As part of the Gentle Detox series, I wanted to share one of the natural remedies that can help eliminate toxins and bring the body back into balance.
I have used herbs either in cooking or in tincture form for over 30 years and there are several that I have introduced over the year that are a permanent fixture in my medicine cabinet. These include Echinacea, Milk Thistle and Peppermint.
At this time of year when over-indulgence has been hard to avoid it is easy to become bloated down to water retention as the body struggles to cope with the extra sugars. A tell tale sign is a puffy face especially under the eyes, puffy ankles and lower legs. Waistbands are tighter and it usually results in at least an extra 5lbs in weight.
The problem is actually not enough fluids to flush the system of the wonderful, sugary treats (toxins according to your body) that you have consumed in a short space of time. Alcohol also dehydrates the body and once the body senses that there might be a drought it goes into water conservation mode and stores fluid until such time as normal service resumes. You will have ‘experts’ tell you that you don’t need to drink water as long as the food you eat contains it…sorry but whilst it helps to eat fruit and vegetables high in fluid content you still need to flush the system through with good old fashioned and unadulterated water. If your tap water is high in flouride or other inserted chemicals then find a good quality filtered water or make your own. Of course you cannot always blame fluid retention… but it is a contributory factor.
Drinking dandelion can be helpful in reducing this but also please take with caution if you suffer from certain conditions involving any of your major organs, as there is a delicate fluid balance required for them to function healthily.
Today a double whammy – a herbal remedy and a free food. Used as a medicine for thousands of years before the word ‘patent’ entered our vocabulary. Used for a number of health issues but definitely for water retention. Please make sure you do take note of the restrictions on use if you are on medication, especially prescribed diuretics for heart conditions.
This herb has been used medicinally, over the centuries, for a number of conditions that relate to the health of the blood. This includes anaemia, cholesterol problems, circulatory problems and diabetes. Additionally, it is a common component of detox complexes due to its diuretic properties and to help clear chest congestion, jaundice, rheumatic pain, gout, gallstones and insomnia.
It is an all-rounder and has enjoyed many different names in folklore. We know it most commonly as the Dandelion and are used to seeing its yellow flowers in the hedges and fields in the early summer. As children, most of us would have tried to tell the time by blowing on the puff-ball of seeds it produces in the autumn.
Its botanical name is Taraxacum officinalis and the name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion or lion’s teeth, a description of the distinctive serrated leaves of the herb. In Tudor times its diuretic properties were well known and it was given the more apt name of piss-in-the-bed! We have evidence that it was used medicinally since around 650 AD by the Chinese and it first appeared in European apothecaries in the late 15th century.
There were a number of superstitions surrounding the plant including its ability to foretell the number of years before a girl married and apparently if you saw the seeds being dispersed by the wind from the puff-ball rain was imminent.
Apart from being used as a medicine, blanched dandelion leaves can be used in salads or prepared in the same way as spinach and dried leaves have been used for many years to make tea and beer. A word of warning before you dash off and include as a signature dish for your next dinner party, it can cause wind problems – as it is not digested or processed until it reaches the intestines. More about Dandelion as a food later.
Today, dandelion is mainly used as a diuretic. Most chemical diuretics cause a loss of potassium but this is not the case when using dandelion. As potassium is vital for correct fluid balance in the body, taking dandelion is a safer way to reduce any excessive water retention. However, taking any diuretic to remove excess fluid should always be done with caution. Fluid is essential to life and if you force your body to excrete fluids on a continuous basis you will be losing critical minerals and salt too. Only use occasionally and if your water retention persists then do consult your GP as it could be the result of an underlying systemic problem.
The roots of the dandelion have traditionally been used in liver tonics. They are rich in Choline a B vitamin that prevents fat from being trapped in the liver. When the liver is blocked with fat, metabolism is affected and can lead to liver disease and elevated cholesterol levels.
Gallstones tend to be formed if the gall bladder does not completely empty of the bile it has produced. Dandelion improves both the production and the delivery of the bile and can be used as a preventative for people prone to this problem. As someone with an inherited gallbladder problem, Dandelion, as part of a specialised diet has helped me maintain a reasonably stable digestive process.
The herb also contains inulin which is a naturally occurring oligosaccharide (simple sugars linked together). Inulin is indigestible by enzymes that normally metabolise starch so it is not broken down into simple sugars (monosaccharides) that can cause fluctuating blood sugar levels. It has been used by diabetics to help regulate their blood sugar levels but should always be used under medical supervision. If you are losing weight, however, it will help reduce your sugar cravings in the first few weeks until your body has adjusted to a lower sugar intake. Quite frankly the taste will do that for you anyway!
If you are overweight dandelion will help re-balance the fluids in your body and get rid of excess amounts initially. One of the other problems associated with obesity is inefficient fat metabolism and as bile is essential for this process increasing its production will also contribute to a healthy weight loss.
If you suffer from a bacteria and flora imbalance in the intestines, such as an overgrowth of Candida Albicans, eating dandelion leaves can help. The herb is a very efficient prebiotic which stimulates the growth of healthy, probiotic bacteria in the gut. Other probiotic formulas in yoghurt and milk are subject to various chemical processes on their way to the intestines before they can be effective. The dandelion is indigestible until it reaches the gut so is a much more potent source of friendly bacteria.
You can pick dandelions from the hedgerows and use as a food or buy an herbal tincture from a health food shop. There are a couple of restrictions. If you are currently taking prescribed medication such as diuretics, insulin or anti-coagulants you should not take without medical supervision as it may affect the potency of your drugs. Similarly, if you have already suffered from gallstones or a liver condition such as jaundice or hepatitis then you should take advice before using.
Dandelion is a nutritious food as well as tea.
As a food dandelion offers a great nutritional package – Vitamins: A, folate, B6, C, E, and K. Minerals: Magnesium, copper, phosphorus, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. Dandelion leaves picked from the hedgerow can be used as salad leaves but always remove the woody stems and wash very well. Apart from additional protein in the form of bugs, dogs for some reason love peeing on them! Apart from salads, you can throw into a soup pot with a vegetables and then blend for a lovely creamy soup. Cook like spinach and eat with rich meat dishes. Use raw in sandwiches with egg or avocado.
Some hardy souls have ground the dried roots into a substitute coffee, but do not expect to see in Starbucks anytime soon! It does however; make a good tea although I tend to get from the health food shops as they usually have a high quality selection. As a little word of warning – I suggest that you use the tincture and tea earlier in the day and also the leaves with lunch as there is a good reason that in medieval times it was called piss-in-the-bed!
Remember if you have water retention drink water up to 8 glasses per day (add more in hot climates) but do not overdo as you can upset your electrolyte balance which is essential for the health of blood’s chemistry and processes such as muscle action.
You can find the other posts in the Gentle Detox in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-gentle-detox-2019/