Oh Goldenrod! You beautiful ray of sunshine as night bleeds into day. Before our fair friend fades away this Fall, I am posting a quick blog entry about the wonderful benefits of this often-misunderstood plant with the hope of inspiring you to harvest a few stems and perhaps even try brewing it in tea, making an infused oil, honey, or tincture.
Many people incorrectly blame goldenrod for their seasonal allergies. Our own park here in Nashville posted flyers in the bathroom correcting this common misperception noting that ragweed is the frequent culprit for allergies and not goldenrod. Goldenrod is a wonderful late season food for pollinators (like bees). In fact, goldenrod’s pollen is too heavy to travel in the air so it must be pollinated by insects. Depending on where you live, goldenrod blooms in the late summer to early Fall. Here in Tennessee, I first noticed a massive stand of goldenrod in bloom at the Pickett State Park Astronomy field in late August, followed a few weeks later in Nashville and I even saw some here in Nashville today (October 11th).
You might be asking, aside from its beauty and earthy fragrance, why should you care about goldenrod? There are so many reasons! Some of the medicinal actions of goldenrod’s constituents are: antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, diuretic, decongestant, vulnerary (wound healing), analgesic (pain reducing), and as a urinary antiseptic. What does this all mean? First off, instead of being blamed for seasonal allergies, goldenrod can HELP with seasonal allergies. The astringent quality tonifies mucous membranes which may help with allergy symptoms like weepy eyes and runny noses. People who are allergic to the aster family (includes chamomile) may also be allergic to goldenrod.
Goldenrod has a particular affinity to the urinary system as a diuretic, kidney stone prevention, UTIs, and prostatitis. The best way to target the urinary system with goldenrod is by drinking tea. Goldenrod is aromatic and has a lovely flavor that can be enjoyed on its own or incorporated with other herbs. I like to add goldenrod to my daily nettle based long infusion (nettle is also great for fighting seasonal allergies); however, it tastes great and adds value to many blends so experiment with some of your favorites.
Goldenrod infused oil can help relax muscles, ease minor aches and pains (such as lower back pain) and may also help heal bruises. Infused oils can be used alone, made into salves, and combined with tinctures for liniments. Recently I made a lovely goldenrod infused oil that I blended with lemon balm infused oil and created several salve blends. I have a few salves for sale at my shop link. Your purchase helps fund my ability to experiment with more herbal formulas and brings me joy because I get to share my experiments with you!
Ready to try making your own Goldenrod inspired goodies? Here are a few quick steps:
- Locate a healthy stand of goldenrod, away from traffic, and on property you are legally allowed to access and harvest on. You don’t want to harvest plants on a busy road because the plant can absorb some of the toxic exhaust from vehicles.
- Responsibly harvest what you need by snipping off the arial flowering tops leaving plenty for the bees and for the plants to reproduce. Ideally, you will harvest mid-day after the dew evaporates and the warmth of the sun has touched the flowers – this is not always possible but do your best. I like to harvest flowers before they are too mature. When they start to “fluff” and loose their bright color they are less potent but still ok.
- Side note…. Beware of chiggers when harvesting goldenrod. I harvested my first batch in sandals and then drove for several hours while unknowingly being eaten alive by the little buggers. Wear clothing and shoes to protect you and consider a non-toxic bug spray… 2 months later and my ankles are still healing!
- Fresh flowers can be used in honey, tincture, and infused oil. You can also make tea with fresh goldenrod; however, if you want to keep it for many months (until next year), you should dry the herb and store in a tightly sealed glass container out of direct sunlight.
- Dried flowers can be used in infused oils, tinctures, and teas.
Drying Herb to Store for Later Use:
- You can either use a dehydrator, dry on drying racks, or hang upside down for a few days in an airconditioned room (humidity is your enemy). Golden rod dries relatively quickly.
- There are several small insects that live in goldenrod. I usually spread my golden rod on an outdoor table for a few hours to encourage the insects to leave peacefully. You may notice beautiful yellow spiders and a bug that reminds me of lightning bugs. Surprisingly, nearly all the insects will disappear on their own during the drying process.
- Once the golden rod has wilted a few hours, prepare for your drying method.
- If using a dehydrator, trim the goldenrod to exclude as much of the stem as possible and arrange in single layers on the dehydrating trays. Set machine to the lowest setting (around 90 degrees) and run until the herb is “crunchy” (about 8-10 hours on my machine). Once dried, strip the flowers and leaves from the stem and store in a glass jar. Label.
- If hanging to dry, I leave the stems a little longer so I can tie a string to the end and allow to hang. Drying time varies but could be as soon as 24 hours. Once dried, strip the flowers and leaves from the stem and store in a glass jar. Label.
Basic Tea Recipe:
- 2-3 tablespoons of dried goldenrod. Add other herbs if desired (spearmint, chamomile, tulsi, peppermint, calendula, etc.)
- 1 quart of filtered boiled water
- Steep herb for 20-30 minutes
- Strain, add honey if desired. Drink.
- Jar with lid
- Fresh flowers and some leaves, remove from stem, remove insects. Fill jar ½ to 2/3 full.
- Fill with honey.
- Close jar and label.
- Turn the jar several times per day to allow the honey to seep through multiple times. Repeat daily for at least one month.
- Strain honey and use as you would regular honey but with the added herbal benefits and unique flavor.
- You can brew tea with the strained golden rod flowers or even try to tincture it (I haven’t tried this yet).
Tinctures are invaluable, as water will retrieve only some of the medicinal properties of an herb. In addition, they can be stored for extended periods, allowing you to harvest and tincture herbs in season. If stored correctly, apple cider vinegar tends to last for approximately six months; alcohol-based tinctures will last indefinitely.
Basic Goldenrod Tincture using the Traditional Method
- 1 mason jar
- Goldenrod – Use flowers and a few leaves – stems removed. Fill jar approximately 2/3 full
- Vodka 100 proof or Apple Cider Vinegar if you do not want to use alcohol– fill the jar within an inch to the top
- Label jar with date and contents. Shake it at least once daily if not twice for six to eight weeks. Keep out of direct sunlight. Strain tincture using a washed nutmilk bag, muslin or even a French press. Bottle in amber bottles.
Goldenrod is a great herb for your first infused oil because it has a low water content. Infused oils can be somewhat tricky depending on the moisture content of the herb, the type of oil you use, etc. but to simplify this as much as possible for my “quick” post I am going to provide a very basic recipe using ingredients you likely have at home.
You will need:
- 1 mason jar with a lid.
- A carrier oil of your choice, for this example we will use olive oil. Olive oil has a shelf life of up to 2 years after bottling. I use organic olive oil. You can also use sweet almond oil, avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, and so many others if you desire.
- Either dried herb, or wilted fresh herb.
- Fill the jar 2/3 full (lightly pack down) with golden rod, cover with oil.
- Shake daily for at least 4 weeks and up to 8 weeks.
- Strain. Store in a colored glass container. Label. Use within the shelf life of the carrier oil.
- With fresh herbs, there is some concern with moisture evaporating from the oil. I did not have this problem with my goldenrod; however, if this is a concern for you, you can apply heat to the process to help with water evaporation. This also allows you to use the oil sooner too. To follow this method, you would place your jar (with lid off) in a warm oven set between 160-180 degrees. Leave the oil in the warm oven for at least 8 hours. You can also turn the oven off to let the oil cool down for a few hours and then turn the oven back on again….. if you do this then allow the process to continue longer accumulating at least 8-10 hours of active heated time.
- Let the oil cool, strain, store in a colored glass container, label, use within the time period appropriate for your selected oil.
You can use your infused oil in other recipes such as salves or liniments not included in this post.
Swift, K. and Midura, R. (2018). Herbal medicine for beginners. Emeryville, CA: Althea Press