The remedies used by the Indian Tribes of North America prior to the 20th century have been poorly documented. Documentation prior to this time has been found in obscure places such as letters or diaries of travelers, priests, doctors, merchants, and soldiers. By examining these stories in detail, a new world of ancient remedies can appear before your eyes. Old materials medicas, diaries, farmers almanacs, and even recipe books can provide a wealth of information in regards to medicinal plants and their uses.
own a copy of the White House Cookbook from the early 1800's that has a whole section devoted to herbal remedies. I always search the book section of every flea market, in hopes of finding just one more of these treasures. Garages sales, antique book stores, second hand shops and your grandmother's bookshelf remain the best sources for additions to your collection.
Several years ago I was going through papers and books that belonged to my grandmother and came across a remedy for colic and fevers. This particular remedy called for a plant named "sweet goldenrod". That's right - that beautiful, bright golden weed that grows all over the place. The botanical Latin names is solidago odora, which was given to the plant by the famous botanist Linnaeus. This name means "I make whole." The Cherokee name for this plant is "tah o ne ga ah tse luh skee". The white settlers called it "Blue Mountain Tea" or "Sweet Goldenrod".
It is found over most of the entire United States. There are several types of goldenrod, and they are all a genus of the "daisy family." There are 80 species of goldenrod: 79 species can be found in the US and one is found in Europe. Most people are familiar with one type or another but there is only one type, solidago odora, that has a wonderfully fragrant scent. In some places, this plant actually reaches a height of three to four feet.
Goldenrod has been blamed for many an allergy problem. Actually it is not the goldenrod at all, it is another weed not quite as colorful that gets all the credit - ragweed! The pollen from goldenrod is not airborne. IT is carried by bees and other insects. Therefore, it cannot cause your hayfever allergies! This plant has a very pleasant aromatic smell and taste and is useful as both a medicine and as a dye.
This perky golden-yellow weed has quite a history, and it has been used by many of the tribes of North America. After the "Boston Tea Party" the native American goldenrod was used as a substitute and called "Liberty Tea." It became so popular that it was exported to China for use as a tea.
Goldenrod has a variety of medicinal uses from a tonic to a nervine. The Zunis use the blossoms to relieve sore throats or as an astringent. The Alabama tribe used the roots, grinding it into a powder and making a paste. They then applied the poultice to sore gums or teeth. This relieved inflammation and took away the pain. The Cherokee use the entire plant in many remedies. A tea was made from the flowers to be used as a diaphoretic in the treatment of fevers. A poultice was made from the ground root for bee stings, swelling and inflammations. The leaves can be used as a diuretic and as a stimulant. Leaves are also used to treat many intestinal disorders, and they are especially useful when mixed with the flowers for colic. Goldenrod flowers can also be used to treat urinary tract disorders. Teas were made from the flowers to treat colds and flu. This special plant was also revered by the ancient Cherokee as useful in treating wounds received in battle. Its uses as an astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic and carminative have been proven valid by many herbalists.
To preserve this summer plant for winter use, you should harvest the flowers and leaves in early fall. Dry them well and preserve them in brown/glass bottles or jars for future use. you can air dry them or use a dehydrator. However, never - never - use a microwave to dry your herbs. This completely changes the chemical make-up of the herb. It is always best to treat natural things naturally. I usually air-dry all my herbs, allowing them to dry at their own pace and naturally. They seem to have a little more potency this way and usually last longer. Look for goldenrod in September and October.