Seasonal allergies are prevalent in the late summer and fall. And those who experience them might blame the goldenrod they see blooming everywhere at this time of year. However, goldenrod (Solidago) probably isn't what makes your allergies become a nuisance. But the plant that might be the cause of the sneezing, watery eyes, and stuffy nose likely lives nearby.
Goldenrod and Allergies
Goldenrod is nature's way of saying fall is on the way. Its golden flowers brighten the fields and ditches that are mostly filled with greenery during this time, as most other plants have bloomed earlier in the growing season.
As goldenrod comes into bloom, the pollinators experience a burst of activity and busily gather their last big food harvest before the cold of fall takes hold. In fact, the plant's nectar is proof that goldenrod isn't linked to most allergies. For pollen allergies to act up, the pollen has to be windblown and no insects are needed.
The real fall allergy culprit often grows alongside goldenrod: ragweed. According to "Peterson Field Guide: Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs," pollen from the genus Ambrosia (ragweed) is responsible for approximately 90 percent of pollen-induced allergies in the U.S.
Ragweed is a much less showy plant than goldenrod, but it blooms around the same time. While goldenrod has pretty flowers that attract the eye, ragweed has a small green bloom that can be difficult to see. This is why so many people assume it is the goldenrod that is causing their allergies. They associate its bright yellow blooms with the onset of their symptoms but fail to notice the ragweed that is also in bloom.
Of course, anyone can have an allergy to anything. So if you touch goldenrod and find that your skin becomes inflamed or itchy, you might have an allergy to it.
Goldenrod is important for an herbal medicine chest for its nutritive and medicinal qualities. And considering its abundance in most locations all over North America, it's typically an easy herb to collect for your family's herbal kit. To harvest, snip off the blooms, and lay them out to dry in a cool, dry spot. You also can place them in a dehydrator with just the fan on to circulate the air.
You can display fresh or dry goldenrod blooms in a vase, where they will give off a sweet fragrance. You also can make a tea from them, which is said to reduce inflammation and can help with that tired, achy feeling when you are sick. Mix it with chamomile and a bit of honey for an extra relaxing brew, though it doesn't need the addition to be palatable. Goldenrod has a sweet, light flavor all on its own.
Goldenrod also historically has been used as a gentle home remedy for skin eruptions and rashes. Make an infusion with the dried flowers in a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil. Then, use it on inflamed areas of your skin, testing a small amount first to see how your skin reacts. The infusion can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Foster, Steven, and Christopher Hobbs. A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.