Natural health: Dandelion greens and laughter yoga

Given how beneficial this humble weed is, it is worth persisting to include it in your diet, says Megan Sheppard.

Q. I know that dandelion greens are supposed to be good for you, but I find them extremely bitter and struggle to eat them in a salad. 

Is there a better way to disguise the taste?

A. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), is indeed a wonderful wild green to include in your diet if you can. 

The leaves are a strong diuretic, and while diuretics are typically responsible for a loss in potassium, dandelion leaves contain high levels of this nutrient which means that they actually provide potassium. 

It is through this action of reducing retained fluid that dandelion leaves also help to address high blood pressure levels.

The root is also popular in herbal medicine as an effective support for liver and gallbladder in the removal of wastes and toxins. It also acts on the kidneys to assist in removing toxins from the urine. 

Dandelion root works well as a detoxifying herb because it can be used in cases where ongoing exposure to a certain pollutant or irritant is the cause of the problem. 

It is often prescribed to treat gout and other arthritic conditions such as osteoarthritis, along with skin troubles such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne.

The leaves have been shown to help dissolve existing gallstones, and both the leaf and root have a significant effect on the gallbladder in preventing gallstone formation.

Basically, given how beneficial this humble weed is, it is worth persisting to include it in your diet. 

You are quite right in that the flavour is bitter, which indicates that it is useful in stimulating digestion. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to eat an entire dandelion salad in order to reap the benefits — just a few leaves at the start of each meal should suffice.

The best time to harvest dandelion greens is during spring, as this is when they have a slight sweetness to the taste (alongside the bitterness). 

If you harvest dandelions that have been left to grow wild by either foraging for them or leaving some plants to thrive in your garden, then these will taste far superior to the poor plants in the lawn that are subjected to regular mowing. 

Dandelions are cultivated in both France and Germany for their tonic properties.

Dandelion root can be taken dried as a tea, or even as a preparation in capsule or tincture form. It is used in Chinese medicine to clear heat and alleviate toxic build up, particularly in the liver region.

High in potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B, C, D, and trace minerals, this so-called weed seems like a gift from nature! 

Try the flower petals alongside the leaves, since they are also edible and the flavour is quite different from that of the leaves.

Q. My yoga instructor has recently been introducing ‘laughter yoga’ into our classes, and I feel very uncomfortable with it. 

I am considering switching to another class because it is really putting me off going altogether. What do you think?

A. Laughter therapy is actually incredibly beneficial for the body and has even been shown to increase the ability to deal with pain, reduce stress levels, boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and increase flexibility.

Having said all that, if it makes you extremely uncomfortable and self-conscious to practise this form of therapy in a group situation, then it will likely be increasing your stress levels rather than lowering them.

Have a chat with your instructor about how you feel, and see if she offers any classes without the laughter sessions, otherwise you may be on the right track with looking to find another instructor who practises the type of yoga you prefer.

I would also suggest that you look for other ways to incorporate laughter as therapy — anything from watching stand-up comedians or organising a night in with a good comedy. 

Laughter helps you to breathe more than you usually would, which increases your oxygen intake, and stimulates your circulatory system. 

Or it may well be that you get plenty of laughter in your life already.

Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard?

Email it to feelgood@examiner.ie or send a letter to:

Feelgood, Irish Examiner, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.



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