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Guest Column: Don't Pull That Weed

by on May 06, 2012 7:14 AM

You’d think after making it through our schizophrenic winter and an unseasonably warm spring, we’d be grateful for any growing thing we would see popping up in our yards and gardens.

But oh, no.

We are only a couple of weeks into spring and have recently dealt with the threats of winter storms for Pennsylvania, and what are we doing? We are already complaining about weeds.

Who decided what a weed is anyway? Lawn services have descended on our neighborhood like special forces teams, decked out in protective suits and breathing gear, armed with the latest high-tech herbicide squirters.

And who is the formidable enemy they are searching for? An anthrax terrorist? No, something far more insidious. The dandelion. We are all too familiar with the dandelion. We can identify this flower in its yellow or white and fluffy form from near or far.

Why do people hate the humble dandelion so much? It is one of the first flowers of spring. The dandelion doesn’t sting or bite. It doesn’t even smell bad. The scientific name for “dandelion,” Taraxacum officinale, is said to come from the Greek word “taraxos,” meaning “disorder.”

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking — even the Greeks understood what a mess dandelions make out of a nice lawn. But it also comes from the Greek word “akos,” meaning “remedy.”

That’s right. Since ancient times, dandelions were known as remedies for all kinds of medical disorders. The sunny little flowers are still used as folk treatment for skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. They can lower blood pressure and serve as an effective diuretic. But the reason dandelions were brought to this country was to feed honey bees. Now I bet you’re already sorry you’ve treated dandelions so badly.

Dandelion leaf greens may be eaten raw in salads or steamed. Dandelion greens are very high in potassium and vitamins A and C. The dandelion leaf is effective for bladder and kidney infections and in treating hepatitis. Clinical tests have shown dandelion leaf to be as effective a diuretic as any drug.

If we were to stop spraying and mowing our lawns, we might find all sorts of wildflowers taking up residence there. Wild violets would start springing up. So would Dutchman’s breeches, spiderwort, lady slippers, prairie smoke and day lilies. While they’re not as big and lush as tulips, but bladder campion are beautiful little wildflowers that bloom for almost two months. And they’re good to eat. After the electrical grid goes down, just try eating some of your grass.

Even though wild flowers like dandelions are hardy, edible and valuable as medicine, they are considered “bad” flowers. And cultivated flowers like iris and daffodils are “good” flowers, even though the only thing they are really good for is to look at. Personally, I’m just as glad this same standard doesn’t apply to people.
Don’t pull that weed — unless you're going to eat it.

Julie A. Wilczynski is a Traditional Naturopath, Counselor of Natural Health, Certified Nutritional Consultant, Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga and Pilates instructor from Butler, Pa. Email Julie at [email protected]

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.
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