Herbs: Goldenrod or Woundwort, Medicinal Uses and Nutrition
This herb is best known in North American where it was valued in Native American medicine and used to make dye, most often seen in traditional blankets. Goldenrod (not to be confused with Goldenseal) contains numerous medicinally beneficial compounds with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory effects and is often used as an ingredient in herbal teas; probably the best known is Buddha Goldenrod Tea, although in Europe the herb features in a Swiss herbal tea, or vulnerary, known as faltrank.
Goldenrod, botanical name Solidago virgaurea, is a perennial, herbaceous plant in the Solidago genus, which comprises of 80 to 100 species in the large Asteraceae botanical family. Although goldenrod species are spread across North America, some species are native to Europe, Latin America and Asia. Solidago virgaurea, also known as European goldenrod or woundwort is actually the only species native to the Britain.
Solidago virgaurea has finely toothed pointed leaves and upright stems from which grow small yellow flowers in short pedicels, in a similar style to lily of the valley; hence the common name goldenrod. This plant has a reputation for ruggedness and growing uncontrollably, but when it blooms in late summer to autumn few plants can match its display of color, so often used in borders. Goldenrod is unusual, in the plant world, in that it blossoms from top to bottom, as compared to the reverse with most other plants. The flowers are followed by small brown, slightly hairy fruits.
This plant is commonly found in disturbed habitats; on waste ground and along roadsides, and was for many years considered an undesirable weed, indeed goldenrod is still considered an invasive species in certain parts of Europe. It can be found growing wild in meadows and anywhere where wild flowers grow.
Because goldenrod is a good source of the acidic chemical compound tannin (catechins), it was used in the process of making leather, known as tanning. The flowers also make an excellent natural yellow dye for cotton or wool. To make the dye, cook the flowers in simmering hot water for about one hour and strain. Other uses for this plant include floral arrangements’ and wine making.
Medicinal Uses: The leaves and flowering tops of goldenrod are valued in herbology for the preparation of ointments, tinctures and powders; this herb is diuretic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and expectorant.
In Chinese traditional medicine the seeds were used to relieve the stomach and intestines of gas associated with nervous tension: as an anticoagulant and for the treatment of cholera. Medicinal formulas made from the plant were used internally for kidney, bladder stones, urinary infections, and whooping cough; powdered root was taken for dysentery. In Middle Eastern cultures goldenrod was recommended to treat tumors and in homeopathic medicine the herb is suggested for gout, cystitis and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).
Nutritional Value: The root and rhizome of goldenrod contain the carbohydrate, or fiber, known as inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic helps stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach and promotes colon health. The leaves contain numerous flavonoids, including kaempferol, quercitrin, rutin and quercetin. Other constituents include essential oil, mucilage, resin and saponin.
Plants traditionally used as medicinal herbs for treating a wide variety of ailments have come under scrutiny, particularly in the last two decades, as possible sources of new medications.
- Goldenrod tea may be good for cardiovascular health. En vivo studies on lab rats found that aqueous extracts of solidago virgaurea, or goldenrod, reduced blood pressure, or had hypotensive properties in some animals.
- A study at a German university found that saponins, mostly found in the leaves of this herb, showed cytotoxicity toward tumor cells. In other words the herb was toxic to cancer cells. Studies into the cytotoxicity of goldenrod leaves against specific types of cancer, namely prostate, breast, melanoma and lung cancer, have showed that compounds in the plant could be used for antineoplastic, or chemotherapy drugs, which have less toxicities than other medications.
- Glycosides in the herb were found to have antifungal properties, specifically against Candida and Cryptococcus.
Primary image goldenrod; flickr.com, image credit.
Goldenrod plants at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Image credit.