For the July blog party on the topic of “bitters,” hosted by Kiva at Medicine Woman’s Roots.
I’ve had a love affair with Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) for the past year, since I first discovered its intoxicating scent and made an oil of it. So far, I’ve only enjoyed it as aroma therapy (not in any official sense; I just like to smell it!) and as a bath & massage oil. Now it’s time to take it to the next level and taste its medicine internally.
According to my book research, Goldenrod is considered a bitter. “The root, leaf, and flower of the Solidago is predominately bitter and pungent…” – Matthew Wood, The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants
Many tend to think of bitters as digestive tonics, and they do have a wonderful reputation for that, but bitter also can be associated with other kinds of medicine, too. I know that “alteratives,” those herbs that can have a beneficial effect on almost every system of the body, often have a bitter component. Some of my most beloved herbal medicines are at least partly bitter. Burdock, dandelion, yarrow, sage, angelica… there are more… These are the plants that ease my “achy all over” symptoms, clear congestion in the lymphatics, improve overall circulation, among other wonderful things.
I don’t yet have a full picture in my mind of the mechanisms at work when these plants do their magical thing in the body (just a partial picture getting clearer all the time), but bitter definitely equals medicine in my mind. When I taste bitter in a plant, I intuitively know that there is strong medicine there.
The bitterness of Goldenrod tells me it has good medicine also. Below are my impressions from my first tastes of it. I sampled each of these different parts and preparations on different days so they wouldn’t all blend together and I could get a better sense of each form individually.
Chew a fresh flower – Slightly numbing on tip of tongue; bitter sparkles on the back. Sharp heat that diffuses and rises into nasal cavity and sinuses. Tongue slightly puckers indicating astringency. Lingering bitter aftertaste mixed with fragrant licorice-like flavor.
Chew a fresh leaf – Sharp and slightly numbing on entire tongue, diffusive (tingly). Less bitter, sharpness fades as you hold it in your mouth, leaving a slight buzz on the tongue and a pleasant taste.
Sip some fresh leaf and blossom tea – Taste is mildly the same as the fresh plant aroma, pleasant. Not very much bitterness (maybe more if left to steep longer). Lovely green-yellow color, which grew deeper the longer the tea sat. A few sips and a few minutes later, marked relaxation in shoulders and upper back. Sleepiness washes over, just want to take a nap, eyes gritty, heavy.
Sip dried leaf and blossom tea – Much, much stronger taste and smell of licorice. While the fresh plant is very complex with a strong note of licorice, the dried plant loses some of that complexity I think, but the result is a very concentrated licorice-ness. The tea turned the beautiful green-yellow color much quicker than with the fresh plant. Slight astringent pucker on the tongue. Sharp, sparkly, licorice heat rises, filling the nose and sinus; lingers pleasantly. Cannot taste any bitterness, primarily tastes of sweet licorice. Very, very slightly tingly/ diffusive on the tongue, much less than with chewing the fresh plant. Mildly relaxing to upper body, but not as pronounced as with the fresh tea.
Other notes and comparisons – The oil of Goldenrod is a darker shade of the the unique green-yellowness, the color of its medicine. I think I would use the fresh plant and/or the dried tea for cold nasal/sinus congestion. Headaches, colds, allergies, etc.
Tincture – I have also made a tincture of fresh leaf and blossoms, which I’ll report on as soon as I’ve had occassion to use it. I’m anxious to see how it compares.
I would love to hear your experiences with this plant also, so please leave a comment if you’ve worked with it at all.