I spent 12 months focused on goldenrod (Solidago) in 2010/2011. I had worked with goldenrod for several years prior to this intense study, so I thought we had developed a really good relationship; after our year together though, I was amazed at the versatility of this native plant and how it nourished me on several levels.
The Latin name Solidago means “to make whole”.
I used to be one of those people who insisted I was allergic to goldenrod pollen. *raises hand* Then I began reading from other herbalists that Solidago is insect pollinated; it’s pollen is too heavy and sticky to be carried by the wind. They suggested that ragweed pollen is the reason for people’s allergic reactions, and I have found this to be true. Keep in mind, though, that Solidago is part of the Asteraceae family, so contact sensitivity is possible with certain people.
If you visit goldenrod while in bloom, you will see an amazing abundance of insect diversity, all cross pollinating like bandits and feeding on the nectar and leaves. Crab spiders live in my patch of goldenrod, and I always see a variety of bees, wasps, moths, and other creeping and flying insects gathering and pollinating while I am gathering my medicine.
Rarely do I harvest the roots; I’ve only been guided to do that one time with a small patch in my yard. Mostly I harvest the leaves and flowering tops. I have used flowering tops when they’ve just opened (and some hadn’t yet bloomed), and I have used them in full bloom, and I don’t taste a big difference in the medicine. The full blooms taste slightly stronger, so I tend to harvest then.
In my bioregion, goldenrod tends to bloom in mid summer, and can bloom into mid to late fall, depending on where they’re located. I see goldenrod blooming all over this area before the plants in my yard bloom. I mostly just work with the patch in my yard (unless a friend gifts me with an abundance of her goldenrod).
Energetics and Actions (from personal experience)
Solidago is energetically warm and dry; it’s bitter, aromatic and diffusive.
Primary Action #1: Causes tissues to contract and tonify (Astringent). Secondary actions with this would be anti inflammatory and drying. Goldenrod helps me with my allergy prone sinuses and runny nose. It tonifies the mucus membranes and helps support my upper respiratory tract and sinuses, helping me recover from hair trigger allergic responses to pollen, cat dander, etc. I like to blend goldenrod with ragweed tincture for this.
Action #2: Stimulates digestion (Aromatic/Carminative/Bitter). I have had issues with digestion for several years. I don’t digest foods as easily or quickly as I should; I am a Pitta/Vata body type (Ayurveda) and I have acid reflux (unknown cause). Goldenrod is one of the herbs I depend on to help me digest food properly. A secondary action for this would be the grounding and mood lifting effects of improved digestion.
Action #3: Balances bacteria – I blend goldenrod with monarda for issues with urinary tract infections and to help with low grade yeast infections. It’s also used to tonify the kidneys and bladder.
(I may end up repeating myself a bit here…)
Sweet goldenrod was once an ingredient in the famous Liberty Tea (Read about Liberty Tea here), and is again becoming a popular ingredient in herbal tea blends. I use the dried leaves in all kinds of blends… for allergies, kidney/bladder issues, for sluggish digestion and even in some nervine blends.
Goldenrod “clears the head” beautifully, especially when I have a sinus headache. Also, when I feel stressed and mentally unfocused, I have found that taking goldenrod elixir really helps bring clarity and lift my spirits. She’s great for the wintertime blahs.
The tincture has been very beneficial for me; allergies, digestion, UTIs, sadness… I love the versatility of this herb, and it pairs very well with many other herbs, depending on your need. My goldenrod is tinctured in hundred proof vodka (50% alcohol).
Goldenrod infused honey never lasts long here. There’s been only one time I made an extra batch of infused honey, put it away to steep and forgot all about it. I found it the following summer, almost a year later, and the blooms looked just as fresh as the day I drenched them in honey. That was the best goldenrod honey I’d ever had.
Infused honey is great for sore, scratchy, irritated throats due to allergies, and it’s also great, I’m told, for soothing throat irritation/pain due to flu.
I have always infused goldenrod in extra virgin olive oil; I will either let it sit in a corner (for 5 to 6 weeks) with a coffee filter or paper towel over the top so that moisture can evaporate, or if I need the oil quickly, I will do a low heat extraction method over a few days. Either extraction method works well for me.
I love to use this infused oil on muscle aches and strains, and I often blend it with other infused oils and make a “stretch ease” salve. I’ve blended it with cottonwood buds, solomon’s seal, tulip poplar, pine and cedar. Arnica and St. John’s Wort would also make nice additions, depending on the particular pain issue.
From Susun Weed: “To make a goldenrod vinegar: Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then fill the jar to the top with room-temperature, pasteurized, apple cider vinegar. Cap it tightly with a plastic lid. (Metal lids will be eroded by the action of the vinegar. If you must use one, protect it with several layers of plastic between it and the vinegar.) Be sure to label your vinegar with the date and contents. Your goldenrod vinegar will be ready to use in six weeks to improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulence, and improve immune functioning.” ~From her Herbal Medicine Article: Glorious Goldenrod.
According to Susun Weed’s article, use of the vinegar will “improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulance, and improve immune functioning.”
I personally noticed while working with goldenrod vinegar preparations that it facilitates expansion in the lungs. I feel this more intensely when I work with the oxymel and the infused vinegar, so maybe the apple cider vinegar has something to do with that feeling. I also feel it with the tinctures and elixirs, just not as deeply.
If you want to make a really strong oxymel/shrub, use fresh, flowering tops in your vinegar and add local honey to taste. I prefer mine slightly sweet, but that’s just personal preference; some herbalists use more than 50% honey to vinegar ratio. Dried leaves make a very mellow vinegar infusion while fresh leaves and flowering tops make a very strong infusion.
Goldenrod has really helped me with communication; not necessarily with the ability to speak, but with clarity of mind and focus. (Calamus root has been very helpful in this area as well)
Emotionally, I feel happy and peaceful when I work with goldenrod. I turn to the spirit of this plant when I feel unsettled or lethargic, when I feel like I have been in the house too long (cabin fever), or when winter has been hanging around a little too long and I’m not getting enough sunshine on my face. Goldenrod is a gentle and affectionate spirit, always ready to nourish and tonify our systems and soothe us when we experience nervous energy, nervous exhaustion or chronic fatigue. I have had moments of wanting to “crawl out of my skin” emotionally, and goldenrod, used alone or combined with a few other plants, has eased me tremendously.
I wonder if goldenrod is beneficial for lymphatic issues… maybe by helping to facilitate movement in other systems of the body, it indirectly affects the lymphatic system. If anyone has worked with goldenrod on that level, I would love to have feedback.