Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
If you read about the Daisy in our Lunchtime Botany here is a follow up to its cousin - Dandelion - in the same botanical family, the Compositeas or Asteraceaes. Remember, if you look closely, you will see that each 'flower' head is actually composed of hundreds of tiny flowers. Whereas the Daisy has an outer ring of white 'petals' which are single ray florets (think sun rays), and a centre disc made up of tiny yellow flowers - disc florets, the Dandelion is entirely of 'ray florets'. The deeply toothed leaves give the name - Dandelion is taken from the french 'Dent-de-lion' or 'lions teeth', which along the dandy golden mane-like flower head looks just like a lion.
So: Dandelions, the gardeners bane. This flower has a large taproot that grows deep underground and is notoriously difficult to remove. But if only everyone knew how useful it was!
Uses - medicinal & edible
The leaves are a potassium sparing diuretic and is used for diseases associated with the kidneys, high blood pressure and swollen ankles. An old name for Dandelion was 'wet-the-beds', attesting to the power of its ability to provoke urination (It won't really make you wet the bed though). It is also an excellent salad leaf, being bitter but refreshing, and is popular in trendy restaurants!
The root has been roasted and ground as a replacement coffee, and is brewed by herbalists in a hot water extract (decoction) for treating constipation, safely used even for children. It is known as a liver remedy and can help produce more bile and digestive juices to get the digestion moving and efficient.
The flowers can be infused in oil to make a relaxing rub or bath oil.
And finally the latex (the white sap) which was said to remove warts if applied regularly can be used as a mild henna tattoo!
Gradually breaking a dandelion stem down in inch sections from the top, use the white sap to draw designs on your skin. Allow to dry without smudging. After a few hours, the sap will have darkened. It will usually last overnight but comes off with a good wash. Stems in full flower picked on a hot sunny day work best.