Dandelion(Taraxacum sp.)

Dandelion, or Caisearbhán in Irish, is one of our most common wild plants and is recognisable by its large golden flowers and toothed leaves. It is a member of the daisy family. In ancient Celtic times February 1st was dedicated to the White Goddess of Ireland, England and Scotland, later christianised to St. Brigit. Her symbols were the Dandelion and the Lamb.

Long ago the white sap was taken in milk as a spring tonic and was known as Bainne Na n-Éan and Gas Searbhan meaning Birds milk and Bitter Stalk. Dandelion used to be cultivated in medieval monasteries such as Holy Cross in County Tipperary and featured in the diet of the time.

Dandelion is of importance as a cleanser, particularly of the liver and kidneys. In France, it is known as Piss-en-lit because of the diuretic properties contained in the leaves. The leaves are ideal for flushing out stones from the kidneys and urinary passages. They also help rid the body of fluid retention due to high blood pressure. The leaves contain potassium, an essential ingredient when using a diuretic. Until recently in Co Tipperary poultry owners fed Dandelion leaves to their turkeys.

During the Emergency years in County Cork and Kerry dandelion coffee was often made. For this the roots were collected from their second year onwards in the spring or autumn. They were washed, cut into large pieces and dried gently beside the open fire or in the sun until they became hard and brittle. When needed they were chopped into smaller pieces and ground by hand and used like coffee. The root contains bitters, which is good for cleansing the liver, spleen and gallbladder. In Co Meath pieces of the dried root were simmered in buttermilk, strained and taken as a cure for yellow jaundice.

In many parts of the country including Dublin the white sap from the Dandelion was a traditional remedy for warts. Protect the skin surrounding the wart with Vaseline. Squeeze out the juice from the stem to cover the wart. Allow to dry. Cover with a plaster and repeat daily. After three days the wart will turn a dark brown colour and then disappear. Juice made into an ointment along with other herbs was used as a cure for thrush in Lucan near Dublin.

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