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Did you know that every part of the dandelion is not only edible but medicinal? Long before the love of green lawns took over the nation, the golden blossoms and lion-toothed leaves were once praised as a bounty of foragable food and medicine. In fact, there was once a time when gardeners would weed out grass to make room for dandelions! But somewhere around the twentieth century, someone decided that the dandelion was a weed.
But here on our homestead, we view them as not only food but a valuable addition to our herbal first aid kit. The use of dandelions in herbal medicine goes back millenniums. Throughout history, people have been using dandelion tonics to help support the liver, kidneys, and digestive system, as well as provide nutrients. This humble little weed has more vitamin A than spinach, more vitamin C than tomatoes, and is a powerhouse of iron, calcium, and potassium. They also contain vitamin E, folate, and small amounts of other B vitamins.
A Quick Disclaimer
Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean that it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, there are many plants that should be avoided when pregnant or nursing, and some that can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Before using herbal preparations, always do your research, speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns, and never fail to seek medical advice when needed.
What is Dandelion Good For?
The dandelion has a plethora of uses in herbal medicine. It works primarily to support liver and gallbladder functions, as well as helping to remove waste while stimulating the kidneys to remove toxins in the urine. This abundant little plant also supports the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria as well as supports heart health by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. There is also some evidence that shows it can support immune health.
What is a Tincture?
Tinctures have been around for millennia, and these simple-to-make concoctions are a key component of traditional herbal medicine. Tinctures are nothing more than concentrated herbal extracts made by soaking the medicinal parts of plants in a solvent like alcohol or vinegar. This process extracts a greater spectrum of the plant, concentrates them as a liquid, and preserves the medicinal qualities longer than an infusion or a decoction.
Alcohol is the most commonly used solvent for tinctures because many plants have medicinal properties that are not water-soluble. The other reason is that alcohol has the ability to quickly enter the bloodstream, making your medicinals much faster acting.
What Kind of Alcohol is Used?
Both vodka and Everclear are popular for tincture making. But any brandy, rum, or gin will work as long as the alcohol content is between 40-60% ABV (80-120 proof). Everclear can be hard for some people to take, so vodka is the most common choice. However, if you’re working with tough roots, Everclear may be a better choice. Dandelion roots are not particularly hard, so for this tincture, vodka will be fine.
Ethically Harvesting Dandelions
Many people consider dandelions an invasive weed, and they declare war on them every spring, so you may be asking, why would I need to harvest them ethically? But the dandelion serves its purpose in nature, and just like with any other foraged plant, you don’t want to completely decimate any area. Always leave a few blossoms in each area you collect from to ensure the plant is not killed off.
Making Dandelion Tincture
Making dandelion tincture is a very simple process requiring few ingredients or supplies. All you need is freshly dug dandelions, vodka, and a sealable jar.
Enough dandelion leaves and chopped roots to fill your desired jar ¾ of the way full.
Enough Vodka or Everclear to completely cover your plant matter
Place the dandelion root and leaves in a clean glass jar.
Fill the jar with vodka or Everclear, making sure the roots are fully submerged.
Put a lid on the jar and place it in a cool dark place for about one month, giving the jar a shake every now and then.
At the end of a month, when the tincture is ready, strain the roots from the vodka.
Put the strained tincture into a clean dark glass jar, label it, and store it in a cool dark place.
How to Use Dandelion Tincture
Dandelion tincture is a useful home remedy for a lot of different ailments, but here are some general dosing guidelines.
For indigestion - 10 drops in water every hour as needed.
For arthritis, gout, or liver troubles - 1 teaspoon three times a day.
For acute skin irritations - 10 drops in water frequently throughout the day.
For Maintaining General Health - 1/2 teaspoon twice daily, or try drinking it with hot water as a tea sweetened with honey, if desired.
Cautions and Side-Effects
Dandelion is generally considered safe and is well tolerated by most adults when consumed in moderation. However, some people have reported side effects, including heartburn, diarrhea, upset stomach, and skin irritation. Dandelion also contains iodine and latex, so avoid it if you have allergies to either of these substances.
Pregnant or nursing women are advised to avoid dandelion remedies as there haven’t been enough studies or research into their long-term safety. Dandelion should be avoided if the gallbladder is inflamed or bile ducts are blocked, and of course, avoid it if you’re allergic.
As with any herbal remedy, always discuss its use with a healthcare provider to avoid any drug interactions with current medications.
A Side Note About Milky Tinctures
Sometimes root tinctures like dandelion will take on a cloudy or milky appearance. If that happens to your tincture, don’t be tempted to toss it thinking it's gone bad. That cloudy substance is called inulin, and it is a healthy starch and prebiotic. If your tincture develops inulin, don’t strain it out. Just shake well before using so that you get the benefits of that milky starch.
What do you think? Are you ready to embrace the healing power of the mighty little dandelion? If you decide to make this tincture, tell us all about it in the comments below! And as always, until next time,