Goldenrod shows up with its bright golden stalks of tiny dense flowers in the late summer to early fall. Many people blame goldenrod for their fall sniffles, but the more likely culprit is ragweed! Goldenrod is pollinated by insects, not by wind. Its pollen is heavy and sticky and does not readily float through the air and into people’s noses to cause that sneeziness we often experience in late summer. Pollinators flock to goldenrod’s bright sprays; it is well loved by honey bees and supports over one hundred species of caterpillars, making it a useful plant for calling in local butterfly populations. Goldenrod supports humans, too -- it can actually help to ease those sniffly fall symptoms by using it as a tea or a tincture.
Goldenrod tea is tasty, slightly sweet and astringent with a hint of volatile oils. According to herbalist Robert Dale Rogers, goldenrod has 7 times the antioxidant levels of green tea! It is also a premier decongestant and alleviates upper respiratory congestion; it’s one of the best herbs for drying up those sinuses.
Goldenrod (S. canadensis) is a tall, slim plant that grows 4-10 feet high and is topped off with fluffy, golden flower spikes. Crush a goldenrod leaf when the plant is in bloom and smell it. You’ll detect hints of resin and seaside in the fragrance; a perfect blend of salt and balsam. Some varieties are more bitter, others more astringent. Sweet goldenrod (S. odora) has honeyed hints of anise or licorice and is a prized beverage tea. Any goldenrod species can be used medicinally. Identification to the species is not essential — good thing, because goldenrod hybridizes freely and it’s sometimes difficult to identify to that level.
Make sure, though, that you’ve properly identified your species as a true goldenrod, in the Solidago genus! Proper identification to genus is crucial. Late summer brings us many yellow flowers and some of the yellow-flowered aster family members are deadly toxic, including ragwort and groundsel.
Harvesting and Drying Goldenrod
Look for goldenrod in fields and meadows -- avoid plants that grow along roadsides close to traffic and pollution. Flowering tops are harvested when the plant is in full flower by cutting off the top third of the plant. (Don’t worry, the plants are vigorous enough to withstand cutting and will regrow during the growing season.)
Tie two or three stalks of your harvested goldenrod and dry the bundles by hanging them upside down away from full sun and with plenty of airflow. When the stalks are dry and crispy and the flowers appear to be fluffy, the herb is ready to use.
Start with 1-2 teaspoons of goldenrod leaves/flowers per 8 ounces of water. Increase the steeping time and dosage as needed. 1-3 ounces of herb can be used per day. The longer you brew it and the more herbs you use the stronger the medicine will be.
Fill a small jar around 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with chopped, fresh goldenrod flowers. If using dried, fill the jar about 1/4 to 1/2 way. (A few leaves are okay to include, too.) Pour a high-proof alcohol such as vodka or brandy until the jar is filled. Cap, label and store out of direct sunlight for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Strain. Tinctures are usually good for at least 1 year, but can last even longer.
Start with a small dose (around 5 drops at a time, mixed with a spoonful of raw honey). If the tincture is well-tolerated, the dose can go up as high as 30-60 drops diluted in a little water 3 to 5 times a day. Take into consideration body size and metabolism. Smaller frames and high metabolisms will need smaller doses while larger body types and more entrenched conditions may need the full amount. Use what feels right to you, but certainly check with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns before use.
Goldenrod tincture can also be used in combination with other herbal tinctures such as yarrow flower, elderflower and nettles.
Another great way to reap the benefits of goldenrod is to infuse it in honey. Loosely fill a small jar with dried goldenrod flowers and add some delicious, local raw honey. Cap the jar and put it on a sunny windowsill for several weeks. Like goldenrod tea, the longer the herb is in the honey, the more effective the infusion will be!
So don't spend those last precious days of summer inside. Go outside and play!