• Barbara Denny

Dandelion

Did you know you’ve probably pulled, stomped or sprayed a natural superfood that grows in your backyard? Dandelion is mostly known as a backyard weed, but it has amazing nutrient qualities and health promoting properties. All the parts of the plant can be used in various ways though the roots and leaves are the most commonly used as herbs. Who knew that this plant with puffy flowers that grant childhood wishes could offer so much benefit? Dandelion Root and Leaves Dandelion is a source of a variety of nutrients and the leaves and root contain Vitamins (like A,C, K and B-vitamins) as well as minerals (including magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and choline). The various parts of the plant have a long history of use as an herbal remedy, and every documented population in areas where it grows naturally has used it medicinally. It also serves as an abundant natural food source, as all parts of the plant can be eaten. The root is often roasted and used in teas or consumed whole. The leaves make a great addition to salads or other dishes requiring greens and the flowers (while still yellow), can be eaten raw, cooked or even made into wine! Traditional cultures have used dandelion to support digestive and hormone health and it was often consumed to support lactation or to help remedy issues like urinary tract infections. Benefits of Dandelion According to the How To Herb Book, this backyard superfood is beneficial in many ways, including: Liver Support and Detoxification Dandelion has been used for years by various cultures to support healthy liver function and natural detoxification in the body. Though it hasn’t been well studied, many people with hepatitis turn to it to help support the liver. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that: “In the past, roots and leaves were used to treat liver problems. Native Americans also boiled dandelion in water and took it to treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it has been used to treat stomach problems, appendicitis, and breast problems, such as inflammation or lack of milk flow. In Europe, dandelion was used in remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea.” Female Health and Hormone Balance Due to its high levels of various nutrients and potential ability to help support the body’s natural detoxification systems, dandelion is often used by those with hormone imbalance, urinary infection and recurrent mastitis. Though not well studied, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence from women who have used it to help remedy recurring UTIs or other infections. Clearer Skin Due to its natural magnesium and zinc content and its potential ability to support detoxification, dandelion is also know as being good for the skin. It can be used topically in applications like tinctures and poultices and many people also take it in capsule or tea form to help support healthy skin. Good Source of Nutrients Dandelion is a great source of many important vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and nutritive salts, which may help support blood health and increase iron absorption. I personally often add dried leaves to teas for a nutrient boost or use dandelion root in place of coffee. Blood Sugar Balance The University of Maryland Medical Center also reports that: “Preliminary animal studies suggest that dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol in diabetic mice. Researchers need to see if dandelion will work in people. A few animal studies also suggest that dandelion might help fight inflammation.” Uses of Dandelion Root and Leaves Perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to remove this “backyard weed” if we were more familiar with the myriad of uses it has. The entire dandelion plant can be used and if you have a safe (non-sprayed) source in your yard or community, you can consider harvesting it yourself. Here are some of the ways to use dandelion: Coffee Substitute Dandelion root is tougher and more hardy than the leaf and is often used in decoctions and tinctures for this reason. The powder is often added in coffee substitutes (my favorite is Dandy Blend). The root is considered a natural diuretic and is sometimes used for this purpose. Poultices Dandelion root and leaf are often listed as the ingredients of teas and poultices for abscesses and sores, especially on the breast and in female health remedies as they can help support lactation and remedy urinary issues. According to Mountain Rose Herbs: Chopped dandelion root can be combined with myrrh to make a poultice for boils and abscesses, with honeysuckle flowers to make a tea to be drunk to treat boils and abscesses, with skullcap and/or chrysanthemum flowers to make a tea to be drunk to treat sore eyes, or with heal-all to treat hard phlegm in bronchitis. Can also be administered in capsule or extract form for convenience. Dandelion Tea The flower can be used to make tea and even to make some types of wine. The leaves and root can also be used in teas, though they have a stronger taste and are often combined with other synergistic herbs for flavor and increased nutrient absorption. Salads and Greens The leaves can be consumed fresh on a salad or in recipes as well as substituted for greens like kale and collards in recipes or cooking. The antioxidant rich leaves are the most diuretic part of the plant so while they can be consumed regularly, it is important to maintain hydration too. Important Notes: It is important to check with a doctor before taking this or any herb, especially in large amounts or if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Though it is generally considered safe, those allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine may not be able to consume it. Anyone who gathers dandelion from wild sources (like the backyard) should make sure that the area has not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides and that it does not come from an area where pets may have eliminated. Compliments of www.wellnessmama.com

  • Barbara Denny

Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa, Lamiaceae.

Consider inviting wild bergamot into your garden for its beauty, medicine, and amazing ability to attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Wild bergamot is a close relative to bee balm (Monarda didyma) however, wild bergamot will thrive in hotter and drier conditions as compared to bee balm. Both bee balm and wild bergamot have been important medicines for Native American people. They are used medicinally to treat infections and digestive issues, such as gas and bloating. Wild bergamot is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and diaphoretic (brings on a sweat to break a fever). I like to use the dried leaves and flowers in a steam inhalation to help break up upper and lower respiratory congestion. Wild bergamot has a pungent aroma and flavor and can be enjoyed in tea or prepared as a tincture. The lavender flowers are edible and can be used as a garnish or tossed in salads for an extra splash of color. The leaves can be mixed with basil to create a pungent twist on the classic pesto. Wild bergamot is an herbaceous perennial; it grows 3-4’ tall by indefinitely wide. Full sun, average to well-drained soil. Zones 3-8. The seeds are Lilliputian-tiny and must be planted on the surface of the soil and misted or bottom watered (to avoid burying them too deep in the soil). For most gardeners, it’s easier to purchase a plant or divide a bit of the root from a friend’s plant. Wild bergamot spreads vigorously by runners, similar to mint. Plant it where it can go hog wild, or contain it with a rhizome barrier, as you would for mint or bamboo.

  • Barbara Denny

Stinging Nettles Urtica dioica, Urticaceae.

Nettles is a highly revered, nutritious spring green, eaten steamed or in soups and stir-fries. The sting disappears when the leaves are cooked or dried. The greens and tea of nettles are high in minerals, vitamins, and chlorophyll, namely Vitamin A and C and calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. The leaves and seeds are used medicinally in teas, and as a food, for allergies, arthritis, and as kidney tonic. Nettles is a highly useful garden plant if placed wisely in the landscape. It is considered a perennial vegetable—it does not need to be planted from seed each year, but comes back from the roots year after year, making it less energy-intensive to cultivate than many annual crops. Nettles is an herbaceous perennial; growing 3-4’ tall by indefinitely wide; full sun to part shade, rich moist soil. Zone 4-8. It will spread prolifically by runners; plant it out of the way or inside a semi-buried barrier. Try planting nettles in a wet meadow (away from human activity) or an old compost or manure pile. In some locales it will spread by seed, making containment challenging. Nettles are dynamic accumulators—a term used to describe plants with the ability to mine nutrients (such as N, K, P, Ca) from deep in the soil. These nutrients are concentrated in their leaves, and then released into the soil when the plants die or loose their leaves. Nettles can be added to compost or used as fertilizing mulch. Many gardeners make “tea” out of nettles by soaking the leaves in a bucket until fermentation occurs—the “tea” can then be used to water plants, thus fertilizing the plants, along with adding beneficial microorganisms. Nettle shoots emerge in the earliest spring, you can continually harvest the tender new growth with scissors and it will regrow, allowing for multiple harvests from the same patch.

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© 2015 by Serenity Acres Farm                                               Barbara J. Denny                                               York, SC                                     (803) 209-2806