I love autumn, don't you? The days shorten and fall colors thrill my senses. Perennial roots get busy storing nourishment that will last them through the winter. And the meadows bloom with purple asters and riotous goldenrod flowers.

Goldenrod (the Solidago genus, Asteracea family) is one of my favorite plants, and hopefully, soon it will be one of your favorites too.

Before you complain that goldenrod is a pest and you're allergic to it, let me set the record straight: You aren't. No one is, no one can be, allergic to goldenrod pollen. Why? It has virtually none. What little pollen it makes is sticky, all the better to stick onto insects who pollinate the goldenrod. Only wind-pollinated plants - like ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia), which blooms at the same time as goldenrod, and has an especially irritating pollen - make enough pollen, and spread it widely enough, to cause allergic reactions.

Set aside your mistaken bad thoughts about lovely goldenrod, and, if you can, visit a patch. Goldenrod is a wide-spread wild plant in North America (found from Florida to New Hampshire and west into Texas), Europe, and Asia. Goldenrod is also treasured as a garden plant from New Zealand to Germany, and has become a highly-successful weed in Japan. So, no matter where you live as you read this article, it is likely that you can find a patch of goldenrod.

It is rare to see one goldenrod plant growing alone; it multiplies by sending out root runners, so there are usually dozens of plants growing densely together. Notice all the bees and insects happily crawling about on goldenrod's numerous small yellow flowers.

There are many types of goldenrod, and you are likely to find several kinds if you look around. The species Solidago canadensis and S. odora are considered the most medicinal (and the tastiest), but all species of goldenrod are safe and beneficial and can be used to help the immune system get ready for winter.

Goldenrod tonics are easy to make. Harvest any goldenrod by cutting the top third of the plant in full flower on a sunny fall day. Or, respectfully pull the entire plant, roots and all, in the late autumn or early winter. Then follow the simple directions below. Note: You can use any size jar when making a vinegar or a tincture, so long as you fill it full.

To dry flowering goldenrod:

Bundle 2-3 stalks together and hang upside down in a cool, shady room until thoroughly dry. When the stalks snap crisply, store the dried herb in brown paper bags. One or two large handfuls of crushed leaves and flowers, steeped in a quart of boiling water for 30 minutes makes a tea that can be used hot, with honey*, to counter allergies (especially pollen allergies), fevers, sore throats, coughs, colds and the flu; or taken cold to relieve colic in babies, and gas in adults. Dried mint and/or yarrow are tasty, and useful, additions when making goldenrod flower tea.

To dry goldenrod roots:

Rinse dirt off the roots, then cut away all the stalks, leaves and dead flowers. If possible, hang your roots over a woodstove to dry; if not, place them on racks and put them in a warm place to dry until brittle. Store in glass jars. Depending on the difficulty you are addressing, goldenrod root tea may be made with large or small amounts of the roots brewed or decocted in boiling water. Or the roots may be powdered, alone or mixed with flowers, and applied to hard-to-heal wounds and sore joints.

To make a goldenrod vinegar:

Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then fill the jar to the top with room-temperature, pasteurized, apple cider vinegar. Cap it tightly with a plastic lid. (Metal lids will be eroded by the action of the vinegar. If you must use one, protect it with several layers of plastic between it and the vinegar.) Be sure to label your vinegar with the date and contents. Your goldenrod vinegar will be ready to use in six weeks to improve mineral balance, help prevent kidney stones, eliminate flatulence, and improve immune functioning.

To make a goldenrod tincture:

Chop the goldenrod coarsely, filling a jar with chopped flowers, leaves, stalks (and roots if you have them); then add 100 proof vodka, filling the jar to the very top. Cap tightly and label. Your goldenrod tincture will be ready to use in six weeks, by the dropperful, as an anti-inflammatory, a sweat-inducing cold cure, and an astringent digestive aid. Medical herbalists use large doses (up to 4 dropperfuls at a time) of goldenrod tincture several times daily to treat kidney problems - including nephritis, hemorrhage, kidney stones, and inability to void - and prostate problems, including frequent urination.

The colonists called goldenrod tea "Liberty Tea" for they drank it instead of black tea after the Boston Tea Party. In fact, Liberty Tea proved so popular, it was exported to China! Let goldenrod liberate you, too. Herbal medicine is people's medicine, a gift from Mama Earth to us. Green Blessings.

*Note: Do not give honey to babies under 12 months old.

Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

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