Thank God for Goldenrod

You can drink me as a tea.

Drink me cold, it will help you pee

Infuse me in honey

Be creative with me and 

You can make money

Sprinkle my flowers on food

My attributes are so good

Heal wounds deep and strong with my flowering pods

Thank you God for making Goldenrod!

Poem by Joyce Harrel

Have you ever been blamed for something you did not do?   Innocent though perceived as guilty?  That is the plight of Goldenrod.  Not only is it often falsely blamed for Fall seasonal allergies it is not often credited with all the good that is does do.  I’m here to set the record straight for this fabulous plant and help us appreciate it’s amazing offerings to us for food and for medicine.

Goldenrod blooms from July through October often next to it’s inconspicuous neighbor, Ragweed.  Ragweed’s obscure green flowers have pollen that when magnified looks like a medieval torture implement.  These terrifying spheres from hell are wind pollinated and fill our nostrils and sinuses causing ‘hay fever’ reactions. Just one Ragweed plant is capable of producing about one billion grains of pollen in a single season. Goldenrod stands tall in it’s sunshiny glory next to this obscure miscreant and often gets blamed for evils it had nothing to do with.  Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and not air borne but insect pollinated.  Insects abound in and around this beauty collecting pollen and transferring the life on wing.  Goldenrod is not only not to blame for Fall allergies but it is the antidote to them.  Infusing a local honey with it’s golden rays makes for a wonderful medicine for Ragweed pollen suffers.  Local honey has been collected by bees from the pollen that grows in your area and will help to build immunity and bring relief particularly when infused with Goldenrod.

Ragweed pollen magnification: 1330 times  Small wonder the itchy eyes and allergic reactions! “The hard outer coat of a Ragweed pollen grain makes it robust enough to survive transport by wind, water and insects, but when it lands on the pistil of a flower, it willingly gives up its genetic material to fertilize the flower ovules.”

There are 120 species of Goldenrod, they all have similar medicinal properties but the one I enjoy eating and drinking the most is Solidago odora for it’s anise scented plume of golden flowers. Solidago means to ‘make whole or solid’  In the Language of Flowers Goldenrod means encouragement which is easy to understand for it’s sunny disposition.  I have sat on my mountain side surrounded by a sea of Goldenrod’s bright yellow plumes and felt like the sunshine was all about me even on a cloud day.  This year I am collecting baskets full of Solidago odora for teas, tincture, infused honey and oil and for a new experiment with dyeing fabrics with it’s colorfast natural dye.  I was fascinated to learn that the various species of Goldenrod result in different colors of dye from green, orange, yellow and brown.  As I follow through with my natural dye’s experimentation I will blog about it to share my findings.

Historically, Goldenrod, Solidago odora, won the name ‘Liberty Tea’ as the Patriot’s tea of choice after the 1773 Boston Tea Party when angry American colonists dumped 342 chests (46 tons) of British East India Company Tea into Griffin Wharf’s harbor in Boston protesting Britain imposing ‘taxation without representation’.  Not only does this species of Goldenrod have a pleasant anise flavor it’s healing qualities are significant.  There is 7 times more anti oxidants in Goldenrod tea than in green tea!

Goldenrod is a perennial upright plant whose woody rhizomes and woody stems can reach up to 7 feet tall depending on the species.  The lanceolate leaves grow alternate along the stem.  Solidago is in the Asteraceae family (Daisy family).  Since these golden beauties grow in fields, meadows, roadsides and just about anywhere with ease I don’t allow them in my garden because they are edgy and aggressive and will take over all the other plants with zeal.  It’s beauty is tempting to keep it close by but one has only to walk a short distance to find fields of gold to harvest without concern for the loss of other less competitive plants that you want close at hand.

Harvest from fields of gold

Edible

Goldenrod flowers are delicious in a salad.  I like to strip them off of their tiny woody stems as golden anise sprinkles to brighten any salad.  The leaves are also edible raw or cooked but I don’t prefer the taste.  When I make a Goldenrod tea I often steep the dried aerial parts of the tea, add the juice of an orange and or lemon, sweeten with local honey and for extra digestive benefits and zip I add a drop of Young Living’s Fennel to the whole batch. This can be served chilled or hot.  Herbalist Robert Dale Rogers referring to the high antioxidant levels of Goldenrod said, “One day someone will become rich by marketing Goldenrod tea.”

I have never frittered the flowers but I have read of those who do.  It’s on my bucket list…

 

Medicinal

Solidago is a wonderful healer.  Reknowned in history for it’s use to heal wounds externally and internally I am in awe of it’s helpful healing uses and am happy to educate you at the treasure trove of wise healing this plant has to offer.  A brief overview: Goldenrod is an anti depressant, anti inflammatory, astringent, bitter, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant, tonifier and a vulnerary

Allergy Relief: during allergy season make Goldenrod tea, tincture and honey.  It’s astringent actions help to dry up the mucus membranes as it’s anti inflammatory actions help to sooth the irritations caused by allergens

Muscle Pain: infuse an oil of the Goldenrod flowers.  This works wonders on strained muscles.  I love to add a few drops of essential oils to this oily infusion but even by itself Goldenrod is a powerful anti inflammatory.  This oil can be used to make salves, liniments, and creams as well.

Kidney Health: Goldenrod has an affinity for the kidneys.  It’s stimulating and tonifying qualities help strengthen the kidneys to work better.  Being a diuretic it also makes you pee more and this helps flush out the kidneys. A strong decoction of the root is recommended for kidney health.  I have yet to try this with Goldenrod roots but after discovering this I am determined to save some of the roots I’ve been ripping out of my garden for this purpose.

Colds and Flu: Being a diaphoretic, a hot cup of Goldenrod tea opens up pores and releases heat through the skin and this will raise body temperature causing perspiration which will help break a fever.  For sore throat, try the tea or the infused Goldenrod honey.  That same cup of tea cooled acts as a diuretic and flushes out the bladder and kidneys when needed.

Anti Depressant: Perhaps Goldenrod is Summer in a jar since these golden blooms have an uplifting effect for people suffering from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Drink as a daily tea during Winter.

Digestion: Goldenrod helps stimulate digestion.  Eat it raw in salads or drink a cup of tea before a meal to get stomach juices flowing with it’s bitter properties or after a meal to help sluggish digestion.

Anti Fungal: Goldenrod’s saponins are anti fungal and effective for use with Candida fungus which causes oral thrush or vaginal infections.  Make a strong gargle with the tea for oral fungal issues and a sitz bath of the tea for vaginal infections.  Some people have used the tea in douches to treat infections or just for preventative hygiene.

Styptic: Goldenrod has styptic properties that stop bleeding.  Powder the dried flowers to put on shaving cuts for quick coagulation of the blood.

Circulatory Support: Due to it’s stimulating properties Goldenrod supports the circulatory system.  Decongesting the liver is key to all health challenges.  It is also an aphrodisiac.  Extremely helpful for men’s sexual health.  After all it is called, Goldenrod!  Due to it’s strong circulatory support it has been called the herbal viagra.  The essential oil of Goldenrod is the best option for this use.  You can apply Goldenrod essential oil to the lower abdomen, ankles or Vita Flex points on the feet either straight ‘neat’ or diluted with a carrier oil.  I read recently that adding 10 drops of Goldenrod essential oil to 1/2 cup Arrowroot powder in a container with a shakeable lid, mixing well, allowing to sit and mix agin it can be used as an adult body powder. Adding that to my bucket list for sure!

Playful

Those plumes and long stiff woody stems make for imaginative fun for little and big kids (me) as javelins or wild arrows. 😉

Useful

Dye: Our local Girl Scout troop is working on dyeing fabrics with natural plant dyes and I will be assisting them in this quest.  Goldenrod makes a pretty yellow color depending on the species.  I hope to experiment with all the Goldenrod species on my mountain to see all the shades each has to offer.

Fishing Bait:  As Fall declines into colder weather and Goldenrod finishes flowering, ball-shaped swellings on some of the stems emerge. These spherical swellings are galls produced by the Goldenrod gall fly.  The saliva of the larva, hatched from the eggs the females had laid along the stems of Goldenrod, causes the lining of the stem to swell creating a cozy home for the metamorphosis of the Goldenrod gall fly.  Fisherman love using these fat and juicy larva as fish bait if the woodpeckers don’t beat them to it!

Rubber: Surprisingly, Thomas Edison experimented with Goldenrod to make rubber.  In the 1930’s Henry Ford gave Edison a Model T with tires made out of Goldenrod.

Spiritual

In ruminating on this yet another green gift from our Creator, I am reminded of the ultimate ‘fall guy’ throughout all of history, Jesus Christ.  Yet Jesus didn’t mind being misunderstood because He knew His mission and gladly took the blame and the shame that rightfully belongs to you and me.  Here are a few Scriptures to shed light on His unsurpassable sacrifice of Love demonstrated by giving His very life to restore us to the heart of God.

“God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“Jesus was handed over to die because of our sin, and He was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 4:25

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. ” 1 Peter 3:18

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.”  Galatians 3:13

Goldenrod Bucket list

Infuse Goldenrod flowers in honey and also olive oil.  Tincture Goldenrod for your natural apothecary. Dry bunches for Winter teas. Strip petioles of the golden flowers to add flavor and colorful nutrition to your salad.  Try your hand at dyeing fabric for that Goldenrod glow. Play with this gift, embrace it, use it to stay well and remember to say.

“Thank you God for Goldenrod!”

 

Curses and Blessings…BURdock

Burs & Thistles, Curses & Blessings

A study of Arctium lappa….common Burdock

“I passed by the field of the sluggard and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,

and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;

its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.

When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,”

Then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.”

Proverbs 24:30-34

 

Burs and Thistles may seem like a curse as described in these scriptures but to an herbalist who appreciates the hidden blessings in burs and nettles they are rather celebrated. I hope by the end of this article you will look at Burdock with deep respect as a green blessing of great value.

Burdock is a delectable edible, an incredible medicinal, and diversely practical in a multitude of fascinating ways, is one of my most treasured weeds. The botanical or formal name for Burdock is Arctium lappa. These nicknames give hints into some of it’s famous characteristics: Beggar’s Buttons, Cockle Burr, Gobo Root , Stick Button and Snake Rhubarb

Before discovering Burdocks green blessings for myself, I only knew it for it’s annoying hitchhiker seed pod burs that would get stuck in my collie Skipper’s fur coat every Fall. Another one of nature’s ways of distributing the seeds far and wide.   Interestingly, these infuriating hooked seed pods became inspiration for Velcro as an ingenious fastener. Dr. George De Mestral, a Swiss engineer, inspected them closely under a microscope and upon examining their simple design of hooks and loops he developed and patented Velcro in 1951.

Burdock is a biennial which means its growth cycle lasts for two years. The first year the energy is in the tasty nutritious roots and the leaves are large like elephant ears growing like a rosette collecting energy to store in the roots. The second year the energy shoots up a tall stalk creating prickly purple flowers that morph into those irksome prickly seed pods. It is all about going to seed and then spreading the life far and wide.

Edible

The Root

The Japanese have cultivated Burdock not as a weed but as a delicacy for hundreds of years. They call it Gobo root.   The best time to dig for the root is in the first year of growth or in the Spring of the second year before the energy shoots up a large seed stalk and the root is tough and fibrous. Once the roots are harvested and cleaned there are numerous tasty ways to prepare this nutritious delicacy. Sweet and Sour Burdock roots, Burdock in stir fries and stews, Burdock roots in a roasted casserole, Pickled Burdock roots, and Burdock Burgers is something I tried recently and they are fabulous…just about any way that you would eat or cook with a carrot works just as well with Burdock.

Sweet and Sour Burdock Root! Perfect for stir fries and soups.

A decoction differs from a tea in that it is typically used to make a strong tea from roots, barks, seeds and wood.  A simple infusion would never extract the minerals and goodness from these green gifts.  So to decoct Burdock root, fill a pan with a quart or more of water, adding the Burdock root slices and boiling them (at first) and then simmering them till the liquid is halved and the roots are tender when bitten into.  Once the roots are al dente then you can make them into whatever your imagination can cook up.  I have made Burdock root taste like BACON just by taking these prepared roots and stir frying them in bacon grease to serve with Elderflower Fritters and Elderberry syrup.  I have also made them taste pretty close to Pepperoni by adding the same spices need to make Pepperoni to the cooked roots and simmering them in a bit of the Burdock pot liquor till marinated before popping them on your wild pizza!  Another fun option is to season these cooked discs with parmesan cheese and Chicken Piccata sauce to taste like mushrooms.

After decocting the roots to make them tender, save the liquid (pot liquor). It is delicious, rather mushroomy in flavor and can be added to soup stock for the enhanced nutrition.

Burdock ‘mushrooms’ on chicken piccata

 

The Stems & Stalks

The stems of a first year basal rosette of Burdock are an often overlooked wild edible gift. They are a bit stringy, like celery but with a bit of peeling they can be prepared to taste not unlike string beans. Boil them till al dente and smother with a Bernaise Sauce, or just butter and salt and pepper them to taste. Any of the stems of the Burdock plant can be enjoyed if it is tender, juicy and not rigid and stiff, thus with a discerning eye these petioles can be enjoyed throughout the Summer.

The Italians call Burdock, Cardoon, which means ‘edible stem’. They collect the stalks or stems of the first year plant in May. The thick juicy stem is like Rhubarb. Take strings off, steam a little bit, chop in chunks, bread them and fry them. They claim it tastes better than eggplant parmesan. Can’t wait to try this next May!

Burdock juicy stems are sort of a wild green bean. They are delicious if picked at the right time and of course prepared properly as well.

 

Leaves

No. just. No. Some say these are edible but I am certain they have never tried them. Bitter is too kind a word for how they taste. Perhaps if you boiled them in 100 changes of water they might be passable but with so many delicious and delectable wild edibles why eat Burdock leaves…

Flowers

My mentor Linda Runyon lived off the land for many years. She loved Burdock in all it’s offerings including it’s baby flower clusters. She claims that if you harvest them early enough they are not spiky and can be boiled to perfection and enjoyed as a pea. Again, I have never been that hungry and find the texture prickly even in it’s early beginnings. But feel free to experiment.

Medicinal

Alterative, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Bitter, Anti-psoriatic, Demulcent, Anti tumoral, Anti septic, Anodyne, Cell proliferant, Tonic

Burdock is a powerhouse of healing awesomeness. This is the classic case of letting food be your medicine and medicine be your food. The tastiest way to get the medicinal benefits of Burdock is to eat it but making tinctures of the root and the seeds has great healing value as well.

Among it’s vast healing benefits Burdock is famous for: aiding digestion due to it’s high fiber content, detoxifying the liver as a bitter, balancing hormones and the metabolism , reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure with it’s high concentration of potassium which is a vasodilator relieving tension within the cardiovascular system, controlling diabetes with it’s high levels of insulin, lowering overall blood cholesterol, skin condition from dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, rashes…can be transformed from the inside out with Burdock mainly due to it’s ability to flush the liver and detox the blood. It is a main herb in Essiac tea, an effective herbal cancer treatment. Externally, the large leaves of Burdock can be used as poultices for burns or rheumatism. Burdock poultices improve blood flow to the injured and infected area, fighting infection and speeding healing…and SO MUCH MORE.

Hope and Lily (two of my wild apprentices) hanging Burdock leaves to dry for burn bandages

The Amish gather and dry Burdock leaves, storing them in their hospitals for use with burn patients. They are an anodyne (pain reliever) and dulls pain, antiseptic and kill germs, cell proliferants and multiply new cell growth, and they won’t stick to the wound.

The seeds are also highly valued for their medicine. Their impact is more immediate than the rest of the plant medicine but not  as long lasting in effect. To see long lasting changes in your health the whole plant medicine should be taken faithfully for several month to see changes in degenerative conditions.

Harvesting the seeds is a challenge. Herbalist Jim MacDonald recommends putting the seed burs in a paper bag, and then another paper bag, then a contractors black trash bag and then drive over them with car tires… Then be super careful not to get those nasty stickers into your skin, if you do get prickled like a porcupine use duck tape to remove them.

Practical & Useful

Burdock plates are especially great for picnics. I love the way they look for a wild meal table as well.

Plates: My foragers always collect large Burdock leaves to use for their dinner plates for our wild food feasts.

Fans: During hot Summer months a Burdock leaf can morph easily into a cooling fan

Baggies: Ever wonder what people did to carry lunch to work before the invention of baggies? Dock means large leaf and Burdock leaves can be elephant ear size! Wrapping food in a large Burdock leaf kept food fresh in haversacks for centuries.

Bandages: Using Burdock leaf over a wound is not only a way to protect it but it’s powerful constituents also aid in the wound healing.

Handiwipes: I’ve also used Burdock leaves to clean off a table or counter top

TP: never tried it but…why not?

Teething: Native American women used the fresh Burdock root and strung it for when the young ones were teething. It worked to quiet them down and soothe their gums.  I wish I knew this when my kids were babies, it sure beats the plastic toys we give them to chew on.

Umbrella: Giant Burdock leaves make a handy umbrella in a pinch

Deflea pets: Simmer a handful of brown burs, strain and cool. Use this infusion to wash your pets and kill fleas quickly!

Poop patrol: My neighbor JD picks up his dog Foscoe’s poops with Burdock leaves to keep our yards poop free!

Cultivation

If digging is not your thing, take an old bale of wet hay and knock together four 1 x 4s like an empty-bottomed flat to fit right on top of the hay bale. Then fill this with garden soil and plant your burdock seeds in there. They will germinate and send their roots down into the hay. To harvest, remove the boards and pull apart the hay to reveal perfectly formed and tender burdock roots.”  I have never done this but it is on my bucket list for sure!

In Summary

So now that I’ve enlightened you as to the phenomenal gifts of Arctium lappa: it’s edibility, powerful medicine, usefulness and playfulness perhaps you agree that these annoying burrs are a worthy reminder of God’s Goodness and Provision for us.  I am grateful for their ingenious method of hitchhiking on a passing pant leg or four legged furry animal to spread it’s life far and wide.

Bring on the Wild Blessings!

Heather digging up Burdock roots for our wild feast

Quick tip, my favorite way to wash edible wild roots is sitting on a rock in a mountain stream and working the roots into the sandy soil until they are scrubbed clean.