Canadian goldenrod Solidago canadensis
Sweet goldenrod S. odorata
S. flexicaulis, S. virgaurea
Familiar goldenrod grows abundantly in Maine, as well as the rest of North America, Europe and Central Asia. Most evident in late summer, it seems to suddenly fill fields, woods’ edge and roadsides everywhere with a mass of stunning golden-yellow that announces the end of the growing season. Allergy sufferers mistakenly believe goldenrod causes their misery; ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) is the true culprit!
Goldenrod's genus name comes from solido, meaning to make whole or strengthen. There are more than one hundred different varieties of goldenrod, at least sixty-five of which grow in North America. All have the same medicinal action: aromatic, tonifying, carminative, astringent and vulnerary. Long referred to as woundwort, goldenrod has astringent properties that help heal wounds.
The aromatic leaves and flowers of goldenrod, especially those of S. odorata, make a delicious drink. Country people know it as blue mountain tea and enjoy it to relieve flatulence, soothe the stomach and allay vomiting.
Cherokee use S. odorata to relieve colds, coughs and bronchial ills, to bring down fever, and as a remedy for nervous system ailments. Ojibwa use S. canadensis as a poultice on boils, and to help heal blisters, burns and ulcers. Menominee stop nosebleeds and headaches by using the dried leaves as a snuff. Chippewa chew the root of S. flexicaulis to relieve sore throat. Leaves and flowers of goldenrod are used by the Potawatomi, Delaware and other nations to bring down fevers.
In Southern Italia we use S. virgaurea, known locally as verga d’oro comune, as it’s the species of goldenrod commonly found in our mountainous area. Both the aerial parts and the root have a history of use, since both contain a bitter resin, tannins and mucilaginous substances. The plant is used as a digestive stimulant, carminative, intestinal astringent, diaphoretic and for its diuretic properties.
The late Adele Dawson, much-loved herbalist from Vermont and author of Herbs: Partners in Life, recommends an infusion of goldenrod and red clover blossoms, combined with an equal amount of elecampane root decoction. She says that one cup, taken daily for several weeks before hay fever season gets under way, lessens allergic reactions. Goldenrod is an effective tonic for the bladder and the kidneys. Infusions of the dried flowering tops have been used for centuries to dissolve stones and gravel. The dose is 2-4 cups daily.
Goldenrod is an antidepressant that has long been regarded as offering comfort and lifting the spirits. I love the way these plants begin flowering just as everything else is almost gone, as if to say, "take heart, we will cheer you."
Flower Essence Goldenrod flower essence helps us remain true to self in groups, where one might present a false persona for social approval.
Magical Lore Goldenrod stalks have been used as divining rods and have a reputation for helping to locate lost or hidden treasure. They are hung above a door to protect and bless all those who come in and out.
Culture Goldenrod is easily transplanted and is a nice addition to the wild garden. Most varieties are two to three feet high; some have bushy tops, others are more singular. Look for it in fertile, dry and sandy soils, in open fields and woods. Gather the flowering tops at their peak to dry for teas and infusions.
Goldenrod in bloom is a nectar source for pollinators such as common sulphur, orange sulphur, gray hairstreak, American painted lady, red admiral and viceroy.