So I harvested all that Dandelion and I suppose you are wondering why? Maybe not, but since nobody leaves comments anymore I can just assume for myself what you all are thinking. Dandelion has different uses when you are talking about leaf or root (or flower*), though I often find I use both leaf and root together for certain things.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) were brought to the states by the Irish who knew that dandelion was one of the most nutritous, easy to grow foods out there. Having just been wiped out by the potato famine they weren't willing to starve anymore. Dandelions are now grow in every temperate region of the world (and in every backyard, har, har) . Dandelions are known to be high in potassium, iron, calcium and vitamin C (if eaten right after picking!).
Dandelion leaf is an amazing diuretic because it not only increases flow of water through the kidneys but in a gentle way. Diuretic drugs often strip the body of potassium, but Dandelion is one of the best sources for potassium in the plant world (better than banana's!). I find this combination of good diuretic packed with minerals and vitamins affect in Stinging Nettles as well and I often use them in combination when looking at kidney function.
The best way to utilize Dandelion is in a long cold infusion. (take 2 tsp for every cup of water and pour boiling water over the top, then let the tea steep for 4-8 hours in the fridge before straining and drinking) Or you can simply eat the leaves in a salad. Dandelion leaves can be bitter (especially after the flowers have died back) so it is best to eat them in the spring! I use the more bitter leaves for a digestive aid, so the batch I just picked will go in a seperate jar.
Dandelion roots have a seperate function and work more with the liver and gallbladder, though they retain a fair amount of diuretic action as well, though not as strongly as the leaf. For liver troubles I pair dandelion root with burdock expecially when their are skin complaints associated with the liver congestion. (this is also where the more bitter leaves can come into play!)
Dandelion is often paired with yellow dock for anemia. Dandelion is very high in iron, however yellow dock has very little, or none. In tests it has been proven that yellow dock may increase the absorption of iron without actually containing any itself.
List of Actions: Diuretic, hepatic (improves liver function), cholagogue(makes your bile flow more easily--do not use when you have gall stones!!!), antirhuematic (improves arthritis), laxative (see cholagogue), tonic and a bitter.
The thing I notice the most about Dandelion is its actions are all related. It improves flow of water and bile through the body and feeds the body as it pushes things out.
Combinations: I most often use Dandelion with Nettles, Burdock and Milk Thistle.
Safety note: As with all plants in the Asteraceae family their may be a sensitivity issue with this plant caused by a reaction that is similar to an allergy. It is rare but if you have aster sensitivity avoid this plant. Also the latex in the stem of the plant can be irritating if handled for long periods of time.
*primary use of flowers is for Dandelion wine, which isn't exactly medicinal except as a diuretic like everything else in the dandelion