The lessons waiting to be learned in a garden are infinite—all that is required is a curious mind and access to the Internet. On Saturday during our month-end cleanup, one of our members was upset because another was cleaning out Goldenrod sprigs from a bed that is destined to become an okra patch. The seedlings were taken and planted at the edge of the riparian area that borders the garden.
Goldenrod and Visiting Cerceris Wasp - Photo from Wiki Commons - Pubic Domain
Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) is an herbaceous plant with attractive bright yellow flowers in late summer. This herb was valued by Native American tribes and other cultures in herbal medicine, and for the yellow dye extracted from its flowers. While most would agree there is little place in a vegetable garden bed for goldenrod due to the plant’s invasive tendency, few realize there is a place for them in the garden. I didn’t fully understand myself until I did a little research on the topic.
Goldenrod vs. Ragweed
If we were to ask just about anyone on the street what they know about goldenrod, most would say that it’s a plant that makes people sneeze and stirs up allergies. However, that’s not true. It’s not goldenrod, but ragweed that stirs up the allergies. Ragweed and goldenrod bloom at about the same time—late summer, early fall.
Goldenrod produces masses of bright golden flowers on single-stemmed plants, and has relatively large, heavy pollen grains that are carried off by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Ragweed bares greenish yellow flowers in small heads producing copious amounts of pollen, carried by the wind rather than insects for pollination. Ragweed flowers are not showy.
More on Goldenrod
Goldenrod contains numerous medicinally beneficial compounds with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory effects and is often used as an ingredient in herbal tea.
Because goldenrod is a good source of the acidic chemical compound tannin, 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.
The leaves and flowering tops of goldenrod are valued in some cultures for the preparation of ointments, tinctures and powders. Goldenrod is used as a traditional approach to treat diabetes, gout, and arthritis and to support urinary tract health.
In Chinese traditional medicine the seeds are 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 are 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.
Goldenrod is used as a traditional approach to treat diabetes and arthritis and to support urinary tract health.
The plant has some nutritional value as its root and rhizome contain inulin, a carbohydrate that as a prebiotic can stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach and promote colon health. Goldenrod tea may be good for cardiovascular health. En vivo studies on lab rats found that aqueous extracts of goldenrod reduced blood pressure.
Researchers at a German university found that saponins found in the leaves of goldenrod showed cytotoxicity toward tumor cells. Other studies into the cytotoxicity of goldenrod leaves against specific types of cancer such as prostate, breast, melanoma and lung cancer have showed that compound in the plant might be used in chemotherapy and have less toxicities than other types of chemo treatments. [Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8767852 ; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12467138 ]
Glycosides in the herb were found to have anti-fungal properties, specifically against Candida and Cryptococcus.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not to be taken as medical advice. However I personally will go out and buy some goldenrod tea today—just to see what it tastes like.
As far as having goldenrod in the garden, I vote no because of its invasive nature. Because of its beautiful showy flowers, Goldenrod attracts not only pollinators, but bad bugs as well. I think that it's place as a native plant is in and at the edge of the riparian area that borders the Garland Community Garden. I had previously thought it might be ok to plant in the Medicine Wheel but unless a vigorous effort is made to keep its invasive nature in check, I vote "NO."