First Tastes of Goldenrod

goldenrod_drying

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.

6 Responses to “First Tastes of Goldenrod”

  1. The Medicine Woman’s Roots » Bitters Blogparty (with Bitter Herbs Differentials)on 31 Jul 2008 at 11:17 am

    […] Tammy’s impressions and understandings of Goldenrod.  […]

  2. plantain on 31 Jul 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Great post Tammy! Thank you for sharing your specific impressions of the
    plant in each form you used it. I LOVE your drying sapling(?).

  3. Sasha on 31 Jul 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Wow, wonderful post, so detailed! I am excited to explore Goldenrod some more.. she only came on my radar recently. so neat!

  4. Sarah Head on 31 Jul 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Tammy

    You must be a mind reader! I made my first batch of goldenrod leaf and flower oil on Monday afternoon. I picked a whole bunch of flowering fronds and dried half and made the oil with the other half. I remembered you waxing lyrical about the oil and wanted to really try using it. I am so grateful to you putting together this post because I want to start exploring the plant and was about to ask who had used it. I’ll try making some fresh plant tea this weekend and report back on my findings. I could do with something to help me sleep at night…it’s been too hot here for the past week to sleep very much! The temperatures are getting back to normal now! I know the books say to use goldenrod for respiratory problems and that it’s especially good for children. Have you tried it for this condition at all?

    Have you got some photos of the teas? Also, when you made your oil, did you make it just from the flowers or leaves and flowers? My oil is so thick, green and pungent from the smell of the leaves, I was going to try making another batch with just the flowers to see if I could get the delicate sweetness of their scent infused. I’ll let you know how I get on.

  5. tammy on 31 Jul 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Plantain – that’s a stick I picked up at woods edge that happens to be curved in all the right spots and lays perfectly over the zig-zag of the room divider in my “herb room”. I got the idea from another blogger a while back who posted photos of a natural stick drying rack for kitchen herbs — was that you? Can’t remember, but I loved it.

    Sasha – I’d love to read about your encounter with Goldenrod! I’m totally smitten myself

    Sarah – I make my oil from flowering tops, including leaves. I cold infuse it over about 6 weeks. The first week or two mine does tend to smell a bit pungent and the olive oil smell still comes through, but shortly after that, the full sweetness begins to infuse. I think the finished oil smells almost exactly like the fresh plant, except maybe a bit more concentrated and intense. I’ve not used the plant medicinally at all yet, except for the sore muscles and bath oil, and my first fledgling experiments reported here. I can see that it would be good for respiratory because of the diffusive, aromatic way it fills the nasal cavity and sinuses. I can totally imagine it similarly in the lungs. Also, I think the relaxing effect I experienced may have been due to the tonic effect on the stomach and digestive organs. I read recently that tension or pain there can often refer to the shoulders and upper back. Yes, please do let me know your findings as you play with this plant! I’m anxious to hear more!

  6. Sue on 03 Aug 2008 at 4:20 pm

    What a beautiful blog on Goldenrod Tammy.

    I use Goldenrod and SJW oil for my body aches and it is a blessing.

    The hot tea is really a gem.

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