Don’t Throw Those Dandelion Greens Away!: There’s Powerful Medicine for Springtime in Those Garden Weeds

by Inger Giffin, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac.

“A weed is just a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dandelion acupuncture liver balancing

These guys are your Liver-balancing friends!

We’ve all seen ’em, we’ve all got ’em, right?  Those pesky, durable flowers that sprout up from everywhere in our gardens and driveways.  The typical response from most people is to either yank them out and throw them into the garden waste bag, or to give them a good dose of toxic weed killer.

Why not use them instead to your advantage, getting FREE food and medicine from an unexpected source, to balance a Wood Element or liver that needs all the support it can get in the spring?

Powerful Medicine for Clearing out the Excesses of Winter

Dandelions are not only edible, but they are one of the most powerful medicines for clearing out a sludgy liver after a winter of heavy foods.  Once again, nature knows exactly what we need.  And she gives it to us in abundance, at the exact time in which we need it.  Dandelion greens are in the “bitter” category of foods, the flavor which medicinally clears out “dampness”, or clogging, from the body.

Our western diet is sorely lacking in the bitter flavor.  Most cultures traditionally add some form of bitter foods into their meals, but in the American diet, it has all been wiped out, replaced with an overuse of foods from the sweet category.  This increase in sweet foods (grains and deserts) is the biggest factor in many of today’s health issues, from diabetes, obesity, heart disease, inflammatory or leaking bowel disorders; to the sudden increase of autoimmune disorders caused by an overactive inflammatory immune response in the body.  Chinese medicine lumps all of these conditions related to digestive sludginess into the diagnosis of “dampness”, in one form or another.  And not only do we eat too many of these foods, but it’s these very foods which cause an increased need for the cleansing power of the bitter foods—the very ones which we are not eating. The body is overwhelmed and taxed with all these foods that weaken the digestion, and it can’t process our foods well.  We then end up accumulating phlegmy or inflammatory conditions.

Eating more foods that help rid this condition from the body at the same time as stimulating the digestive function, is key.  And springtime is the best time of year to do this, because it is the season associated with, according to the 5 Elements theory of Chinese medicine, the Liver.  The liver is the organ that processes our fats and detoxes our body.  Since springtime is the season where the liver organ is king, eating foods during this season to aid it in its clearing-out function, will have a dramatic affect on its ability to do its job well.

Time to Start Eating More Cooling/Cleansing Foods

Springtime, in general, is a time when most of us can start adding more raw foods into our diet.  The foods we tend to eat as the base of salads, (greens of all kinds, including lettuces) grow and move upwards very quickly.  That means that those foods impart those qualities of movement and growth in us as well.  This ability of these foods to “move” our energy is perfect in the spring, as we come out of typically more stagnant winters, when we are more sedentary and tend to accumulate some extra weight. Springtime, being associated with the Wood Element, is also about personal growth and vision. So if you’re feeling stagnant and blocked in life, eating foods that impart the qualities of moving stagnation and rapid growth, can help get you out of an emotional or psychological rut as well.

But be careful if you are someone who has “cold” conditions.  If you are my patient, you will know whether you do or not.  Perhaps we have discussed that you shouldn’t eat ANY raw foods, which fall into the cold category.  If so, then steaming or cooking your dandelion greens will be best. If you’re someone who is hot all the time, easily agitated, restless, and stressed out, then dandelion greens thrown into a salad will work as well.  Many skin conditions characterized by red, itchy lesions, are due to too much “heat in the blood”.  Dandelions, by way of their blood-clearing and cooling nature, will help this type of rash.  Only people who are among the coldest and most depleted should avoid dandelions greens entirely (even cooked), until their body is balanced enough to be able to handle the strong cleansing affect of dandelions.

Wild Greens (Weeds) have Increased Potency

As if all of this wasn’t enough, dandelions are rich in chlorophyll, a component which helps stop the spread of pathogens such as fungi and bacteria, purifies the body, and promotes a healthy gut filled with beneficial flora.  Because they grow wild (as weeds), they have a very strong life-force potency, having developed a strength and tenacity to fight the odds of survival–an energy that all wild foods impart to their eaters as well.

So next time you’re out in your garden, go ahead and bring a colander, and separate out those dandelions from the rest of the weeds.  Bring them back into the kitchen for a good quick rinse, and add some in to your lunch and dinner that day.  Don’t worry about collecting a bunch all at once—food is the most medicinal right after it is pulled from the ground.  So just grab what you need for that day, and have faith, yes!, that those little pesky friends will keep growing abundantly, bringing you more fresh greens for the next day.  :-)

If you suspect your Liver might be imbalanced, to schedule acupuncture and set yourself up for a better spring, click here

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