Dandelion, Mullein, Plantain, and Comfrey

Dandelion, Mullein, Plantain, and Comfrey

The common weed anyone with a lawn battles at some point. The most common varieties are native to Europe and Eurasia and have been imported to North America. The flower is actually a collection of smaller flowers called florets and is edible just like the rest of the plant.

The leaf shape is how dandelions got their name, they have sharp jagged edges that look like teeth hence the “lion” part of the name.

There are hundreds of species within the same family as dandelions and the flowers can come in different colours. Japanese dandelions are white, others are pink with yellow centers, and some are intense orange.

Taraxacum, the latin name, comes from Persian writings on medicine. Al-Razi wrote that it was similar to chicory in 900 A.D. Others from Persia also wrote on it and Gerard of Cremona translated the Persian into latin as “tarasacon” and thus we have the first version of the name taraxacum.

Humans have consumed various species of dandelion for much of human history and the plant is found on every continent. The flowers are an essential ingredient for dandelion wine and the roots can be used to make a caffein free coffee, the roots are also an ingredient in traditionally made root beer. The white sap contains natural latex but in wild plants is not in enough concentration to be usable. Commercial enterprises have worked to develop a much higher latex content as a potential replacement for latex from rubber trees.


The flowers have anti inflammatory and pain killing properties, an infused oil could be part of pain killing salve. They also have antiviral properties when taken internally.

The root contains high concentrations of inulin and can be eaten as a cooked vegetable.

The leaves have few medicinal properties, however they do have high nutritional content.


If you have not been exposed to this plant before then do skin patch tests for each part of the plant you wish to use because some people do experience allergic reactions, mostly to the pollen and sap.

The leaves also contain high levels of oxalic acid which can cause kidney stones.

Drug interactions;

Antacids, blood thinning medications, diuretics, diabetes medications, medications broken down in the liver, ciproflaxen, lithium.

Because dandelion can worsen the side effects of lithium it is best to avoid dandelion flowers and roots completely while on this medication.

First aid:

If an allergic reaction is suspected wash area with soap and water and monitor to ensure it doesn’t worsen. If taken internally and an allergic reaction is suspected contact emergency services and explain, an antihistamine may be recommended or a trip to the emergency room depending on severity.

If a drug interaction is suspected contact emergency services immediately. Dandelion can worsen the side effects of Lithium and may be the hardest to detect as a drug interaction.

Mullein has long been considered a herb so gentle it is traditionally considered a “children’s” herb. The plant is a bi-annual, perennial, and in some cases annual (dependent on variety) with the flower spike appearing in the second year for bi-annuals.

Both the leaves and flowers are used. The flowers can be steeped for several weeks in olive oil to be used for earaches. Depending on the specific species the plants grow anywhere from 1.6 to 9.8 ft tall. The leaves form a basal rosette and the flowers appear on a taller spike, exact colour of the flowers differs depending on the species.

Medicinal use is almost always referring to a specific species (v. Thapsus). Traditional Austrian medicine also uses the flowers Internally and externally to treat disorders of the respiratory tract, GI tract, veins, and the skin.

In survival situations the stalk of the plant is reputed to be a first rate choice for starting a fire with the hand drill method and the leaves for makeshift toilet paper.


Topically; In a balm for chest complaints such as coughs and reducing mucus while encouraging expulsion. As a poultice for ulcers and piles, also encourages healing of wounds.Internally; As tea also for chest complaints, mild booster of milk supply. Flowers infused into oil for earaches or other inflamed mucus membranes.


Due to mild galactagogue properties best avoided for internal use in high risk pregnancies.

Long term use is also best avoided due to a couple of compounds which may cause issues with long exposure times.

Use of the tea is better reserved for older children and adults.

No recorded drug interactions.

First aid:

Rare skin reactions can occur, wash the area with soap and water. Seek medical attention if reaction is severe or shows no signs of improving over the course of a few days.

While no drug interactions are known if for some reason you suspect you are experiencing one call emergency services.

Believe it or not I’m not writing about the banana, this is about a common lawn weed.

This little plant is native to Europe and parts of Asia, however it has been introduced many areas of the world. Plantain is a low growing plant with broad leaves and simple spikes of tiny flowers that turn into seeds. The seeds of one variety (Plantago ovata) are known as psyllium.

Preferring to grow in disturbed and compacted soils makes it an important part of soil rehabilitation, the roots loosen the soil while still holding it in place so water can’t wash it away.

The leaves are high in calcium, vitamins A, C, and K. They make a tasty addition to any salad or cooked greens.

Plantain is one of the best beginner herbs for making home remedies because it is so easily found and safe. A simple poultice of the leaves can be applied to bites, stings, scrapes, ect. They have natural antibacterial properties and promote healing.


Topically as a balm for all skin ailments such as rashes, bites, stings, cuts, ect…

Internally as a laxative, helps lower blood pressure, increases urine output, boosts immune function.


Generally safe for young children but not pregnant women.

Possible drug interactions include Lithium, and carbamazepine. May also interact with medications that affect blood pressure.

First aid:

If a suspected drug interaction has occurred call care provider or emergency services as appropriate and explain.

If a pregnant woman has been using this plant as a medicinal supplement watch closely for signs of miscarriage.

Comfrey is originally native to Europe and like many others also followed the white man around. This plant is important for organic gardening because it improves the soil.

There are a few different varieties with only a couple changes in appearance. It grows a black tap root with large, hairy, pointed leaves and pink, purple, or possibly white flowers that bees adore.

Organic gardeners use cut leaves for fertilizers because the plants take in large amounts of nutrients, acting like storehouses. When the leaves are broken down into liquid fertilizer the nutrients can be given back to other plants. There are soil tests that have shown comfrey is a good companion plant for perennials because it brings nutrients closer to the surface so the other plant can also get them.

Medicinally this herb requires close attention to detail because it can be extremely potent. For instance it should never be applied to open wounds because the skin may heal faster than the inside of the wound and trap bacteria inside.


Externally as a poultice or balm to speed healing of closed wounds. Helps with arthritic joints, bruises, and similar ailments.

Internally as a tea to boost immune function  short term or to increase urine output.


Generally considered too strong for young children.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid all internal use.

Can negatively impact nutrient balance for thiamin and calcium.

Long term use is strongly ill advised because it can lower healthy thyroid function, cause liver damage and potentially death.

Never use on open wounds because the skin may close faster than the inside of the wound and trap bacteria inside.

Possible drug interactions include anything broken down in the liver like acetaminophen.

Possible negative plant interactions include kava, skullcap, and valerian.

First aid:

If a suspected drug interaction has occurred call emergency services immediately, the severity can be deadly.

If a young child or pregnant woman has taken comfrey internally take activated charcoal within 20 minutes and call emergency services.

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