaco is a necessary ally against high cholesterol. It helps with the circulation of blood, lymph and the circulation of milk for pregnant women.
Taraxacum contains phenol that has detoxifying action and inulin , found in greater concentration at its root, that offer protection to the liver. The combination of the two aforementioned substances results in the regeneration of liver cells.
It also includes phytosterol that is responsible for the good quality of our sexual hormones. Phytosterol and Phenol combined have great anti inflammatory properties.
It is a strong but harmless diuretic, due to the large amounts of potassium it contains. This helps it take care of our kidneys and get rid of toxins as smoothly as possible. Its bitter taste helps with B12 vitamin absorption and as a result it directly supports the health of the red cells in the blood and by extent the cell’s “breathing”. For those reasons this herb is basic in treatments for heart problems, circulatory issues, rheumatism, chronic dermatitis and more.
It contains natural silicon which is necessary for the elasticity of the bones and health of the glands. It is food for our cartilages and for the surface of our eyes. It contains magnesium, zinc and copper; all necessary metals for the liveliness of the blood and the creation of digestive enzymes.
Taraxacum is an herb that provides us with liveliness, adaptability and joy. Our teacher used to say: “It is better to drink bitter things than being bitter yourself”. That contains great wisdom since bitter substances can make melancholy go away. According to Hippocrates melancholy comes from the lessened production of gull from the liver and the absence of gull in the gull bladder. Gull is the “oily” substance that is necessary for the metabolism of fat. Bitter substances and emulsifiers increase gull production in the liver and tone up the gall bladder. This way, we stop being moody.
Its a herb that can help control the secretion of gall. Its use should be avoided in cases of stenosis or an infection in the gall bladder.
Taraxacum Oficiniallis along with the Nettle are herbs that in my opinion should not be missed by any healing plan. Taraxacum sets the foundation on which a specialised and personalised cure can be built. No matter what ailments is suffered by the patient. Taraxacum will detoxify and help liver cells in producing and distributing digestive enzymes. It tones the function of the kidneys and urinary system and by extend supports the circulatory system and the heart. It can help solve hormonal problems, especially inside the female reproductive circle, for people of any age, with or without fluid witholding.
During the spring, a six-week treatment with Taraxacum (and nettle) is the best gift one can give themselves. Especially if they suffer from rheumatism.
Short list of problems it can cope with: digestive issues, bloating, constipation, increased cholesterol, liver failure, rheumatism, increased uric acid or kidney stones, chronic eczema, breast feeding issues.
Useful parts: flowers, leaves, roots
Marilena Moshouti is a holistic healer (Heilpraktikerinn). She was born in Athens and studied healing art in Berlin. She worked in Berlin and later in Athens. Today, she lives in Oropos where she farms the land and produces her own herbs. She also writes stories about herbs and gives lectures in botany in Athens, Crete, Peloponnisos and Berlin.