Winter is a time for comfort foods and thick sweaters. The cold weather encourages us to eat rich, calorie laden foods that give us an insulating layer of fat to keep us warm. My wife and I like nothing better than to sit by the fire with a glass of red wine, a loaf of warm crusty bread and a wedge of “roaring 40s blue” as we dream of warm days and summer delights. But, there is a price to pay for those fatty foods we crave in winter and it is not just what’s being hidden by our bulky winter clothes. Along with the “spare tire” or “muffin top” comes the fat we are depositing in our livers. Once this fat is in there it congests the liver and interferes with its ability to do its many jobs – one of which is to help us burn off that winter layer in time for beach season. But nature’s design is wonderful and amazing. Just when our bodies need a good internal “spring cleaning” the earth provides us with just what we need – and it is growing everywhere you look.
Yes, that’s right. I said dandelions. Every child’s first bouquet to mommy and every yard mans’ enemy. The leaves and roots of this humble wildflower offer herbs and nutrients that help our bodies naturally detoxify. The dandelion has been part of the traditional healing practices of cultures all over the world and is still used today in herbal medicine practices. It has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including inflammation, jaundice, hepatitis, loss of appetite, upset stomach, intestinal gas and muscle aches to name a few. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the leaves of this plant can be used to treat conditions of the liver, kidneys and gallbladder.
The most active ingredients in dandelions are germacranolide, eudesmanolide (substances unique to dandelions) and luteolin. The dandelion also delivers a ton of nutrients when ingested, including Vitamins A, C, D and B complex, as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron and silicon. The presence of all this good stuff makes the dandelion an incredibly nutritious food as well as a safe, natural way to cleanse and detoxify your liver, gallbladder and kidneys.
The best time to harvest dandelions will vary depending on climate, but if you live in a four season area like the northeast U.S. there is a small window of opportunity for collecting the best dandelion greens. Sometime between mid-April to mid-May the greens will be ready to pick and use in salads, soups, stews, and even for wine or tea. The roots are pretty tasty when roasted and added to a salad. The smaller leaves are best for salad and what “country people” have told me is that, once the flower has gone to seed, the greens are too bitter to use anymore.
The Practical Truth
Having discussed all the benefits of dandelions I am quite sure that the majority of people who read this article will find it interesting but will still dig up every one they see and throw it on the compost pile. That’s okay. I don’t really expect most people to start foraging for herbs to put in their dinner salad. Considering the amount of air pollution and pesticides in the soil, harvesting your own dandelions is probably a bad idea anyway. But there is a larger lesson here that we can learn from nature – at certain times of the year, we should detoxify our bodies.
My recommendation would be to use a well-designed liver support complex that contains dandelion in it. And, since our toxic exposure is a year-round thing, regular use of this nutritional supplement would be a smart choice. Look for a complex that contains any or all of these other natural plant sources for purification:
- Milk Thistle
- Turmeric (or Curcumin, it’s active ingredient)
- Beet Leaf
So, if you can’t find a safe source of these natural remedies around your home or at a farmer’s market – or if you just don’t feel like becoming the suburban Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild) – do the next best thing: buy a high quality liver/kidney support complex and use it regularly.