Taraxacum officinale, priest’s crown, lion’s tooth, swine’s snout. They are all names for one of the world’s most common weeds: the dandelion. A tiny puff of wind, and the weed spreads to wherever it lands. According to lawn care company TruGreen complaints about the dandelion return each and every year. A single season can lead to a true invasion of this plant. But is it really so evil?

What Is the Dandelion?

The dandelion was purposefully cultivated by the Romans and Celts and they used it in their kitchens. There are Arabian herbalist records dating back to 900CE mentioning the plant. In the 13th century, it was used extensively by the Welsh. In India, it has been part of Ayurveda medicine, where it is used to solve liver problems. All over the world, some 600 different dandelions exist, but very few of them still require cultivation. They have spread and taken over, in other words.

The yellow flower of the dandelion opens up to the sun as soon as it comes up. It stays open right until night time. Each leaf funnels rainwater to the root. The stems can grow up to 12” if left untouched, with an 18” maximum circumference if there has been a lot of rain. But what is really important is that at least 93 types of insects rely on the dandelion for their survival, including butterflies and bees. This is, obviously, because they contain so much pollen.

Dandelions and Medicine

It is likely that your grandmother still believes that people should eat dandelions in spring, as the bitter taste provides a tonic. There is some truth to this, as the gallbladder and liver can benefit from this flower. This is what it has been used for in traditional medicine for hundreds of years, but it is also scientifically proven. Some also say that it helps fight eczema and gout, and that it can prevent mastitis in breastfeeding women. Lastly, it is said that, by rubbing the milk of the flower on warts consistently for a few weeks, the wart will disappear.

Any Dangers?

If you are allergic to iodine, daisies, yarrow, chamomile, marigold, chrysanthemum, or ragweed, then dandelion should be avoided. It is likely that your skin will go red and itchy. Some people even develop sores if they continue to use it. It has also been reported that dandelion can cause heartburn, particularly if they take antacids. Additionally, if you have gallbladder problems such as gallstones, you should speak to a physician first. No negative side effects have been reported in pregnant women, but it should be avoided until it has been demonstrated to be 100% safe.

As you can see, dandelions may be a weed, they are also very important. Considering the demise of the bee population around the world, and the fact that the dandelion is often their first source of food, you may want to consider leaving the plant alone to a degree. While nobody wants to see their garden overrun with them, they are a very important plant.