Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goldenrod - Herb of the Week

This particular plant is in bloom right now.  Often confused with Ragweed and thought to cause allergic reactions, this plant is actually very helpful in teas, tonic, and tinctures.  So in honor of it blooming in all its glory right about now, I have chosen

Goldenrod Solidago spp. as Herb of the Week


When the tall spires of goldenrod begin to boast their yellow blooms I know we have reached fall.  That color seems to by synonymous with the season change.  Goldenrod is a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family and grows all over the world and most species are probably medicinal in some respect or another.

The name solidago means "to make whole." Historical references site using goldenrod poultices for healing wounds and for use on burns. Also known as Blue Mountain Tea and Liberty Tea certainly hints at its medicinal uses in history.

Goldenrod is a delicious edible. The flowers can be fried up as fritters and the mild tasting leaves can be cooked and eaten as well. I recently learned that the goldenrod stem makes a great "hand drill" to start a fire. Instead of using a bow drill, you twirl the goldenrod stem around with your palms to create the friction and heat to start the fire.  They might need this info on the next “Survivor.”

One of my herbalist friends makes a dye from goldenrod.  She colored wool roving and yarn, and silk scarves, saying the color was so bright and pretty. 


Growing??

There are over 100 species of goldenrods (Solidago). Solidago virgaurea, S. canadensis, S. gigantea, and S. odora as well as others.  All commonly used in a similar manner. Each species has varying degrees of qualities however. One species may be more bitter than the next, or more astringent. Most of the time these plants grow as weeds filling empty areas and field margins. I do not know of anyone in Illinois planting goldenrod on purpose, but I have seen the seed in catalogs.  It is a natural prairie plant and in my recent walks to restored prairie areas and areas left to grow wild it is prolific.



The leaves grow opposite and are lance-shaped.  The flowers are numerous and yellow appearing at the top of the stalk with a large number of blooms populating a single branch.

I haven't heard of any Solidago variety being harmful, but it is always best to know exactly what you are harvesting and using. Check with local sources to see if your local varieties have a history of use.

Medicinal Uses

Almost all the parts of Goldenrod can be used for medicinal concoctions.  The Fresh flower or flowering tops can be tinctured, flower infused honey, root tincture, infusion or strong tea of dried leaves or flowering tops, flower or flowering tops infused oil, flower elixir, this list goes on.

Goldenrod has a long history of use for the urinary system. It has been used for urinary tract infections as a tool for strengthening the kidneys. Goldenrod is both astringent and antiseptic. By tightening and toning the tissues of the urinary system, as well as providing action against bacteria, goldenrod is well suited to addressing bladder and urinary tract infections. Many of the older herbal literature sources cite it being used for kidney stones and it is still being used this way.


The German Commission E has officially approved goldenrod for the treatment of bladder and urinary system inflammations.

Another area where goldenrod shines is for allergic reactions or seasonal allergies. I use it in many of my seasonal formulas (often combined with peach and plantain) and have seen it completely eliminate the itchy-red-eyes, runny nose and excessive sneezing symptoms for many people.

Goldenrod also works really well for cat dander allergies. I suggest that people keep start with a small does and keep increasing the dose until relief is found.

Many people despise goldenrod and blame it for their fall sniffles. However, the more likely culprit is ragweed an Ambrosia species. Goldenrod is pollinated by insects, not by wind. As a result, its pollen is heavy and sticky and does not readily float through the air and thus into people's noses to cause the offending symptoms.

In recent times goldenrod has gained popularity for reliving many different aches and pains from chronic arthritis and acute injuries. It can be infused into oil and rubbed into the painful areas for this purpose.  Using the flowers in oils makes a lovely golden color and is nice used in cosmetic items. Barbara Hall over at Lady Barbara’s Garden has also popularized it for all sorts of achy pains, including arthritis in the hands and many people swear by the oil for their painful, stiff fingers come winter.

Goldenrod has 4 times the antioxidant levels of green tea.  Antioxidants are often called the key to good health and longevity. They can rid the body of free radicals, thus reducing the oxygenation of our cells. This process is often blamed for the aging process. Goldenrod is a good source of the constituent rutin. This flavonoid is well-known for its antioxidant benefits and is considered especially beneficial for heart health. I think the best part about this news is that goldenrod makes a rather tasty tea.  Slightly sweet and astringent with a hint of volatile oils it is a tea treat.  Drinking the tea can relieve some flu symptoms and may be useful for treating kidney stones.  Although a tincture may be better way to use it medicinally for kidney treatments.

Almost no known issues are recorded for goldenrod, although Aster family plant sensitivity is possible. Some sources recommend avoiding during pregnancy, but I don’t know a specific reason for this. But please, do not use goldenrod as a substitute for medical care in cases of serious kidney disease or infection.

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