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Goldenrod (Solidago) a powerful medicinal herb!

Nov 11, 2020

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) 

Common goldenrods: Tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima var. altissima), Common goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), and Licorice goldenrod (Solidago odora).

Family: Asteraceae

Medicinal Part: Leaves, flowers, and roots

Solvent: Water and alcohol 

Bodily Influence: Aromatic, Carminative, Stimulant, Astringent, Diaphoretic, Tonic, Diuretic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-microbial, Anti-bacterial, Analgesic. 

Description: Throughout North America, especially the East Coast, goldenrods grace us with their presence starting in the mid to late summer and continue to flower throughout the Fall. With 90-110 different species of goldenrods, determining the exact species of a goldenrod can be challenging even for botanists. However, goldenrods contain many of the same medicinal properties and can be used similarly. Look for yellow flower sprays in open areas.  As goldenrod belongs to the Asteraceae family, depending on the species, the flowers may contain both ray and disk florets or solely disk florets. 

Habitat: Open areas, roadsides, fields, early successional areas, savannas, meadows, and fencerows. 

Range: The genus Solidago occurs primarily in North America, but a few species occur in South America, Eurasia (European goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea)), and Macaronesia. 

Traditional Medicinal Use:  

Goldenrod was named Solidago by Linnaeus, the grandfather of botany, meaning “I make whole”. This beloved medicinal herb has been used for a variety of ailments by cultures worldwide. Before exploration of the new world, Europeans knew of a single species of goldenrod, European goldenrod (S. virgaurea). This herb had been considered medicinal from the time of the classical Romans. The herb was considered carminative, diuretic, nervine, excitant, and digestive. Due to the medicinal qualities, one Solidago, Anise-scented solidago (Solidago odora), made it into the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1882. The properties were defined as a stimulant, carminative, and diaphoretic.  Dried flowers and leaves were used as a tea substitute in the 1800’s during Civil War. During the Civil War, Porcher (1863) encouraged people in the South to use goldenrod as a tea substitute—“According to Pursh, the dried flowers are a pleasant and wholesome substitute for tea”. 

The indigenous people of North America used this plant to treat many ailments. Moerman listed 19 species used across North America by indigenous groups. A root tea was made and held in the mouth for neuralgia. Roots were chewed for sore mouth or placed in the cavity of a tooth for toothaches. The Chippewa made a decoction of the root and applied it externally for stomach cramps. Leaf tea was made for tuberculosis. An infusion of the whole plant was made for heart disease, nasal congestion, and fevers. 

The Omaha saw the blooms as an indicator of corn ripening, when they were on a summer buffalo hunt, the sight of goldenrod indicated to them that their corn was beginning to ripen at home.  The plant is a well-known dye plant producing a yellow-green dye for the flowers. The Seminoles still use the flowers and stems as a source of a dye. In Canada, common goldenrod (S. canadensis) is a valuable dye. 

Today, Solidago is a well-known remedy for urinary and bladder infections and serves as a general diuretic restoring balance to the kidneys. Also, as an antibacterial and antimicrobial herb, goldenrod can be used to treat colds and sore throats. Goldenrod contains natural antihistamines quercetin and rutin and can be used to relieve seasonal allergies. Because goldenrod looks similar to ragweed many people think it is responsible for their allergies. However, goldenrod is bee pollinated, not wind pollinated like ragweed. Ragweed has opposite, deeply lobed leaves and should be avoided due to toxicity. 

Edible: The young leaves can be cooked and eaten similar to spinach in the summer or the seeds consumed in the fall and winter (Morton 1963). Goldenrod flowers can be lightly fried or added to salads raw. Also, the leaves and flowers can be used to make, fermented homemade soda, coredials, or mead. Seeds of common goldenrod (S. canadensis) eaten as survival food. 

Gardening and Landscaping:  Find a sunny, well-drained area in your yard to introduce goldenrod too. I recommend finding your local native goldenrods by looking along roadsides, old vacant lots, open fields, and fencerows. Try to remove a small clump in the spring or fall to plant in your yard or collect seeds in the fall and winter. 

Pharmacological Notes: Tannins, triterpenoid saponins, flavonoids (rutin and quercitin), phenolic acids, polysaccharides, salicylates. 

Preparation: For children immune support, use the flowers and leaves to make an herbal honey or glycerite.  To make a tea, diffuse 1 tsp of flowers and leaves per cup for 10-15 minutes.  To make a decoction, add 1/2 cup of leaves and flowers to 2 cups of  boiling water, turn heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Morton, J. 1963. Principal wild food plants of the United States: excluding Alaska and Hawaii. Economic Botany (17):4, 319-330.


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