Backyard Apothecary: The Amazing Dandelion

My father always hated dandelions in his yard and used to pay my brother to pull them out or pick their flowers before they went to seed. Six years ago, he was dying of liver cancer. It had spread to his brain and he was quite delusional during his last weeks. In one particularly maniacal episode, he was outside in his yard tearing dandelions out of the ground with so much hatred you’d have thought they were killing him. Upon hearing this story from my step-mom, I couldn’t help but be struck with the irony of it. Had my father, instead, embraced dandelions as an edible and medicinal weed for all those years, digging them up to eat them instead of trying to eradicate them, he may not have been dying at all.

Dandelion is an extremely nourishing plant; its properties especially support the liver as well the kidneys, spleen, pancreas and the entire digestive system. Dandelion is extremely holistic, improving the function of the lymph, circulatory, glandular, urinary and nervous systems. Its leaves are extremely high in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium and calcium. Its roots are mineral rich, containing calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, choline, and even protein, carotenes and mineral salts. I personally have had a chronic irritation of the skin and mucous membrane in and around my nostril clear up from adding dandelion infusions to my daily diet for a while. I took this to indicate that I had an allergy or sensitivity that the dandelion helped to balance.

Dandelion roots act as a mild laxative, safe for young children and the elderly. My son has been plagued by chronic constipation, probably as a symptom of food sensitivities, but no homeopathic remedy, diet change or massage technique made more than a minor improvement. I finally tried a dandelion tincture and he almost immediately began having daily bowel movements.

Dandelion also acts to kill bacteria, fungus and viruses in the body. The connection between some viruses and cancer has already been established. Italian oncologist Dr. Tullio Simoncini has developed a theory that cancer is a fungus, and that it thrives in a body with imbalanced pH levels. I will digress to add that he has been successfully treating breast and other cancers by bathing the tumours with baking soda. Needless to say he has been kicked out of the medical association. But back to my point, regular use of dandelion supports the body systems that eliminate toxins, gradually kills fungal and viral growths and balances virtually all of our bodies’ systems. As New York-based herbalist Susun Weed writes in her book Healing Wise, dandelion can "create a potassium-rich anti-cancer environment” in our bodies. Had my father been consuming dandelion for all the years he fought to eradicate it, would he have become so sick in the first place? This I will never know, but I’m working on testing the theory with my own body.

Winter is the ideal time to collect dandelion, and any other roots, because this is where the energy of the plant is currently focused. Every couple of days I go and dig a few, then wash the whole plant, chop it up and put it in a quart jar. I then pour boiling water over it, screw on the lid and let it sit for eight hours. This is what is called an infusion. The flavour is mildly bitter but incredibly satisfying.

Rose Dickson is an artist and writer with a passion for natural health. A self-taught herbalist who specializes in local, urban wild-crafting and do-it-yourself medicine, she has most recently begun researching quantum physics and how it relates to health. She can be reached at