Seasonal allergies are prevalent in the late summer and fall, and those who suffer may blame the goldenrod that they see blooming everywhere at this time of year. However, goldenrod (Solidago) probably isn't what makes your allergies become a nuisance during the late summer. The plant that probably is the cause of the sneezing, watery eyes, and stuffy nose likely lives nearby, however.
The True Allergy Culprit
Goldenrod is the Earth's way of saying that fall is on the way. The golden flowers brighten the fields and ditches that are mostly filled with greenery during this time, having bloomed long before.
As the goldenrod comes into bloom, the pollinators experience a burst of activity and are busily gathering their last big harvest of food, before the cold of fall takes hold. In fact, nectar is proof that goldenrod isn't the problem—in order for your pollen allergy to act up, pollen has to be windblown and no insects are needed.
The real culprit is probably growing alongside the goldenrod, although it's a much less showy plant. Ragweed grows in the same areas that goldenrod does, and blooms at the same time. The difference: Goldenrod has the pretty flowers that draw the eye, while ragweed has a small, green bloom that is hard to see, especially while traveling down the road in a vehicle. 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 US.
Of course, anyone can have an allergy to anything, so if you touch goldenrod and find that your skin becomes inflamed, you could have a contact allergy to it.
Goldenrod is very important for your herbal medicine chest. It has nutritive and medicinal qualities that can't be beaten. Considering its abundance in most locations all over North America, it makes a good herb to start your family herbal kit.
To harvest, snip the blooms and dry some by laying out in a cool, dry place. You can also place the plant in a dehydrator, with just the fan on to circulate the air.
Use some more of the sweet-smelling blooms to fill a glass container. Or, make a tea for that achy, tired feeling you get when sick as well. You may want to add a touch of chamomile and a bit of honey, although it doesn't need the addition to be palatable. Goldenrod has a sweet, light flavor.
Goldenrod has also historically been used as a gentle home remedy for skin eruptions and rashes. Make an infusion and allow it to cool, before straining and keeping in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Because it is a gentle herb, it is safe for animals and children. If you are using it on a dog or cat as a hot spot-soothing remedy, they can safely ingest it.
Foster, Steven, and Christopher Hobbs. A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs. Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.