My Favorite Chinese Herb

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in Mindfulness, Permaculture | No Comments

120px-Dandelion_rootMy favorite Chinese herb is called huang hua ti ting. In the garden, huang hua ti ting flowers attract bees and other pollinators. It is also a dynamic accumulator, a plant whose long tap root digs deep and breaks up compacted soil, pulling minerals up to its leaves. The plant can then be added to compost piles to release these minerals into the soil.

As a medicinal plant, huang hua ti ting has been used in Chinese medicine for over 1,000 years and has also been a part of Western herbal medicine. Just a few of its uses include blood purifier, liver and kidney tonic, digestive aid, and a stabilizer of blood sugar.1 It is also a super nutritious food and all parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are high in vitamins A, B,C,D, and K, calcium, iron, and other minerals.23 They can be tossed into green smoothies, salads, or stir fries. (Try sautéing chopped garlic in a little olive oil and then stir in few cups of the chopped fresh leaves. Add water, cover and steam for a few minutes. Add pepper and balsamic vinegar.) The roots are also high in calcium, iron, and protein, and can be used in stir fries, soups, and made into a tea.

The leaves and roots sell for $7 and $20 a pound respectively. But there is no need to buy huang hua ti ting. It is very easy to grow and very hardy. Huang hua ti ting translates as yellow headed earth nail, but it also has a more recognizable English name: dandelion.

Did I lose you at this point? Were you interested when the plant had an exotic Chinese name; but not so much when I told you it was a common dandelion?

Some people have an intense dislike of dandelions, which is kind of fascinating. Where does this come from? Yes they can be weedy, but I’m not sure they are weedier than any other misplaced plants. Raspberries, blackberries, sun chokes and lots of other edible plants need to be carefully held in check, but no one hates them for it. Dandelions are a free nutritious food that can easily be dug out of the place they are not supposed to be. There is something very discordant about millions of people spraying poisons on such a health giving plant.

We could choose to look mindfully to see dandelions for what they are: sometimes a plant out of place, but always a healthy free gift for us if we choose to take it. If we allow ourselves to look with child eyes, a field of yellow dandelions is breathtakingly beautiful. Do you remember? And dandelion seed heads…if you can’t recall picking a seed head, making a wish, and blowing apart the seeds, then please go find yourself a dandelion right now and do it. Forget that you think it’s a weed. Forget that you even know the name of this plant. With attention, watch the seeds float through the air and appreciate the magic.

And lastly, we could choose to appreciate the essence of dandelions. They are so maligned with negative thoughts and bad press, but they just carry on as strong, resilient, and tenacious survivors. We could all do with a bit of essence of dandelion.

[1] Weed, Susun, Wise Woman Herbal (1989), Ash Tree Publishing
[2] SkipThePie.org (2013). Retrieved Jul 6, 2013 from http://skipthepie.org/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/dandelion-greens-raw/
[3] University of Maryland Medical Center Altnerative Medicne (2013). Retireved July 6, 2013 from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/dandelion

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