Solidago virgaurea (European goldenrod or woundwort)

Solidago virgaurea is an herbaceous perennial plant of the family Asteraceae. It is widespread across most of Europe as well as North Africa and northern, central, and southwestern Asia (China, Russia, India, Turkey, Kazakhstan). The genus Solidago is classified into more than 150 species, which crossbreed easily and form new varieties. European goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) is divided into two subspecies which are both polymorphous. Precise identification is not easy; however, it is easy to differentiate European from Canadian goldenrod, which was introduced to Europe in the last century. The flowering period is from July to September.

Medicinal History

The Latin name Solidago is a compound of solidum agere, meaning to make firm, whole, healthy. The name of the species, virga aurea, means golden rod.

In earlier times this plant was primarily used for healing wounds. This is reflected in the German folk name “Heidnisch Wundkraut”, which means “heathen woundwort”. The German name “Unsegenkraut” or “curse herb”, suggests that goldenrod was also used as a defensive remedy against witchcraft and the evil eye. In 1565, Hieronymus Bock wrote that the ancient Germanic tribes considered goldenrod the most valuable of the wound herbs. It was said to heal all “inner deficiency”. Petrus Andreas Matthiolus in the 1500s was the first herbal author to underline its diuretic effect, claiming it was “powerful in increasing the flow of urine and dissolving stones”.

The Europeans also took advantage of its astringent qualities internally and used goldenrod in cases of diarrhea, cough, chronic catarrh of the lungs, spitting of blood from the lungs, and gum ulcerations.

Phytochemical Properties Contained in the Plant

Pharmacological activity of Solidago virgaurea results from the presence of many biologically active compounds, among which flavonoids and phenolic compounds are considered to be most valuable. It contains numerous aponins, diterpenes (solidagolactones, elongatolides), phenolic glycosides, flavonoids (rutin, quercetin, hyperoside, astragalin), tannins, and volatile oils.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Medicinal Properties

Solidago virgaurea has traditionally been used as an anti-inflammatory herbal medicine for the treatment of urinary tract conditions, nephrolithiasis and prostatic diseases. It has been reported to exhibit antimicrobial, antimycotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and hypotensive activities.

Unfortunately, European goldenrod has often gotten a bad reputation over the years for being a weed that causes itchy eyes and runny noses. However, the real culprit is its fellow Asteraceae family member ragweed - which are flowering plants in the genus Ambrosia. Solidago virgaurea is actually an anticatarrhal or an ally to battle those same symptoms for which it is being blamed. European goldenrod has a great affinity for the upper respiratory tract as well as the kidneys or urinary tract. Traditionally, Solidago virgaurea has been used to treat itchy, watery burning eyes and sinus congestion associated with allergies. It seems to have a general affinity for the upper respiratory tract where it helps alleviate infections and inflammation that cause sinusitis.

The following are medicinal properties associated with Solidago virgaurea.

Diuretic effect

In several studies oral administration of an aqueous extract of Solidago virgaurea resulted in an increase in diuresis.9, 10, 11 No isolated compound which has been isolated from Solidago virgaurea is recognized as responsible for its diuretic action, thus the complex mixture of constituents contributed to this effect. Indication of an increase of volume of urine, especially in cases of inflammation and renal calculi/gravel is well documented, both in monographs and textbooks, as in data regarding longstanding use.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity

In an in vitro study, polyphenolic-polysaccharide conjugates extracted from the flowers of European goldenrod were found to inhibit the peroxynitrite-induced nitration and oxidation of platelet proteins. Ethanolic extracts of European goldenrod (plant parts not specified) were found to have antioxidant activity in vitro, with inhibition of lipoxygenase and xanthine oxidase pathways.12