Goldenrod Essential Oil

Bees on Goldenrod flowers

Plant Talk: Goldenrod Essential Oil

Goldenrod, often considered a roadside weed, offers many healing properties. It is a familiar face in North America’s late-summer landscape and one of the continent’s humble yet potent aromatic plants.

If Goldenrod is an aromatic plant, does that mean it creates essential oil? Absolutely! Continue reading for plant highlights, key therapeutics and personality of Goldenrod essential oil and aromatherapy blending ideas.

A Goldenrod of Many Names

Canadian Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is a plant commonly seen in late summer to early Autumn in North America. One of many, it also goes by many names: Canadian goldenrod, meadow goldenrod, common goldenrod, giant goldenrod, tall goldenrod, shorthair goldenrod (S. canadensis var. gilvocanescens), Hager’s goldenrod (S. canadensis var. hargeri), rough goldenrod (S. canadensis var. salebrosa).

A Plant That is One in One Hundred

This particular Goldenrod is but one of over 100 species of Solidago. It may be identified by its stems (up to 7’ tall with fine hairs at the top but smooth further down), leaves (sharply toothed, lanceolate and covered with fine hairs) and flowers (multi-branched inflorescence at the end of each stem) where the nectar-giving heads are mostly on one side of long, droopy panicles.

Goldenrod blooming at summer's end.

An Aggressive and Weedy Thug?

Goldenrod earned the unwarranted reputation of being weedy in North America due to its “aggressive” growth by rhizomes, which allow it to quickly take over disturbed sites. The plant is often found on abandoned farmlands and pastures, waste areas, thickets, prairies, open woods, along roadsides and fences.  

However, when the land is in-balance goldenrod can be seen happily co-existing with other plants. Although it prefers moist over dry soils and doesn’t mind a little shade it does just fine in sunny & dry locations. It is also an integral member of the ecosystem as it provides late-season nectar to myriad pollinators such as bees, solitary wasps, nectar eating beetles and butterflies to name a few.

Solidago (“to make whole”) is from the Latin “solidus/solido” (whole) and “ago” (“to make”).  Consider how this plant shows up to “disturbed sites” where healing of the land is needed. Overall, this plant is gentle, nurturing and kind—rather like its European relatives Yarrow and Chamomile.

Is Goldenrod a Friend or Foe?

Canadian Goldenrod was introduced to Europe in the 1600’s and China in the1900’s where it has become an “invasive thug” and has quite happily naturalized itself mainly due to its incredible allelopathic (i.e., inhibits growth of other plants) powers. There is interesting research (see resources, below) on how North American Solidago competes in Asia with China’s native Phragmites australis and how the balance between nitrogen and phosphorus may be involved. Coincidentally, Phragmities is a major “thug” here in North America. Balance may be realized should we give plants a chance and stop physically and chemically abusing Earth’s ecosystems. Healing plants often show up where they are needed.

Goldenrod inflorescence ready for distillation.
Freshly harvested Goldenrod flowers ready for distillation.

Goldenrod For Allergy Support

As a late summer star of North America, Goldenrod shows off its golden inflorescence from August through October. This is a time when Ragweed, a known allergen, is also in bloom. Many people wrongfully blame Goldenrod for seasonal allergies whereas it may be quite beneficial for drippy-leaky allergy symptom control (source: https://herbcraft.org/nasaleyewash.html)


A Portrait of Goldenrod Essential Oil

Goldenrod essential oil is steam distilled from the flowering tops of Solidago Canadensis of the Asteraceae family. As the specific epithet (Canadensis) indicates this gem is native to North America and often grown and distilled in Canada for its essence.

Goldenrod reminds us to take the time to commune with good company and bask in the hazy-lazy vibes of late summer. To enjoy the hum of crickets and sun that remains warm but is less intense than high-summer. Goldenrod shows us that healing comes from slowing down and enjoying the nurturing company of others who genuinely love you. It nurtures contentment.


Impressions & Personality of Goldenrod Essential Oil

A “Plant Talk” Video Created the Day of Distilling Locally Harvested Goldenrod to Obtain its Dreamy Hydrosol.

Mind-Body Impressions

The essential oil when experienced via deep olfaction is quite calming. It opens up the breath and upper-lungs as it creeps past the diaphragm and stirs the solar plexus to rest in the bladder/urethra. The pulse quickens but the inevitable paradox is there: it stimulates but calms in a non-soporific way. Goldenrod’s signature is one of calming patience, the play “Waiting for Godot” comes to mind without a connotation of heaviness.

Naturally, by olfaction, the sensations start in the nasal cavity, but they stay there each time and slooooowly spread to the under-eye area and hover in the lower sinuses without further reach. The sensation feels numbing to dulling, heavy. Simultaneously, a feeling of mental lightness and a sense of freedom from care wash over the mind-body. The breath feels fuller without urgency to action. Attention is brought to the bladder/urethra quite often. The movement is face to bladder, touching the upper respiratory system and freeing/supporting the solar plexus. Through several inhalation sessions the physical loop is face, clear breathing, urinary, repeat, sinuses, open-calm breath, urethra with a sense of easeful-calm.

Goldenrod makes me aware of my body but gives no desire to move. At all. (The pulse is enhanced and felt through the body despite the aforementioned loop.) It’s as though I can wait contentedly around, for whatever-something, for a long time. Goldenrod tempers impatience and hushes “There is no rush. Go ahead, sit and observe.” It brings everything, all tension, down. The shoulders, belly, all tension sinks down and away with continued heavy-buzzy-dull feeling in the face. This action is like the plant looks: busy up top, very busy, full, then straight down to the bladder/root.

Close up of Seaside Goldenrod
A close-up of a different type of Goldenrod called “Seaside” Goldenrod.

Aromatic Personality

Goldenrod’s chemistry is rather subtle; its aromatic chemicals don’t “leap” off of a scent strip despite its preponderance of monoterpenes. The clean and freshly terpenic clear-blue-air aroma slowly hovers around, revealing wet grass in the late-summer sun. Hints of balsamic damp earth emerge—reminiscent of a light misting of rain on warm leaves. The feeling of late-sun warms and dries: soft and faintly sweet. The further dry-down is of sweet and grassy damp leaves with fresh notes of soft and honeyed perfume.

It is a joy taking the cap off the bottle. The sesquiterpene-rich oil gets a little resinous and sticky, like honey, and leaves residue on the mouth of the bottle.


Goldenrod Essential Oil Safety & Chemistry Highlights

• Goldenrod essential oil is generally regarded as safe (i.e., non-sensitizing, non-toxic and non-irritating).

• Goldenrod has an interesting representation of esters (bornyl acetate), monoterpenes (d-limonene, α-pinene, β-pinene, sabinene, myrcene) and sesquiterpenes (Germacrene D).

Affinities and Usage Applications for Goldenrod Essential Oil

Goldenrod is a powerful but gentle aromatic. Indigenous North American’s have worked with the plant (as an herbal preparation, not the distilled oil) for its gentle but effective efficacy for aches & pains, flu, fever, diarrhea, inflammation and catarrh. Emotionally and mentally it was used as a sedative, “as wash for a child who does not talk or laugh,” sleeplessness and excess crying.

From a therapeutic, aromatherapy perspective Goldenrod is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent (i.e., toning), anti-viral, diuretic, expectorant, mucolytic, a blood mover, hypotensive, hepatic-stimulant and a venous tonic.

Core affinities and indications for working with Goldenrod essential oil are listed below:

  • Mind & Emotions: Calming similar to chamomiles. Aides in supporting personal power (solar plexus) and contentment. Calms agitated minds and allays sleeplessness.
  • Digestion: Supporter of liver, kidneys and promotes the “rest and digest” response
  • Respiratory: Supports full breathing with an affinity for the sinus cavities; qualities help with drippy mucus and paradoxically, catarrh.
  • Circulatory: Vein tonic, hypo-tensive.

Goldenrod Herbal Preparations and Hydrosol

• When prepared as a traditional herbal medicine (i.e., tea, tincture), Goldenrod is helpful for urinary issues such as UTIs. It is also helpful for upper respiratory infections and calming the allergy response (similar to other members in the Asteraceae family). It is overall gentle and healing but contraindicated for those with kidney issues for one reason being its diuretic effect.

• Hydrosol: I have repeated experiences with the hydrosol (method: a 2-3 sprays in 2-4 ounces of water) where it is quite sedating, nearly stupefying. Several people who have had the hydrosol with me note how they feel “stoned,” relaxed and “chill” (as noted above: a stupefying effect). Given it’s relation to chamomile, this calming, if not sedating effect similar to Roman Chamomile, is not surprising.

Blending with Goldenrod Essential Oil

Goldenrod gets along well with other members of the aster family such as Inula (Inula graveolens) and the chamomiles (Eriocephalus punctulatus, Matricaria recutita and Anthemis nobilis) as well as several botanicals rich in bornyl acetate such as Greenland moss (Ledum groenlandicum) and conifers such as Picea mariana and Abies balsamea. It also pairs nicely with other aromatics high in d-limonene such as Frankincense (Boswellia frereana, B. sacra), Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) and innumerable friends from the Citrus family.


Aromatherapy in Practice with Goldenrod Essential Oil

Calming Lotion Bars

As aromatherapy is a mind-body connector, this gentle and calming blend of oils may help soothe irritations (e.g., post bug bite, scraps and cuts, mucus/respiratory support) and irritated minds.

Have you ever heard of lotion bars? They are a super portable way to bring topical anti-inflammatory care to the whole family. Read this article for a step-by-step guide and add the following to a 4 ounce batch.

  • 20 drops Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
  • 15 drops Inula (Inula graveolens)
  • 5 drops Cape chamomile (Eriocephalus punctulatus)
    • (This is a rare oil, substitute with another Chamomile for anti-inflammatory support)

Joyful Communication: Stock Bottle of Synergy

Goldenrod has a lot to say just like the late summer which is filled with the buzz and hum of many insects. I dare write that Goldenrod empowers you to be open, receptive and communicative. Consider how the flowers grow tightly knit in community—hundreds of little flowers on 1 plant! When blooming, the plant exudes joy. Harness that joy with the following synergy.

  • 60 drops Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
  • 50 drops Corkbark fir (Abies lasiocarpa v. arizonica) or another conifer of your choice
  • 15 drops Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)

Try this blend in an aromatic spritzer or to diffuse when looking to bring a convivial atmosphere to a room. Following are some ideas: add 25 drops to a personal inhaler. Add 10-15 drops in water diffuser, or 2ml in nebulizing diffuser. Add 30 drops to a 2 ounce aromatic spritzer.

Gentle Dreams Slumber Oil

Combine the gentle classics of Lavender and Chamomile with Goldenrod to bring sweet slumber to the little ones, the elders and everyone in-between. Combine the following ingredients in a 1 ounce bottle with at top of your choice (I prefer pump-tops). Dispense 1-3 pumps onto your palms and massage the oil to your neck and chest, even behind the ears. Apply nightly, as needed.

  • 1 fl oz of Jojoba oil
  • 10 drops Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 5 drops Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
  • 1 drop English chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)

Parting Thoughts on a “Weed” Called Goldenrod

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read about goldenrod essential oil. I have a bias with this plant as I love distilling it for the hydrosol and reveling in its deeply relaxing qualities. Every time I work with it I feel the golden sunlight of late summer and the buzz of the bees—a bit cotton-heady and very relaxed. The hydrosol’s aroma is similar to the essential oil: damp-clean-blue with earth after a light rain. Do you love working with this ally as well? Let me know.


References:

https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.1254

Moerman, Daniel. Native American Medicinal Plants.  Portland, Timber Press, 2009.

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