A liverish week…

Had a patient the other week where I thought – “you need some dried dandelion roots for your liver, to boil up with other herbs.” But – conniptions – none in stock!
Fairly frantic digging on my (chemical free) allotment, and the neighbouring allotment produced these:


Dandelions are beginning to fade out above ground at this time of year having done their profligate spreading of seeds. But all that bitter goodness is being stored in the roots, along with starch-like inulin (not to be confused with insulin). This makes autumn a good time to harvest the roots,


to be used as an effective liver restoring remedy.

The liver is one of the largest organs in the human body, situated in the upper abdomen, tucked under the ribs on your right. It produces bile which is stored in the gall bladder before being secreted into the gut as needed to aid digestion of fats. The liver is also the primary site for the first transformations of nutrients absorbed by the gut and transported to the liver  via the portal bloodstream. A rich blood supply carries repackaged nutrients from the liver to the rest of the body where they are used to build your tissues.

Blood also carries waste compounds from the body’s tissues to the liver for disposal. These by-products of normal metabolism, along with frank poisons absorbed in various ways, are carefully packaged by the liver for excretion through the bile and, via the bloodstream, the kidneys.

So your liver is at the centre of a cycle of assimilation, nourishment and elimination.

Because the liver is so “busy” making stuff and transforming stuff it generates a lot of heat. So much blood circulates through the liver that it is considerably heated as it goes through.

Dandelions are cooling and nourishing to the liver, helping if it is damaged or just overheated.

The first step in using dandelion roots is to scrub them clean when fresh. Secondly I chop them in little discs. In step three, I spread the discs out to dry on sheets of paper in a warm dry place, or, if you are in a hurry, like I was, dry one-deep on a baking tray in a very low oven.

dried dand 001

(Roast them too long like this and you have dandelion coffee – from which you can make a bitter sweet and nutty brew not unlike chicory or very cheap instant coffee – without the caffeine!)

Your dried roots will then keep, in paper bags or jars, for at least a year. Fresh dandelion roots, in the fridge, will go pretty manky (a technical term) in weeks if not days.

Dandelion tea #1

In a pan, add 1 teaspoon of dried dandelion root to a teacup of cold water. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

You can add other roots, barks or dried berries, (the hard stuff!) to boil along with the dandelion – e.g. Burdock root, Ginger root, Cinnamon bark.

This is technically a decoction.

Dandelion tea #2

Alternatively, instead of boiling the decoction straight off, you can leave the dried roots to soak in cold water for 12-16 hours (all day or overnight) then bringing to the boil and simmering for a mere 5 minutes. This is the technique favoured by Unani Tibb Herbal Medicine and has the advantage that you are able to add leafy or flowery herbs without boiling all their goodness away.

To round off my liverish week, I encountered this fabulous Schizandra chinensis bush


called Wu Wei  Zi in Chinese PinYin.

This marvellous liver herb (a hepato-protective) was growing in my colleague Andrew Stableford’s garden when we gathered to congratulate the latest group of wonderful Lincoln Herbal graduates.

(Picture courtesy of Katie Dobiesz)


About donaldpurves

Traditional Herbalist since 1989, qualified originally with National Institute of Medical Herbalists (Tutorial Course, School of Herbal Medicine/Phytotherapy), joined Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners in 2011. University lecturer in Herbal Medicine since 2005. Born and brought up in the Scottish Borders. Higher Education at University of York (Biology 1980) and Scottish School of Herbal Medicine (MSc Herbal Medicine 2003). Married to Rukshana Afia, an artist working with drawing, textiles and ceramics. Passionate about environmental, economic and social justice.
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