The boy was sick this past weekend, and I was reminded about the lovely soothing properties of flax seed tea (Linum usitatissimum).
Flax is a classic demulcent. The seeds are rich in mucilage, like marshmallow or slippery elm. But flax isn’t so cooling as marshmallow or threatened in the wild like slippery elm.
Flax seed tea is amazing for soothing irritated mucous membranes. Think raw: sore throat; esophagus irritated from vomiting; “irritable bowel syndrome”; lungs irritated from coughing; kidneys and bladder irritated from passing stones.
Its neutral “temperature” makes flax tea good for all sorts of people, including those with constitutions on the cool side. It tastes especially nice with a pinch of warming cinnamon.
The way I make it, it’s really a decoction rather than a tea. Here’s what I do:
Put flax seeds in a small pot with 1 cup of water per teaspoon of seeds.
Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by half.
Drink hot. (If you let it cool, it will be the texture of raw egg white.)
You can add honey if you like, or warming spices if they’re indicated. But I like the mildly nutty taste of the plain tea.
Next: flax tea as a beauty aid. (They don’t call it usitatissimum for nothing!)
Dandelion tinctures, from left to right: root, leaf, flower.
So clearly dandelion is not dandelion is not dandelion.
Affinity: liver, gallbladder, digestion.
Action: nourishing, tonic.
Affinity: kidneys, bladder, blood.
Action: stimulating, draining.
Temperature: neutral or slightly cool.
Affinity: heart, mind.
Action: comforting, brightening.
Like I said yesterday, dandelion’s old common name is “pissabed.” So we know it’s had a long and intimate relationship with the human urinary tract. But dandelion is so much more than a simple diuretic.
Nicholas Culpeper was on the right track in his 1653 Herbal (1814 edition):
It is of an opening and cleansing quality, and therefore very effectual for the obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen, and the diseases that arise from them . . . it opens the passages of the urine in both young and old; powerfully cleanses imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passage, and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterwards heal them.
So my favorite technical word for dandelion is not diuretic but “deobstruent”: Dandelion opens what is blocked.
Now, don’t go running around giving dandelion to everyone who feels sluggish, stuck, or constipatedâ€”a lot of those people are “cold” or depleted, and dandelion is for sluggishness associated with heat and excess (the Chinese say “fire poison”). Dandelion is especially good for heat associated with dampness or “bogginess”â€”think Mississippi Delta on an August evening.
So dandelion opens what is blocked, cools what is irritated, and drains what is soggy.
But don’t forget that dandelion is not dandelion is not dandelion. Each partâ€”root, leaf, and flowerâ€”works differently. (Hint: This is tomorrow’s topic.)