Goldenseal

Goldenseal is slowly making a comeback in herbal medicine communities after centuries of overharvesting and European export. Learn more about its many uses below.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Goldenseal, orangeroot, yellow puccoon
  • Scientific nameHydrastis canadensis
  • Plant typeHerb
  • Native regionNorth America
  • Main producer(s)United States of America
  • Main Economic UseMedicinal
Goldenseal

Once an indigenous cure-all and later an enormously popular export to Europe, goldenseal may have vanished from widespread modern use, but thanks to the rise of herbal supplements and increasing knowledge of the plant's medicinal applications, it looks set to make a comeback. It is unknown exactly for how long goldenseal has been in human use, but records indicate that it was present in Native American cultures for thousands of years before the first documented European discovery. The plant hails from the temperate North American climates of southern Canada and the United States.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAstringent
  • Key constituentsHydrasine, berberine
  • Medicinal rating(2) Minorly useful plant
  • Safety rankingUse with caution

Health Benefits of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is considered as an anti-inflammatory, astringent, and a powerful bitter tonic, and its roots are known to contain hydrastine, a compound that promotes nervous system health. Some of goldenseal's key traditional uses include:

  • Treating peptic ulcers
  • Stopping diarrhea
  • Soothing irritated tissue (eyes, ears, mouth)
THE PLANT CAN BE A HEMOSTATIC SUBSTANCE USEFUL FOR REDUCING HEAVY MENSTRUAL BLEEDING AND POSTPARTUM HEMORRHAGE.

How It Works

While the exact mechanism behind many of goldenseal's medicinal actions remains uncertain, goldenseal can be used internally as a herbal stomachic to treat gastritis, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, and constipation. The primary active ingredients in goldenseal are isoquinoline alkaloids, which are responsible for much of the plant's medicinal value. Some research also suggests that its berberine content means that goldenseal is capable of lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but evidence to support these claims remains insufficient.

Goldenseal Side Effects

Among the most prevalent side effects that goldenseal can lead to are general digestive complaints, such as constipation or acid reflux, as well as vomiting, nausea, and occasional transient tachycardia. In some cases, long term consumption of goldenseal has also been associated with central nervous system depression, but this is very rare. If any of these symptoms appear, it's best to discontinue goldenseal use.

Goldenseal Cautions

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not consume goldenseal, as berberine can cause jaundice and lead to other problems in newborns. Likewise, babies and young children should not be given goldenseal. In addition, those with high blood, liver disease, or heart disease pressure should avoid the herb. It may interaction with other medications and herbs, so those wishing to take goldenseal should check with their doctor first.

How to Consume Goldenseal

Main preparations: Tincture, decoction, capsules

Goldenseal roots are consumed medicinally and can be made into different preparations to suit personal preferences. Goldenseal is often combined with other herbs, such as echinacea and burdock.

  • Decoctions. 50 mL of goldenseal decoction can be gargled three to four times a day for sore throat relief. The roots can be steeped for less time to create a milder infusion.
  • Tincture. According to traditional herbalism, 20 drops of goldenseal tincture can be mixed with a glass of water and taken to reduce excess mucus up to three times a day.
  • Capsules. Capsules and other supplements provide a consistent, known dosage of goldenseal's active compounds.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buyFarmers' markets, Specialized health stores

Raw and Simply Processed Goldenseal

GOLDENSEAL IS VERY EASY TO FIND ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, IN A VARIETY OF PRESENTATIONS.

Goldenseal can be found in the wild and wooded areas of the U.S. and Canada, though it should not be gathered from these natural reserves due to its scarcity. Select health food stores, as well as farmers' markets that carry herbal goods, may sell the root or a ground powder version during harvesting seasons. Teas can usually be found via similar sources, though supermarkets and grocery stores have not largely caught up to the trend just yet.

Goldenseal Supplements

Capsules, tinctures, and liquid extracts are gaining popularity throughout North America once again, but online retailers still provide the average consumer with the best chances of finding these products. Some wholesale chains that carry a wide variety of herbal items may also have the herb, as well as health food stores.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsRoots
  • Light requirementsPartial shade
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatCool temperate regions
  • Planting timeFall
  • Propagation techniquesRoot cuttings

A perennial plant, goldenseal grows best in cool temperatures that average at 60°F (15°C) and 60 - 80% shade. It is generally propagated manually from two-inch (5 cm) clippings of an existing rhizome, in well-drained, slightly acidic soil beds. New plants should be started in autumn and watered throughout the winter if rainfall is sparse. Three years later, roots can be harvested in the fall for medicinal use, after drying them first in the open air or a well-ventilated location.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

  • Classification
    A member of Ranunculaceae, or the buttercup family, goldenseal is a small, herbaceous perennial plant, growing up to one foot (30 cm) tall. It is characterized in the herbal community by its thick, yellow rhizomes. Large, soft leaves are deeply grooved and divided into five segments. The small, white flowers turn into red berries, though these parts of the plant are inedible. The highest density of nutrients, and thus the most utilized part of the plant, all grows below ground.

  • Related Species
    A second species that also uses "goldenseal" as a common name, once known Hydrastis palmatum, hails from Japan and is commonly known as Japanese wood poppy. Further research, however, has led to it becoming reclassified to another genus within the buttercup family and referred to scientifically as Glaucidium palmatum. No true subspecies of goldenseal exist, and in North America, only Hydrastis canadensis is widely recognized.

Historical Information

Indigenous American tribes, including the famous Cherokee of the American southeast, first used the herb as a general healing salve to treat respiratory and digestive conditions. Colonial settlers were later introduced to its abilities in the 17th and 18th centuries, and by 1850, goldenseal was shipped by the ton to Europe. Within 50 years, European shipping had resulted in the decimation of a population that has never fully recovered.

Economic Data

At the height of its popularity around the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 300,000 tons of goldenseal were shipped from the U.S. to various European countries each year. Though the U.S. still leads production of the plant today, demand has drastically decreased worldwide, as shown by a 2012 announcement from the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) stating that less than 10% of all harvested root is now sold overseas. Commercial cultivation is, however, on the rise due to herbal supplement manufacturing.

Popular Beliefs

A rumor has grown that goldenseal's properties can mask illegal drugs in urine tests. However, research and trials have proven the myth false against marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines

Bibliography