Handcrafted Medicine the Slow Way
It seemed like the last weekend for wild Goldenrod in Oak Ridge. What was once an abundant sunshine streak along the road to our neighborhood had begun to wilt and brown. The remaining blossoming bundles were filled with bees larger than I'd ever seen, but to my relief, they were polite and didn't mind sharing the bounty with me. So, before another bout of heavy rains beat the flowers down to their stems, I set out with some borrowed sheers and a market basket to harvest all that I could for some medicinal Goldenrod experiments.
Late in my teens, I discovered herbal medicine and was hooked. So many minor ailments that once plagued me could be treated, improved, and sometimes ridden with combinations of unadulterated herbs crafted into products by hand. This was long before I found my way to slow living but is an integral part of Alhen's & my daily lives. Early in the tiny home journey, we dreamed about the possibility of having our own herbal products business, making from the road in our bus and vagabonding from market to market.
Up to the present, I'd kept safely to the confines of products purchased from reputable retailers and easy recipes I could find online. I'd made medicinal beverages like Fire Cider and Elderberry Syrup, herbal teas of varying blends, and tried my hand at a few salves. I was content to continue buying my herbs to use in these recipes. But, when we arrived mid-Summer to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the overgrowth of Goldenrod was too tempting to avoid.
I'm hooked. Harvesting herbs by hand, getting to know the plant and its habitat, respecting its insect patrons, and knowing that you were only a stone's throw from your own home creates a special bond with the plant that transfers all the way to the finished product.
Unlikely harvesting locations but an abundance nevertheless.
I thought I'd source the majority of my Goldenrod from my neighborhood, those plants had been battered by the recent rains or deadened by the dropping temperatures. I remembered that the Home Depot parking lot had some plants scattered at the entrance. The trip was absolutely worth it. I sourced two-thirds of my foraged Goldenrod from just outside the Home Depot parking lot and ended up with enough for two bundles of tea (that filled a half-gallon mason jar!) and 750ml of tincture. I learned just about all that I know about identifying, foraging, and using Goldenrod from this blog post by Nerdy Farm Wife, then customized my own activities to fit what I had on hand.
Tools of the trade:
- Plant shears
- Kitchen twine - 5 - 10 ft
- Potato-based vodka - 750ml
- Mason jars - 1qt, 1/2 gal for dried tea
Of course, different or more adequate tools would have been great, but I used what I had on hand, making this an easy and inexpensive project. The only item I didn't have on-hand was a bottle of 750ml vodka, which could have been exchanged for brandy or another high-proof alcohol. I chose this one for its potato (not grain) base, sugar content (minimal), and taste (barely any at all).
Want to see the process behind the making?
I've published three amateur videos, two detail the processes of making tea and tincture, and the third giving a basic overview of my experiments with Goldenrod. That third one might have a cat cameo - you'll just have to watch to find you.
Video Collection: Goldenrod foraging, tincture-craft, and tea making
Wild-Foraged Goldenrod Short Discussion
Wild-Foraged Goldenrod Tincture Recipe & Process
Wild-Foraged Goldenrod Tea Recipe & Process
This could be the start of something bigger
Wild-foraging, making, and consuming this Goldenrod experiment has been one of my most enjoyable projects outside converting a school bus. This endeavor gave me hope that a small handcrafted herbal products business might not be so far away for Alhen and I, and that it might be even more fulfilling than I could have expected. What's most inspiring is how generous the landscape around us can be if we only know where to look. This drives me to learn more about East Tennessee plant-life and ultimately, North American plant-life; how to identify, where to find, and how to incorporate those findings into nourishment just as humans have for thousands of years.
We'd love to hear from you! What kind of plants do you have where you're from? When we're on our cross-country voyage, we want to have plenty of places to stop for new plant adventures!