By Rita Bober
This is the time of year when our fields or around the edges of our land are covered with yellow goldenrod. There are more than 20 species (Solidago spp) that are widespread across North America, so we could have a variety hanging around together. Our field guide on Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers names at least six goldenrods that are native to the Midwest. They are in the Sunflower family. Goldenrod is quite tall and has many narrow lanceolate leaves that may or may not have serrated edges. The blossoms are made up of yellow, triangular panicles. Some species are very fragrant and this is the one that is collected for Native tobacco or kinnikinnick (much mixed herbs). Collecting the leaves early in the growing season is best as the leaves get a blight that is not good for medicine.
Many people believe that goldenrod is the cause of our fall allergies but this is not true in most cases as ragweed is the culprit. One shouldn't have any problem propagating this plant. They are perennials that reproduce from rhizomes or seeds. The chicken yard at our place is full of goldenrod. I guess the chickens don't like to eat it, but it does give them a goodly amount of shade.
Many people don't know that goldenrod has medicinal uses. It is not often listed in herb books, but I found several that do list its medicinal properties. Herbalist David Hoffmann indicates that goldenrod could be the first plant to think of for upper respiratory catarrh (excessive secretion of thick phlegm or mucus from inflamed mucous membranes.), whether acute or chronic. Meister suggests that a tea of goldenrod leaves and dry elder blossoms can work as a cold preventive as well as helping with a stubborn cough. Tilford recommends that you can use dried goldenrod in powdered form topically for stopping the bleeding of minor cuts and scratches. It can also be useful in the treatment of urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and arthritis. Some herbalists also suggest that it effectively treats urinary incontinence by tonifying tissues of the bladder and lower urinary tract.
There is some discrepancy as to when the best time is to harvest this plant. Tilford recommends using all of the aboveground parts of the flowering plant while Hoffmann suggests gathering the top parts of the stalks preferably from plants not yet blooming. Whichever time you decide to collect the plant, be sure it does not have blight on its leaves. Also be sure to pick only in untreated areas and away from heavily traveled roads. The leaves and flowers need to be dried out of the sun. You can place them if a paper bag, just be sure to shake the bag every day to keep the plant from molding. To make a tea, pour a cup of boiling water onto 2-3 teaspoons of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Now that you know a little more about goldenrod, I hope you will keep it growing someplace in your yard. It can be healing for us as well as food for our bees.