There are more than 100 species of goldenrod, a fast-growing perennial with yellow flowers, found throughout North and South America, Europe, northern Africa, and some parts of Asia. This late summer–blooming plant is often unfairly blamed for causing “hay fever” because it flowers at the same time, and often in the same locations, as the truly allergenic ragweed.
Traditionally associated with wound healing, goldenrod’s genus name, Solidago, derives from the Latin solida, meaning “whole,” and ago, meaning “to make.” Native Americans are reported to have used nearly two dozen different Solidago species for a variety of conditions, ranging from external applications as a hair rinse and a wash for burns, sores, and boils, to internal use to treat diarrhea, fevers, and sore throat. Because of its pleasant smell and aniselike taste, goldenrod tea was once used to disguise the unpleasant flavors of other ingredients — an early herbal equivalent to sugar coating on a pill.
Common Name: Goldenrod
Description: Perennial, 3 to 7 feet tall, with showy yellow flower spikes and simple, alternate leaves; woody stems seldom branch
Hardiness: To Zone 4
Flowering: Late summer
Parts Used: Flowers and leaves
Range/Habitat: Native to North and South America, Europe, and Asia; found in open fields and along roadsides
Three species in particular, Solidago nemoralis (gray goldenrod), S. odora (sweet goldenrod), and S. virgaurea (European goldenrod), have been used as astringents, diuretics, and diaphoretics (sweat inducers). A tea made from the flowers of sweet goldenrod has been used to treat urinary obstructions, while goldenrod leaf tea has been used for flatulence and vomiting.
European goldenrod has been administered for gum disease, arthritis, and kidney inflammation, as well as for wounds and skin conditions such as eczema, sores, and insect bites. In traditional Chinese medicine, European goldenrod is prepared as a headache remedy and for treating flu, sore throat, malaria, and measles.
Several horticultural varieties have been developed with larger flower heads and a more compact form. These dwarf varieties add bright color to ornamental borders in late summer.
The flower heads dry to a nice golden color that looks lovely in everlasting herb and flower arrangements. Goldenrod blooms can also be used to make a yellow dye.
How to grow it
Goldenrod species, as well as named cultivars, are sold as plants or seeds. If you aren’t able to find the herb at a retail garden center, check mail-order suppliers that sell native plants. Don’t bother to enrich the soil — goldenrod thrives in average to poor soil and full sun. Harvest goldenrod when it is in full bloom, cutting the top third of the plants. Hang bunches of two or three stems upside down to dry in a warm, airy location.