Yellow root and goldenseal: to dig or not to root

Yellow Root and Goldenseal is an herb that has been used for generations to “cure” a variety of common ailments. With its reported effectiveness in soothing everything from mouth sores to PMS, many people would like to learn how to get their own supply of the golden yellow herb.

The first is the first. Make sure you have the permission of private landowners before hunting on their property. Hunting for goldenseal on government property can result in a fine and possibly jail time. Yellow Root also grows in the same places as poison ivy, be careful to know what you are plucking or you may need the “anti-itch” properties of the herbs faster than you think.

Where to find it

The grass grows on the banks of streams, mainly in the eastern half of the United States. There is some growth west of the Mississippi, but it is typically found from northern Florida to southern Maine.

It seems

First of all, Goldenseal and Yellow Root are the same plant. It is only given different names in different parts of the country. Average plant height is eighteen to twenty-four inches. The leaves resemble parsley. The plant is deciduous. The best way to know if this is what you are looking for is to remove your nail and remove some bark from the stem. The inner pulp is bright yellow. I would suggest taking a small sample to your local agriculture or extension agent before ingesting any plants you find in nature.

Well, I found and identified it. Now what?

Once you have located the Yellow Root, have obtained permission to take it, and there is someone who really knows to identify it for you, do not dig into the plants. Pull the goldenseal up by holding the stem in the ground.

The roots are really just a mass of shoots. If you dig the whole root, it won’t come back. If you root out, the root will sprout again next spring and will have Yellow Root to pull up again in about two years. If everyone acted responsibly when it comes to uprooting, generations to come will still have this valuable natural resource.

Once you’ve uprooted the plant, remove the leaves and put them back where the plants came from. This will act as a natural fertilizer for the new growth. Do not use 400 any type of chemical fertilizer to accelerate new growth. This will harm aquatic life and pollute our water tables. Now that you have removed and “ripped” the goldenseal, it is time to take it home to finalize the process.

Time to dry

Now cut the stems into six-inch pieces and place them on a wire rack about four feet off the ground. This should leave you with the roots. Wash the roots with lukewarm water, making sure to remove all dirt. Now place the roots on the rack. It is best to take the stems and roots of the Yellow Root at night to prevent moisture from re-entering them. The entire process typically takes about seven days to completely remove the moisture from the goldenseal.

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