Herb Guide: D - F

Dandelion, Dill, Echinacea, Feverfew

 

 

DANDELION

(Taraxacum officinale)

Member of the asteraceae (daisy) family

Common names: lion's tooth, blowball, pu gong ying, swine snout, wild endive, goat's beard, wild chicory, pissabed, dent de lion, priest's-crown, telltime

Dandelion has got to be the most resilient herb on the planet. It's cheery little yellow head pops up in lawns all over the country. Yet, not many smile at the sight of it. Most consider dandelion an eye soar; they view it as the pesky little weed, that always seems to return, no matter how often it is made to feel unwelcome!

My grandmother was not among these nay-sayers. She used every part of this plant to her fullest advantage. This little beauty even assisted her in gaining a bit of peace and quiet in her home, on long summer days. Whining that you were bored was an activity you learned to avoid at grandma's house; if you didn't, she would hand you a spoon and send you outside to dig up dandelions. "Make sure you get the roots" she would say, "there is medicine in the roots."

Dandelion roots are not only medicinal though, they will produce a magnificent magenta dye if you boil them down. Prefer yellow? Boil down the flowers, and it will be yours.

It has been said that if you can blow all of the tufted petals off of a dandelion's head, once it has turned into a 'blowball', your wishes will come true. I guess it can't hurt to try!

This herb is packed full of vitamins A, C, and E.

The young, fresh leaves (which become bitter with age) of this herbal gem can be eaten as a vegetable. Try sauteing them with a little butter, onion, and garlic. Add a few to your lettuce mix when making a salad, or use them to liven up a sandwich.

The flowers of this plant are most often used to make wine, but they make a great cookie as well.

If you are trying to cut back on caffeine and cannot do without your morning cup-o-joe, use dandelion roots; they make an excellent substitute. Dry them, grind them, roast them, and brew 'em up!

This herbs stems do not serve much purpose in the kitchen. However, if you have developed a stubborn wart, they will serve you quite well. Squeezing a dandelion's stem releases a gooey substance; apply this sticky wonder to your wart several times a day and it will disappear.

Dandelion tea is a very effective diuretic. Additionally, while commercial diuretics deplete the system of much needed potassium, this magical little herb actually replenishes it.

It also makes a great tonic which can be used to build the blood; making it a useful agent in combating anemia.

This herb is best known for it's ability to rouse liver and kidney functions. The stimulation of these internal organs produce a healing effect on external skin eruptions, such as; blemishes, rashes, and dry skin.

Because this herb is so often treated with herbicides, it is essential that you take care when harvesting it.

If you are suffering from gallbladder disease, seek professional medical counsel before using dandelion.


DILL

(Anethum graveolens)

Member of the apiaceae (carrot) family

Common names: dillseed, benth

Dill is one of my favorite herbs. It is a staple in my kitchen. When I first began cooking, I never really considered seasoning my dishes with dill. The thought of this herb immediately brought pickles to mind. It didn't really occur to me that dill had many uses. I imagine there are others who, like myself so many years ago, figure that if they are not canning pickles, they do not need dill. This is a shame! As I became more experienced in the kitchen, I discovered that this fabulous little herb is really very diverse. It can be added to almost any dish.

The next time you make an omelette for breakfast, try spicing it up with a bit of dill; mmmmm delicious!

It is terrific in any type of dough; make a loaf of dill bread, mix it in with your next batch of pizza dough, or toss some into your biscuit mix.

Dill is just marvelous with any type of seafood, and is often used as a main ingredient of seasoning blends when roasting lamb. It goes well with vegetables. Add it to soups, sauces, and stews. Sprinkle it on sandwiches or mashed potatoes, and PLEASE don't forget to use a bit of this herb when infusing oils and vinegars; your salad will never be the same. Infusion not ready yet? Go ahead and sprinkle a bit of dill directly on your salad; you will not be disappointed.

Studies have shown that dill can be effectively used to relieve gastric distress and ulcers. A cup of dill tea is an excellent choice when trying to calm an upset stomach; steep just one teaspoon of this wonderful herb's seeds in water for about 10 minutes. The flavor is delightful and the relief is expedient.

If your infant is suffering from colic, simply add a minute amount of dill oil to their water bottle, and their discomfort will be relieved.

Dill oil can also be used cosmetically; it often provides fragrance for handmade soaps.

This plant is easily confused with other members of the carrot family, such as; water hemlock. Take care when harvesting it in the wild.


ECHINACEA

(Echinacea purpurea)

Member of the asteraceae (daisy) family

Common names: purple coneflower, coneflower, purple echinacea, Kansas snakeroot, Missouri snakeroot, rudbeckia

If you have heard the term herb, you have most likely heard of echinacea. This herb has been widely studied throughout Europe and America. It is very popular with modern herbalists. Native Americans were using it long before anyone else though; it served more medicinal purposes for them, than any other herb.

I love it when I receive an herbal order that contains a fresh bag of echinacea. The moment I open that bag is like a trip down memory lane. It has a sweet, grassy smell, which takes me back to many a fall day spent hanging around hay lofts as a child; they were lazy, happy days!

Echinacea boosts the immune system; assisting the bodies ability to fight off colds and flues. If taken for about two weeks, at the first sign of illness, you will find that both the severity of your symptoms and the duration of your illness decrease.

This beautiful herb has many external medicinal uses, as well. Make an ointment to treat skin conditions; it will work beautifully on sores, burns, and wounds. Also, use it to treat eczema and psoriasis. If your teenager is struggling with acne, an ointment will serve them well. It is believed that echinacea may have antiseptic properties when applied externally.

Use an echinacea tincture to treat mouth sores.

Echinacea encourages cell regeneration; making it a great addition to lotions. It also destroys micro-organisms which cause skin breakouts.

This plant should not be harvested in the wild; as it is rapidly disappearing from it's natural habitat.

Do not take echinacea internally for more than two weeks. It is meant to treat acute, not chronic, conditions.

Echinacea should not be used by those who have an autoimmune condition, tuberculosis, or a collagen disease.

If you are allergic to plants that are in the daisy family, you are likely to have a bad reaction to echinacea, as well.


FEVERFEW

(Chrysanthemum parthenium)

Member of the asteraceae (daisy) family

Common names: featherfew, bachelor's buttons, featherfoil, wild chamomile, flirtwort

Planting a bit of feverfew around the house, is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Sow this pretty little plant under your windows; it purifies the air and keeps away the bees!

Be sure to pick a few of this herbal beauties flowers, while they are in bloom. They make a nice addition to wildflower bouquets, and last well indoors; making the joy, which comes from fresh flowers on the table, subsist just a bit longer.

Feverfew can be a bit bitter on the tongue. A flavor most of us are, regretfully, lacking in our diets. If you ever visit Italy, you will find that Italians know better than to leave bitter flavors out of their diet. They sprinkle a bit of feverfew into their scrambled eggs; starting the day off right. Go ahead, scramble some feverfew into your eggs, it's really quite a treat.

This herb also provides a flavorful twist to your favorite bread, roll, or biscuit recipes. Try making a cheese danish with a little feverfew added to the dough; the sweet, creamy goodness of the cheese is perfectly offset by the bitterness of this herb!

A cup of feverfew tea will assist in relieving the symptoms of many ailments. Brew it up and sweeten it with a touch of honey. Traditionally, it has been used to treat fever; thus the name, feverfew. However, it's anti-inflammatory properties make it very useful for relieving cold and flu symptoms.

Feverfew tea also promotes cleansing and toning of the uterus, following childbirth.

This herb was not often used over the last 100 years. It was almost as though the wonders of this little gem had been forgotten! Then, in 1974, a doctor's wife found that feverfew provided her with relief from chronic migraines. Interest in feverfew was soon revived. Since that time, scientific evidence has supported her claim. Studies show that feverfew relieves the pain of migraines, as well as the nausea and vomiting that so often accompany them.

Make a tea with the flower blossoms of this herb; to promote menstrual flow.

A blossom tincture will also provide relief from the pain and itching caused by insect bites. Better yet, think preventatively; spray this tincture on yourself before going outdoors, and it will repel insects. You can avoid their bite altogether.

Cosmetically, feverfew reduces the appearance of freckles and age spots. Yes, age spots! Apply a bit of feverfew to these unsightly blemishes and they will magically fade.

This herb soothes sensitive skin and can be effectively infused into lotions and massage oils for this purpose.

In rare case, chewing fresh feverfew leaves can cause mouth sores.

Large or long term doses of feverfew may cause vomiting or diarrhea.

This herb should not be used while pregnant.

Do not use feverfew if you are taking medications which thin the blood.

 

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