Is Dandelion a good herb for a Spring Detox?
Lawns vs. Dandelions
Dandelion is one of the most widespread ‘weeds’ on the planet today but here in Canada it is a greatly underappreciated plant. Ironically it is the ideal herb to help our body safely detoxify the very pesticides we use to try and eradicate it from our lawns.
Before pristine grass lawns came into fashion, old world Europeans and Indigenous peoples alike consumed fresh dandelion greens in the early Spring as a restorative nutritious tonic after the long winter.
A Wild Superfood
According to Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, wild dandelion greens when compared to spinach, contain eight times more antioxidants, two times more calcium, three times more vitamin A, five times more vitamin K, and five times more vitamin E. Aside from being highly nutritious, raw dandelion greens are rich in prebiotic fibres which promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, and when dried, make an excellent potassium-sparing diuretic tea.
How it Works
The roots of the dandelion plant which are harvested in the Fall, provide ideal support for liver detoxification which is gentle, mild tasting and suitable for almost anyone to use. In traditional herbal medicine, dandelion root is considered a ‘blood cleanser’ that works primarily through the liver and gall bladder. It stimulates bile production in the liver, and encourages the gall bladder to contract and release stored bile.
Healthy bile flow is necessary for the digestion of dietary fat, for transporting toxins neutralized by the liver into the intestines, for stimulating bowel movements and the release of waste. Its ability to aid bile flow makes dandelion root useful in the treatment of indigestion, constipation, gallstones, liver disease, eczema, acne, and high cholesterol. As a ‘cholagogue’ herb which promotes the production and movement of bile, Dandelion activates the third and final phase of liver detoxification - the elimination of toxins out through the colon.
Scientific investigation has expanded our understanding of how dandelion root influences liver function. Research has revealed that dandelion root contains a powerful array of naturally occurring antioxidants which enhance Phase 2 liver detoxification. The second stage of liver detoxification is responsible for neutralizing free radicals and minimizing oxidative stress on the body, which when left unchecked can promote systemic inflammation and over time the growth of cancer cells.
The liver plays a critical role in detoxification because it filters approximately 1-2 litres of blood every minute. The liver not only handles all the man-made chemicals we are exposed to through air and water pollution, consumer products, processed foods, and medications; but it also neutralizes excess hormones and free radicals which are made by the body under the influence of various stressors.
The array of man-made toxics and internally generated toxins we deal with on a daily basis is becoming increasingly more complex. We really need to re-think our impulse to eliminate dandelion from our parks and backyards and instead consider it as a highly valuable wild food and medicine.
Lessons from Nature
Wild plants like Dandelion produce a wide range of phytochemicals which protect them from stressful environmental conditions, disease and predation. One of the most abundant chemical defenses found in plants are antioxidants. In the process of breaking down CO2 and H2O, plants are continuously exposed to the damaging effects of pure oxygen and therefore require advanced antioxidant responses for survival.
When you compare the chemical profile of wild plants to antioxidant supplements made up of isolated compounds, or commercially produced ‘superfoods’, they contain a much more complex and sophisticated array of antioxidants as part of their defense system. Science is just beginning to understand that the power of antioxidants lies in diversity rather than concentration, something only wild plants can offer us.
The more we chemically and genetically engineer our food supply, the more we diminish the level and diversity of antioxidants available in our diets. The rich array of nutrients and antioxidants found in wild Dandelion is the result of thousands of years of undisturbed evolutionary selection. As an indispensable aid to Stage 2 and Stage 3 liver detoxification, there is simply no better herb for a Spring cleanse than the mighty dandelion.