Monday, August 2, 2010

Thy Goldenrod & Thy Staff, They Comfort Me

(Solidago canadensis)

Late each summer we are greeted by a profusion of Goldenrod’s gloriously radiant and cheerful yellow blooms decorating our views in meadows, fields and roadsides. Jovial golden blossoms adorn the sturdy stalks that will never appear alone; vast colonies of this herbal ally will prodigiously populate pastures and paddocks if given half a chance. There are a dizzying variety of species of Solidago; some sources estimate that there are over eighty, while more conservative approximations are about half that figure. Nonetheless, it is notoriously difficult to differentiate members of the genus and although most are medicinal, the variety that is usually referred to in herbalism is S. canadensis.

The enormous plethora of Solidago makes it easy to understand her long-held reputation for generating abundance, luck and love. Astrologically, Goldenrod is assigned to Venus, making her a popular herb for ceremonies to attract true love. Some legends claim that a tea or a bouquet of her flowers will draw your soul-mate to you. Planting it near your front door is said to attract prosperity, and if she volunteers to make a home in your garden, she brings good fortune with her. The most fragrant of the Goldenrod native to New England is S. tenuifolia, more readily distinguished by its many branches of slightly rounded flower clusters; it smells exactly like honey and the bees adore it.

Because her bloom-time is shared with the invisible green flowers of ragweed, poor Goldenrod gets blamed for seasonal allergies, but this is simply untrue. Ragweed has tiny pollen grains that are carried by the wind, grains that are small enough to irritate and inflame sinus tissues; Goldenrod sports a small amount of sticky, large-grained pollen that are exclusively picked up by bees and other pollinating insects, and do not cause allergy symptoms. The irony is that Goldenrod is in fact a helpful remedy for sinusitis and chronic hay fever.

The leaves and flowers are the most helpful part of the plant to use when treating upper-body imbalances such as mouth abscesses, sore throat, scrofula, nasal congestion, cough or asthma; a refreshing tea or a tincture will do the job nicely. The homeopathic dose is effective when treating seasonal allergies or sensitivity to dander –especially feline. The roots of Solidago taken as a decoction or in tincture form are more appropriate to use when treating lower-body or deep-seated imbalances, such as gout, diarrhea, menstrual troubles and kidney or bladder problems. Famed herbalist Nicolas Culpepper wrote, “The decoction also helps to fasten the teeth that are loose in the gums.” This is of particular interest to me because according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys rule the bones and teeth.

Goldenrod is particularly helpful for the Water Element, not only for its diuretic and cleansing effect on the bladder and kidneys; Solidago can help with infections and inflammation as well as stones and gravel. In addition to its heat clearing and soothing properties, Goldenrod is also fortifying; it can help to boost Kidney Qi, the physical energy that governs the organ’s functions, and enrich the Yin, a moistening, receptive, nourishing quality. Solidago can even somewhat nourish the precious “Essence” or “Jing” -the very foundation from which we grow and thrive- that is stored energetically within the Kidneys.

We inherit our Essence from our parents (ultimately all of our ancestors), and we are born with a fixed amount. I like to call this Kidney Essence a “trust fund;” one could spend carefully, budget wisely and save for a rainy day in order to make even a meager inheritance last a long time. Some may be privileged enough to have inherited great genetic riches, but it is quite easy to squander a fortune!

For our body’s daily requirements we utilize energy (Qi) that we receive through food, water, rest, air and relationships (obviously it’s imperative to seek the highest quality in all of these life-sustaining requirements). We use our Essence to fill in the gaps when we can’t rely upon our steady income of Qi and we may never be aware that we are using it. Our Kidneys also help to process our emotional toxins, so when we experience extreme stress, frayed nerves, repressed or excessive emotions and cease to take proper care of ourselves, our inheritance gets spent.

This is where the spiritual and energetic benefits of Goldenrod can help us the most. The name Solidago means “to make whole” which not only refers to her value as a wound healer, but also to her ability to facilitate our recovery from emotional trauma. Deep grief and poignant loss can leave us broken and scarred, in need of potent healing; Goldenrod can help us to mend these painful injuries to our heart and soul.

The fragrance, color, and form of the whole spiritual expression of Goldenrod are hopeful and strength-giving beyond any others I know. A single spike is sufficient to heal unbelief and melancholy. 
– John Muir

Heartrending ordeals can leave us fractured and lost, searching for the way back to our personal center. It is said that the Druids once used the stiff stalks of Solidago as divining rods because the plant would always help locate hidden treasures such as fresh, drinkable water or buried gold and silver. Dowsing for lost objects can include our own search for the path back to self. We may lose our faith; we may find that our strength to endure is flagging; we may feel that we cannot take another step and that’s when the staff of goldenrod can be our support.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
-Psalms 23

Goldenrod offers to fortify our reserves and assures us that we can hold on just a little longer. Herbalist Matthew Wood says that Goldenrod gives us determination so we may “endure to reach the goal.” The Ojibwe described the formation of the roots as gripping the earth in preparation for the difficult times ahead. The promise of rebirth, abundance and found riches is just ahead upon the Path… yes, that’s the one… The Path back to Your own Heart. Hang in there. You can do it.

I lie amid the Goldenrod,
I love to see it lean and nod;
I love to feel the grassy sod
Whose kindly breast will hold me last,
Whose patient arms will fold me fast!
Fold me from sunshine and from song,
Fold me from sorrow and from wrong:
Through gleaming gates of Goldenrod
I’ll pass into the rest of God.
Mary Clemmer – last stanza from “Goldenrod” (1883)

“HerbaLisl” is Lisl Meredith Huebner, Dipl.CH (NCCAOM), RH (AHG), a nationally board certified Chinese Herbalist, and a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. Lisl is also a certified Medicinal Aromatherapist, a Reiki Master an Acupressurist, an Auriculotherapist, a photographer, a renowned diagnostician, a teacher and a published writer who has enjoyed a successful private practice for fifteen years.
Please call 8 6 0 - 4 8 0 - 0 1 1 5 or email if you have any questions, would like to schedule an appointment or are interested in participating in classes or retreats.


  1. Great article! I love how you weave the visceral with the visual with the medicinal with the mystical.

  2. Oh Roberta!! Spoken like a bard!!

  3. It feels as if you have spent some beautiful moments of time basking in the support and love of this gorgeous (great images!!) healer ... great article!!♥

  4. thank you for your kind comments. <3

  5. I love Goldenrod, and this is such a wonderful blog post Lisl!! :-)

  6. when you say the homeopathic dose.. can you be more specific, for a novice like me, please? i am certain my fall honey must have dandelion homeopathic doses also. just wondering if you are meaning just taken as part of a tea maybe?

  7. like a 30cc or less (more) dose.
    see the wiki page for more info:

  8. thanks Lisl. I have not worked Homeopath yet:) I understand about it, I think basically because I understand about the honey my little flying alchemist make. I grew up here in Central Illinois, but moved south for 25 years, and when I came back... achoo, swell, headache in the fall. Within a year of using daily local honey, the next season didn't phase me:) Folks might not think so, but each little spoonful of honey is made with tiny bits of local plants and it works like the homeopathy, I believe. Do you think this is a fair comparison? So even though I haven't got to work with homeopathic remedies, I believe they would be helpful:)

  9. I think so Leslie... although I don't claim to have any expertise on homeopathy either! It makes sense!! Local honey IS tremendous for allergies!

  10. i saw this not long ago, a protest against homeopathic medicine, you probably did also
    at the time, i was thinking, some things are beyond the ken of men, as it should be, and can not be explained only in black and white. if i had the budget, i would add a few of the homeopaths i keep hearing real people mention as being helpful

  11. because some things can't be measured, the reductionist mind gets confounded... and when that pesky ego gets confounded, it gets angry... amusing.

  12. This is so great to read, for I have property with plenty of goldenrod and I've been hoping I would some day learn that it has some value. I'll be happy to maintain kidney health with this plant!

  13. I'm sure she'll be delighted with the attention!

  14. Your posts warm my heart and make me long for summer. I've said to my husband "Why can't what we need be in our yard, why is it that so many great plants grow soooo far away?" It is exciting to know I've walked through many of these plants growing in my own yard. My only question If I were to harvest some Goldenrod to prepare a tea what parts of the plant do I use?

  15. Thanks Carmen!
    For tea, it all depends upon what you are hoping to achieve... the fourth paragraph lays out what plant part for what ailment... that being said, TEAS are really an herbal infusion and that is using the flowers, leaves and delicate upper parts of the plant. Decoctions are cooked/simmered heavier parts like roots, rhizomes, bark and hard plant/tree parts.
    I think the nicest tasting Goldenrod are the flowers of the rounded variety (see photo with the bee)
    happy spring!!!

  16. Wow Thank You for your prompt reply, you packed a lot of info into that answer. I think the variety that grows in my yard looks most like the first picture. Your sharing of your knowledge is very generous.

  17. it won't be as sweet, but it will still be pretty pleasant... give it a try!! Enjoy!!

  18. hello!
    i am very excited to have found your website, i have been looking for a mixture of western herbs seen through an eastern healing system. i am at the moment confused, though, i am having slight kidney difficulties related to strong emotions, and have begun to drink a tea with goldenrod, nettle, dandelion, and yarrow; but these all help get rid of heat, which i can imagine is partly needed- it is very cold winter though and i am cold! could it make sense to drink some ginger tea also?

  19. hello,
    i have a question about warm and cold... i am having slight kidney difficulties due to strong emotions, i have begun to drink a tea of goldenrod, dandelion, nettle, and yarrow. However, these are reduce heat, and it is very cold winter here... i am very cold already! i was thinking to drink also some ginger tea, but i don't know if something here isn't making sense, counterproductive, or so? by the way, i really enjoy your herb profiles seen through chinese medicine, thanks!

  20. I would be remiss to offer advice to you without first being able to construct a good dx. I am available on Skype if you'd like to set up a consultation! just send me a note!

  21. Reading this post was so comforting. I know I have as we all have had times where we had to keep determination and continue to persevere. I am very excited to continue my journey in the plant realm. I relate so much to the animal allies but in deed there is also something magical and beautiful about our plant friends. I am just excited to create a bond with the plants. I am also happy to be taking your class. I love Lisl's talk on Chinese Medicine and would highly suggest her to anyone with any sort of health problem. In maybe an hour she could pinpoint a good portion of what was going on with people and there health and with her expertise, passion and witty upbeat personality it is well worth it to go to her. She is a warm hearted lady and is gifted with wisdom. Wisdom is power and Lisl truly deserves the title "Herbal Lisl" Thank you!!! -Auria from South Windsor, CT

    1. oh bless your bones! I just saw this!! Thanks Auria!!! xoxoxoxo

  22. Do you use the flower essence of Goldenrod for working with emotional trauma?

    1. I personally don't use the flower essences so much, but of course that would be appropriate if you felt called to it!