- Family Ranunculaceae
- Hydrastis canadensis
- Golden Seal, Orange Root, Yellow Root, Yellow Puccoon, Ground Raspberry, Wild Curcuma, Turmeric Root, Indian Dye, Eye Root, Eye Balm, Indian Paint, Jaundice Root, Warnera, Indian Plant
Do not use during pregnancy as it does stimulate the uterus.
Do not use if there is a problem with high blood pressure.
If taken over an extended period of time, it can cause digestive disorders, mucous membrane irritation, constipation, excitatory states, hallucinations, and occasionally deliria. Goldenseal is habitually overused, much like conventional antibiotics, and similarly, for inappropriate reasons. Most herbalists recommend that it be used for no more than three weeks at a time without a break of at least two weeks in between.
BIt may cause a decreased vitamin B absorption rate with higher doses of the herb.
Note that at one time, it was thought that goldenseal could mask the detection of THC (marijuana) in illicit drug analysis, but this has since been disproven.
Eating the fresh plant can cause mucous membrane ulcerations.
Compared to such similar infection-fighting herbs as echinacea and astragalus, goldenseal is more expensive and less effective. As a result, some manufacturers combine it with less costly herbs, but which can have some unpleasant side effects.
Native to North America, goldenseal is a small herbaceous perennial with a thick, yellow root and an erect stem growing to about a foot long. The flowering stem appears in the spring and yields small three-petaled, greenish white flowers. It is an unusual-looking plant with a single, bright red, inedible fruit that forms at the base of the wide leaf and looks like an oblong raspberry. The root fibers grow out of the long, yellow rhizomes, and both are used medicinally.
Goldenseal generally grows wild in moist mountainous woodland areas of North America and prefers soil that is well covered with dead leaves. Because of overharvesting, the herb is now rarely seen in the wild and has to be cultivated. However, in order to flourish, it must have an environment very similar to that of its native habitat. Only the roots from three-year-old plants, or older, should be taken in the fall; but the above-ground parts can be harvested at any time.
Goldenseal is related to another great healing plant called the Pasque Flower.
Many of its alternate names refer to the colour of its pulp and root or to its usage, while others are derived from its history as a remedy among Native Americans.
The herb has long been used medicinally by Native Americans. The Cherokee, and other tribes, mixed it with bear fat and used it as an insect repellent. They also used it to treat wounds, ulcers, ear aches, and sore, inflamed eyes, as well as for stomach and liver problems. The Iroquois drank root infusions and decoctions for fevers, pneumonia, whooping cough, liver disorders, fevers, and heart problems. Several tribes used it to fight TB (tuberculosis).
Goldenseal was introduced into Europe in 1760.
During the 19th century, it became a favourite with Thomsonian and Eclectic practitioners and was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia until 1926.
At the turn of the 20th century, it was the key ingredient in the widely publicized patent medicine called Golden Medical Discovery created by Dr. Roy Pierce.
During much of the first half of the 20th century, goldenseal was listed in the US National Formulary as an antiseptic and astringent. In fact, the widespread popularity of the herb threatened it with extinction in the wild; thus, herbalists recommend buying only products made from cultivated, organic, rather than wild harvested, goldenseal.
- antitumor (cytotoxic)
- digestive and bile stimulant and healer
- mild laxative
- reduces phlegm
- stops internal bleeding
- uterine stimulant
- isoquinoline alkaloids (hydrastine, berberine, canadine)
- volatile oil
- vitamins and minerals (especially cobalt, silicon, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin C)
Roots and rhizomes
During Canadian research in the 1960s, hydrastine proved to have the ability to constrict the blood vessels and stimulate autonomic nerves.
The alkaloid called hydrastine is sometimes used alone to bolster the immune system, treat diverse infections (upper respiratory, eye, throat), soothe intestinal upsets from indigestion to Crohn’s disease, relieve the pain of sciatica or muscles and joints, treat various gynecological disorders, skin problems, and urinary tract infections. The two primary alkaloids in goldenseal are hydrastine and berberine, but it also has lower levels of canadine.
Another alkaloid, called berberine, is bitter, antibiotic, antibacterial, and amebicidal; but it also has a sedative action on the central nervous system. It also is the most extensively researched and has also shown to have mild laxative effects, as well as being astringent and anti-inflammatory in nature. Berberine has proven to inhibit the growth of numerous pathogens, including drug-resistant strains, and has a long history of use in treating various diseases. Clinical trials have shown that berberine sulfate surpasses pharmaceuticals in treating diarrhea caused by enterotoxigenic E. coli. It was also found to inhibit significantly the intestinal secretory response induced by both cholera and E. coli infection in vitro.
Canadine has been proven to stimulate the muscles of the uterus.
On the down side, these alkaloids can cause constriction of small blood vessels, which can raise blood pressure; and prolonged use can deplete intestinal flora. This can be corrected with supplementation of friendly flora.
Goldenseal has been found effective (in vitro) against Vibrio cholerae, Streptococcus pyogenes, Shigella spp., Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella typhimurium, S. paratyphi, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, tuberculosis, Giardia lamblia, and Trichomonas vaginalis, to name a few. The whole herb has proven to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus.
Goldenthread (Coptis spp.) is the closest herb to Goldenseal that can be an actual substitute. Its use and action are almost identical.
Infusions of the powder are used for yeast infections and as a treatment for psoriasis. When diluted, an infusion also makes a good eyewash, mouthwash, or douche.
Washes are used for irritated skin conditions, eczema, and measles.
Decoctions are used for sore throats.
Capsules are commonly taken for convenience and, if taken with chasteberry powder, relieves menopausal flashes and sweats. If combined with eyebright, it relieves hay fever symptoms.
Powder is used to make the capsules and to dust on wounds or used in a snuff for sinus infections. The powder can be applied to any cuts, scrapes, or infected wounds, especially those caused by Staphylococcus organisms.
Tinctures are used for excess mucous conditions and for serious ear infections (otitis media). However, do not use if the ear drum has been perforated.
Compound tablets are available commercially to treat digestive upsets.
Goldenseal seems best when used for six active purposes:
- 1) infections, inflammations, or ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract, from gums to rectum;
- 2) infections in the sinuses when used as a snuff or sinus wash;
- 3) vaginal infections;
- 4) skin infections;
- 5) eye infections;
- 6) a stimulant/tonic when used in moderation or for limited duration.
It is used to treat acute diarrhea caused by numerous gastrointestinal pathogens.
It is used as an adjunct treatment in various cancers and in neutropenia (a decreased number of neutrophils in the blood) resulting from radiation and chemotherapy
Goldenseal is a potent remedy for disorders affecting the mucous membranes, especially the eye, ear, nose, throat, stomach, intestines, and the vagina. Taken internally, goldenseal increases digestive secretions, astringes the mucous membranes, and checks inflammation, but should not be used for an extended period of time since it also reduces the gut’s capacity to absorb some nutrients, especially B vitamins.
Its astringency helps reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. It is used by herbalists and midwives to staunch bloodflow after childbirth, but should not be taken during pregnancy.