Family: Asteraceae, the Aster Family
Description: Native perennial herb up to 2m tall. Flowers create a pyramid-shaped inflorescence. Leaves alternate, narrow, sharply-toothed.
Habitat: Roadsides, fields, uplands, wetlands
Plant Parts Used: Flowers, leaves, galls
Food: Casual tea
Medicine: Hay fever, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, urinary tract infections, cat allergies
Other: Ice fishing bait, dye
Most people avoid or eradicate goldenrod because they often blame this widespread plant for their seasonal allergies. However, as snake venom is often used to treat snake bites, goldenrod is used to treat hay fever. Most people I spoke to were aware of this seemingly nonsensical use. Deb says goldenrod can even help people with cat allergies. Ray considers goldenrod flower tea the best remedy for hay fever, which he says is usually caused by ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, and. a variety of pollens. He collects goldenrod flowers in their brightest yellow stage and dries them. Deb says to collect them when the tiny flowers first start to open. Plant drying should be done in an airy, non-sunny place either on screens or hung to encourage maximum, even airflow. Sunlight can destroy the many important compounds found in plants. Ray told me that drinking one quart of this goldenrod flower tea per day throughout the winter prevents hay fever symptoms in the spring. Sue also mentioned goldenrod being an effective treatment for hay fever. Terry-Anya told me that she simply enjoys the flavor of this tea, so she drinks it casually. Deb primarily uses a tincture of the flower for its medicinal effects.
Goldenrods contain saponins and are antihistaminic and anti-inflammatory. A tea of the flowers and leaves is also helpful for treating urinary tract infections and has been used for sweats. Deb says goldenrod has especially soft and soothing qualities for treating urinary tract irritation. There are records of Native Americans using goldenrods primarily as a wash or bath for various ailments, including open sores and diarrhea. The flower also makes a yellow dye. In some parts of its range, many of the goldenrods have galls growing on them, which are especially visible in the winter. Ray sometimes collects these galls for ice fishing, because a tiny larva can be found inside.
Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.
- Brooks, John. Personal Interview. 28 Nov. 2010.
- Haines, Arthur. “Preserving Native Plant Knowledge.” Somes-Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary, Mt. Desert, Maine. 9 Oct. 2010. Lecture.
- Hayes, Terry-Anya. Personal interview. 27 Oct. 2010.
- Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
- Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
- Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Medicinal Plants: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Portland, Or.: Timber, 2009. Print.
- Reitze, Raymond and Nancy. Personal interview. 8, 15 Oct. 2010.
- Soule, Deb. Personal interview. 4 Feb. 2011.
- Szwed, Sue. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2010.