Dandelion: Spring's First Medicine

Botanical name: Taraxacum officinale

Family: Compositae

Parts used: Whole plant (flowers, leaves, root)

Energy/taste: Leaves are cool and bitter, the root is bitter, sweet and cool.

Unani biotype: (root) Choleric

Dosage: Leaf: standard infusion, steeped 30 minutes, drunk cold up to twice daily; Root: decoction, 1 oz. in one pint of water, simmered 12-18 minutes, three times daily; Tincture: 10-30 drops, up to 4x/daily.

Dandelion has a long list of uses (most often in formula with other herbs). I'm going to save that list for another day so that we can focus on why one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring is one of the first herbs we look to for allergy relief.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spring is the season of the Liver*. As the Liver "rules" spring, it is the the Organ we want to tend to most during this change of seasons. (Yes. I hear you. We are going to operate under the assumption that the seasons will eventually change.)

The beauty of this herb lies in its action upon the functions of your very busy Liver. Dandelion stimulates the Liver and thereby aids in eliminating toxins from the blood. A backed-up Liver cannot eliminate the waste products of hormonal activity, or of environmental toxins. It cannot cleanse the blood, or synthesize bile and cholesterol, both of which are needed for many functions in the body. It cannot deal effectively clean up histamines.

When the winter finally ends and the flowers begin blooming, the proteins carried by pollens are inhaled or taken in through the eyes and set off an inflammatory response in which histamine is released. When the Liver is struggling to detoxify the blood, it can't effectively break down histamines. The result is the misery of allergy symptoms.

Because the Liver rules spring, and because it we are coming out of a long and sedentary season of overindulgence, it makes sense to tend to your Liver now. I'm not a proponent of the ever-popular spring cleanses. Dandelion supports the Liver and works gently, helping it to do what it is created to do, rather than taxing it further via the harsh mechanism of a "cleanse."

I can't imagine an allergy formula that doesn't include dandelion root.

*My inner grammarian insists I point out that in TCM, Organs and Organ Systems are capitalized. In English, common nouns (spring, for example) are not. I do my best not to let this create an existential crisis. It's hard.


-300 Herbs, Their Indications and Contraindications, by Matthew Alfs

-The Way of Herbs, by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D.

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