The following article about dandelion appeared in the April, 2014 issue of Natural Herbal Living Magazine.
Dandelion is a pleasantly gentle bitter. The roots are only slightly bitter, enough to help the digestive system and the liver, but not so much as to put off even the most timid of tasters. Modern diets tend not to include many bitter vegetables, and this omission leaves the digestive tract, the liver, and gall bladder without crucial stimulation to prepare for food. Whether in a salad, a tea, or an elixir, adding in bitters helps digestion to function more effectively. As a gentle bitter, dandelion is a particularly easy one to add to your diet. The simplest way to take dandelion is in a tea, but if you’re willing to put in a little more work you can make a really delicious bitters elixir. It will generally last for several weeks or months and help you and your loved ones digest many a meal.
When we make a bitters elixir, we combine the bitter with the sweet. This makes a delectable combination that helps to accustom one to the bitter flavor. The possible sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, and coconut syrup.
- 1 C dried dandelion root
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- About 5 cloves
- 2 square in. orange peel, dried
- 2 in. fresh ginger, diced
- 4 in. fresh burdock root OR 1⁄2 C dried burdock
- maple syrup
First, select a three-quart or larger pot, preferably one made of steel, cast-iron, glass, or clay. Put in the dried dandelion root, cardamom seeds, cloves, and dried orange peel. Dice and add the fresh ginger root and burdock root; if fresh burdock is not available, dried burdock will do instead. Pour in two quarts of water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover the pot.
Simmer for at least thirty minutes and then strain well, gently squeezing the plant material so as to get out every last drop. If some of the dregs went through the strainer you may want to strain a second time, possibly through a finer mesh or through cheese cloth. Once you have strained everything to your satisfaction, add enough maple syrup to double the volume and stir thoroughly to allow the maple syrup to dissolve in the bitters. If you want, you may add a splash of vodka or brandy as a preservative, but if you keep your bitters in the refrigerator they should last for at least a few months, which is probably all you’ll need.
Most people find bitters particularly helpful when taken about half an hour before meals, but others prefer to take their bitters half an hour afterwards instead. Taken before a meal, it prepares the entire digestive tract to process the food. Taken afterwards, it reminds the digestive tract of what it’s supposed to be doing. If you’re going to a special event where you’re expecting to find the food challenging, you may want to take your bitters both before and after.