Posts Tagged ‘dandylion’

Spring tonic tinctures

A few weeks ago I blogged about making chickweed ointment – Stellaria media – and using the remainder for a tincture.  Well, the tincture has had its daily shaking and shuggling for three weeks and I have combined it with a Cleavers – Galium aparine – tincture and a Dandylion – Taraxacum officinale – tincture I started at the same time.  The mixture contains equal parts of each for a fresh, zingy Spring Tonic.

Chickweed, apart from being amazing in ointments and creams for itchy skin, is anti-inflammatory, demulcent (soothing, smoothing and softening) and has a reputation for being an excellent tonic, cleanser  and decongestant.  It’s also extremely nutritious.  I made a 1:1 mixture (one part chopped fresh herbs to one part 40% vodka).  Cleavers is a lymphatic cleanser, mainly soluble in water and therefore should have had a 25% alcohol menstruum, but I only had the 40% vodka – was deeply darkly green and smelled amazing though, so I hope it’s worked.  Dandylion is a fine kidney and liver cleanser largely by virtue of its diuretic properties, flushing through kidneys and therefore also liver.  I chopped leaves and root and made a folk mixture with 40%, filling the jar with herb and then filling it again with vodka.  The resulting mixture of three is deep, dark green and smells of fresh green leaves.


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Everywhere I look our green spaces are sprouting a banquet of wonderful herbal spring tonics.  Just around the corner from us, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh has a thankfully haphazardly maintained area of grass and bushes and just passing by on the way into the city I see in one glorious clump nettles, dandylion, chickweed, ground ivy and plantain.  This is a wonderful time of year for dandylion tincture, made from the roots, leaves and flowers of dandylion.  this mixture helps with liver and kidney function, strengthening and increasing their function, thereby acting as a cleansing force.  The leaves are a potent diuretic but contain enormous amounts of potassium, something that over-the-counter diuretics strip the body of.  No need to supplement here.  The roots are a very gentle laxative.  Fortunately we have dandylions growing by the dozen in our garden 🙂

Our beautiful communal gardens are very tidily maintained, but every now and again there is a rebel outbreak of chickweed, and I head for the gates with bags and scissors to snip up a harvest before the gardeners arrive.  Chop this up very fine, pack it into a jar and cover with cider vinegar.  Then tip the whole thing out into a bowl and whizz it up with a hand held food processor to make finest quality chickweed vinegar.  Left for a few days it will turn from dark green to light, light moss green and is fabulous in baths for hot, itchy, drying skins, arthritis or general aches and pains.

Last year’s Plantain tincture is still going strong, but I am thinking of harvesting some more for this year’s supply.  Back up to Arthur’s Seat for the best windswept plants.

Lemon Balm calls from the garden pots – seems to be doing incredibly well at the moment – but last night I made Calendula and Lavender lotion from Calendula infused oil, Calendula infused water and a few drops of Lavender essential oil at the end.  This was supposed to be cream, but I underdid the beeswax component.  In fact I completely forgot the beeswax until it became clear that the mixture was not going to thicken any more… then I reheated the mixture and added beeswax at the same temperature and all was well 🙂  it is now the ideal consistency for a massage oil.  Happy conincidence as it’s Joolz’ Birthday tomorrow 🙂

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Popping up in the garden now spring has sprung – beautiful dandylions!  I took James Green’s extremely good advice and carefully dug up six or seven small plants to make a tincture from root, leaves, flowers, buds, the lot.  Dandylion (or ‘pis en lit’) as the French so aptly put it, is a good diuretic, full of potassium, so no supplements needed as with other diuretics, and is excellent for the prevention of kidney stones.  Those who have ever had one, know how extremely ‘ouch’ they can be.  It is also excellent for the liver and the digestion.  More on that later.

How I did it:  I washed the plants very carefully, removing all the earth without losing any of the plant itself.  then I chopped it all very small, stuffed it into a small kilner jar – it came to the top – and added 40% vodka, to the top.  This was then tipped into a bowl and I ‘blitzed’ it with the braun shredder, and tipped it back into the kilner jar.  The top rim was carefully cleaned and then the jar sealed and labelled.  This will now be shaken twice a day for 14 days, when I shall strain the mixture through a square of cotton muslin.  The tincture will be ready to take then.  5ml twice a day, until it is gone.

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I’ve been inspired – again – by the seductive beauty of herbs, local herbs, and their use as tonics, remedies, lifters, brighteners, waste disposal enhancers, friends and allies.  In my slightly random journey through the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy’s ‘Discovering Hebal Medicine’ course, I’ve started to look at the lovely Dandylion in a new light.

The first insight that has landed is that I am not always sure – as I used to be in my ignorance – as to whether what I think is a dandylion, is actually a dandylion at casual glance.  James Green’s wonderful boook ‘The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook’ came to my aid in the first few pages, in which he points out most helpfully that dandylion has bald leaves, not hairy or lumpy, and that the flowers sit imperiously alone on their stems, not sharing or branching.  I knew that, didn’t I?  No.

At a distance there are a number of dandylion lookalikes which I have often mistaken for the real Pisenlit.  On closer investigation though, their stems are harder and thinner (not so much milky juice therein) and branched… more than one flower head coming out of the same stem.  Hmmm.  And their leaves are hirsute and, in fact, not the right shape at all for a plant named ‘Lions’ Teeth’.

I may become a right pain in the … demanding that we stop at every yellow headed candidate on Arthur’s Seat, in order to determine whether they are what I once thought they were.  As we did this last weekend, turning a swift tour of the rocks into a lengthy tramp across meadows in pursuit of yellow blobby things.

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