What is echinacea goldenseal



1. Hydrastis canadensis L. USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 22 November 2013). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed February 24, 2014. 2. Rhizoma Hydrastis. In: WHO Monographs On Selected Medicinal Plants. Vol 3. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2001:194-203.3. Hobbs C. Golden seal in early American medical botany. Pharm Hist. 1990;32(2):79-82.116227334. Bolyard J. Medicinal Plants and Home Remedies of Appalachia. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas; 1981.5. Foster S. Goldenseal. Hydrastis canadensis. Botanical Series, No. 309. 2nd ed. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1996.6. Weber HA, Zart MK, Hodges AE, et al. Chemical comparison of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) root powder from three commercial suppliers. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(25):7352-7358.146405837. Dawes ML, Brettell T. Analysis of goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis L., and related alkaloids in urine using HPLC with UV detection. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2012;880(1):114-118.221777878. Inbaraj JJ, Kukielczak BM, Bilski P, He YY, Sik RH, Chignell CF. Photochemistry and photocytotoxicity of alkaloids from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.). 2. Palmatine, hydrastine, canadine, and hydrastinine. Chem Res Toxicol. 2006;19(6):739-744.167803519. Edwards DJ, Draper EJ. Variations in alkaloid content of herbal products containing goldenseal. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2003;43(3):419-423.1283679410. Govindan M, Govindan G. A convenient method for the determination of the quality of goldenseal. Fitoterapia. 2000;71(3):232-235.1084416011. Van Berkel GJ, Tomkins BA, Kertesz V. Thin-layer chromatography/desorption electrospray ionization mass spectrometry: investigation of goldenseal alkaloids. Anal Chem. 2007;79(7):2778-2789.1733850412. Genest K, Hughes DW. Natural products in Canadian pharmaceuticals. IV. Hydrastis canadensis. Can J Pharm Sci. 1969;4:41-445.13. Galeffi C, Cometa MF, Tomassini L, Nicoletti M. Canadinic acid: an alkaloid from Hydrastis canadensis. Planta Med. 1997;63(2):194.1725234814. Gentry E, Jampani HB, Keshavarz-Shokri A, et al. Antitubercular natural products: berberine from the roots of commercial Hydrastis canadensis powder. Isolation of inactive 8-oxotetrahydrothalifendine, canadine, beta-hydrastine, and two new quinic acid esters, hycandinic acid esters-1 and -2. J Nat Prod. 1998;61(10):1187-1193.978414915. Grippo AA, Hamilton B, Hannigan R, Gurley BJ. Metal content of ephedra-containing dietary supplements and select botanicals. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2006;63(7):635-644.1655428716. Abourashed EA, Khan IA. High-performance liquid chromatography determination of hydrastine and berberine in dietary supplements containing goldenseal. J Pharm Sci. 2001;90(7):817-822.1145833117. Yao M, Ritchie HE, Brown-Woodman PD. A reproductive screening test of goldenseal. Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2005;74(5):399-404.1619349718. Scazzocchio F, Cometa MF, Palmery M. Antimicrobial activity of Hydrastis canadensis extract and its major isolated alkaloids. Fitoterapia. 1998;69(suppl 5):58-59.19. Amin AH, Subbaiah TV, Abbasi KM. Berberine sulfate: antimicrobial activity, bioassay, and mode of action. Can J Microbiol. 1969;15(9):1067-1076.490619120. Sun D, Courtney HS, Beachey EH. Berberine sulfate blocks adherence of Streptococcus pyogenes to epithelial cells, fibronectin, and hexadecane. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1988;32(9):1370-1374.305802021. Mahady GB, Pendland SL, Stoia A, Chadwick LR. In vitro susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to isoquinoline alkaloids from Sanguinaria canadensis and Hydrastis canadensis. Phytother Res. 2003;17(3):217-221.1267214922. Cech NB, Junio HA, Ackermann LW, Kavanaugh JS, Horswill AR. Quorum quenching and antimicrobial activity of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Planta Med. 2012;78(14):1556-1561.2281482123. Cecil CE, Davis JM, Cech NB, Laster SM. Inhibition of H1N1 influenza A virus growth and induction of inflammatory mediators by the isoquinoline alkaloid berberine and extracts of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Int Immunopharmacol. 2011;11(11):1706-1714.2168380824. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, Sanyal SC, Alam K. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis. 1987;155(5):979-984.354992325. Khin-Maung U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, Aye-Kyaw, Tin-U. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1985;291(6509):1601-1605.393520326. Inbaraj JJ, Kukielczak BM, Bilski P, Sandvik SL, Chignell CF. Photochemistry and photocytotoxicity of alkaloids from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) 1. Berberine. Chem Res Toxicol. 2001;14(11):1529-1534.1171291127. Chignell CF, Sik RH, Watson MA, Wielgus AR. Photochemistry and photocytotoxicity of alkaloids from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) 3: effect on human lens and retinal pigment epithelial cells. Photochem Photobiol. 2007;83(4):938-943.1764566728. Creasey WA. Biochemical effects of berberine. Biochem Pharmacol. 1979;28(7):1081-1084.44426529. Nishino H, Kitagawa K, Fujiki H, Iwashima A. Berberine sulfate inhibits tumor-promoting activity of teleocidin in two-stage carcinogenesis on mouse skin. Oncology. 1986;43(2):131-134.308184430. Kim JB, Yu JH, Ko E, et al. The alkaloid Berberine inhibits the growth of Anoikis-resistant MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines by inducing cell cycle arrest. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(6):436-440.1980077531. Saha SK, Sikdar S, Mukherjee A, Bhadra K, Boujedaini N, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Ethanolic extract of the Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, has demonstrable chemopreventive effects on HeLa cells in vitro: Drug-DNA interaction with calf thymus DNA as target. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2013;36(1):202-214.2362894932. Karmakar SR, Biswas SJ, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Anti-carcinogenic potentials of a plant extract (Hydrastis canadensis): I. Evidence from in vivo studies in mice (Mus musculus). Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2010;11(2):545-551.2084314933. Dunnick JK, Singh B, Nyska A, Peckham J, Kissling GE, Sanders JM. Investigating the potential for toxicity from long-term use of the herbal products, goldenseal and milk thistle. Toxicol Pathol. 2011;39(2):398-409.2130079034. National Toxicology Program. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of goldenseal root powder (Hydrastis canadensis) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 2010;(562):1-188.2137285835. Li GH, Wang DL, Hu YD, et al. Berberine inhibits acute radiation intestinal syndrome in human with abdomen radiotherapy. Med Oncol. 2010;27(3):919-925.1975721336. Lau CW, Yao XQ, Chen ZY, Ko WH, Huang Y. Cardiovascular actions of berberine. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. 2001;19(3):234-244.1160704137. Bhowmick SK, Hundley OT, Rettig KR. Severe hypernatremia and hyperosmolality exacerbated by an herbal preparation in a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis. Clin Pediatr. 2007;46(9):831-834.1758500838. Palmery M, Cometa MF, Leone MG. Further studies of the adrenolytic activity of the major alkaloids from Hydrastis canadensis L. on isolated rabbit aorta. Phytother Res. 1996;10(suppl 1):S47-S49.39. Cometa MF, Galeffi C, Palmery M. Acute effect of alkaloids from Hydrastis canadensis L. on guinea pig ileum: structure-activity relationships. Phytother Res. 1996;10:S56-S58.40. Baldazzi C, Leone MG, Casini ML, Tita B. Effects of the major alkaloid of Hydrastis canadensis L., berberine, on rabbit prostate strips. Phytother Res. 1998;12(8):589-591.41. Abdel-Haq H, Cometa MF, Palmery M, Leone MG, Silvestrini B, Saso L. Relaxant effects of Hydrastis canadensis L. and its major alkaloids on guinea pig isolated trachea. Pharmacol Toxicol. 2000;87(5):218-222.1112950142. Meng S, Wang LS, Huang ZQ, et al. Berberine ameliorates inflammation in patients with acute coronary syndrome following percutaneous coronary intervention. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2012;39(5):406-411.2222093143. Chatuphonprasert W, Nemoto N, Sakuma T, Jarukamjorn K. Modulations of cytochrome P450 expression in diabetic mice by berberine. Chem Biol Interact. 2012;196(1-2):23-29.2234283244. Yin J, Xing H, Ye J. Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(5):712-717.1844263845. Wei W, Zhao H, Wang A, et al. A clinical study on the short-term effect of berberine in comparison to metformin on the metabolic characteristics of women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 2012;166(1):99-105.2201989146. Li Y, Ma H, Zhang Y, et al. Effect of berberine on insulin resistance in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: study protocol for a randomized multicenter controlled trial. Trials. 2013;14:226-6215-14-226.2386692447. Abidi P, Chen W, Kraemer FB, Li H, Liu J. The medicinal plant goldenseal is a natural LDL-lowering agent with multiple bioactive components and new action mechanisms. J Lipid Res. 2006;47(10):2134-2147.1688556548. Zhou JY, Zhou SW, Zhang KB, et al. Chronic effects of berberine on blood, liver glucolipid metabolism and liver PPARs expression in diabetic hyperlipidemic rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2008;31(6):1169-1176.1852005049. Pisciotta L, Bellocchio A, Bertolini S. Nutraceutical pill containing berberine versus ezetimibe on plasma lipid pattern in hypercholesterolemic subjects and its additive effect in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia on stable cholesterol-lowering treatment. Lipids Health Dis. 2012;11:123.2299897850. Hu Y, Ehli EA, Kittelsrud J, et al. Lipid-lowering effect of berberine in human subjects and rats. Phytomedicine. 2012;19(10):861-867.2273941051. Cianci A, Cicero AF, Colacurci N, Matarazzo MG, De Leo V. Activity of isoflavones and berberine on vasomotor symptoms and lipid profile in menopausal women. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2012;28(9):699-702.2231317152. Yamaura K, Shimada M, Nakayama N, Ueno K. Protective effects of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) on acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity through inhibition of CYP2E1 in rats. Pharmacognosy Res. 2011;3(4):250-255.2222404853. Kim JS, Tanaka H, Shoyama Y. Immunoquantitative analysis for berberine and its related compounds using monoclonal antibodies in herbal medicines. Analyst. 2004;129(1):87-91.1473758954. Misík V, Bezáková L, Máleková L, Kostálová D. Lipoxygenase inhibition and antioxidant properties of protoberberine and aporphine alkaloids isolated from Mahonia aquifolium. Planta Med. 1995;61(4):372-373.748019055. Periera da Silva A, Rocha R, Silva CM, Mira L, Duarte MF, Florêncio MH. Antioxidants in medicinal plant extracts. A research study of the antioxidant capacity of Crataegus, Hamamelis and Hydrastis. Phytother Res. 2000;14(8):612-616.1111399856. Jiang XW, Zhang Y, Zhu YL, et al. Effects of berberine gelatin on recurrent aphthous stomatitis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial in a Chinese cohort. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2013;115(2):212-217.2324622957. Kardos J, Blaskó G, Kerekes P, Kovács I, Simonyi M. Inhibition of GABA binding to rat brain synaptic membranes by bicuculline related alkaloids. Biochem Pharmacol. 1984;33(22):3537-3545.609585258. Chatterjee P, Franklin MR. Human cytochrome p450 inhibition and metabolic-intermediate complex formation by goldenseal extract and its methylenedioxyphenyl components. Drug Metab Dispos. 2003;31(11):1391-1397.1457077259. Brinker FJ. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998.60. Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG. 2002;109(3):227-235.1195017661. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, Second Edition. CRC Press; 2002.10.1201/9781420040463.Ch362. Chan E. Displacement of bilirubin from albumin by berberine. Biol Neonate. 1993;63(4):201-208.851302463. Richard CL, Jurgens TM. Effects of natural health products on blood pressure. Ann Pharmacother. 2005;39(4):712-20.1574142564. Ernst E. Cardiovascular adverse effects of herbal medicines: a systematic review of the recent literature. Can J Cardiol. 2003;19(7):818-27.1281361665. Abilify (aripiprazole) . Princeton, NJ: Bristol-Myers Squibb; February 2011.66. Kubo M, Koue T, Inaba A, et al. Influence of itraconazole co-administration and CYP2D6 genotype on the pharmacokinetics of the new antipsychotic aripiprazole. Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2005;20(1):55-64.1577007567. Azuma J, Hasunuma T, Kubo M, et al. The relationship between clinical pharmacokinetics of aripiprazole and CYP2D6 genetic polymorphism: effects of CYP enzyme inhibition by coadministration of paroxetine or fluvoxamine. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2012;68(1):29-37.2173926768. Hendset M, Molden E, Enoksen TB, Refsum H, Hermann M. The effect of coadministration of duloxetine on steady-state serum concentration of risperidone and aripiprazole: a study based on therapeutic drug monitoring data. Ther Drug Monit. 2010;32(6):787-790.2106865069. Wu X, Li Q, Yu A, Zhong M. Effects of berberine on the blood concentration of cyclosporin A in renal transplanted recipients: clinical and pharmacokinetic study. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2005;61 (8):567-572.1613355470. Guo Y, Chen Y, Tan ZR, Klaassen CD, Zhou HH. Repeated administration of berberine inhibits cytochromes P450 in humans. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2012;68 (2):213-217.2187010671. Juxtapid (lomitapide) . Cambridge, MA: Aegerion Pharmaceuticals, Inc; December 2012.72. Gurley BJ, Swain A, Hartsfield F, et al. Supplementation with goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), but not kava kava (Piper methysticum), inhibits human CYP3A activity in vivo. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2008;83(1):61-69.1749587873. Desta Z, Kerbusch T, Flockhart DA. Effect of clarithromycin on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of pimozide in healthy, poor, and extensive metabolizers of cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6). Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1999;65(1):10-20.995142674. Orap (pimozide) . Sellersville, PA: Teva Pharmaceuticals USA; August 2011.75. Flockhart DA, Richard E, Woosely RL, Pearle PL, Drici MD. A metabolic interaction between clarithromycin and pimozide may result in cardiac toxicity. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996;59:189.76. Desta Z, Kerbusch T, Soukhova N, et al. Identification and characterization of human cytochrome P450 isoforms interacting with pimozide. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1998;285(2):428-437.958058077. Palanisamy A, Haller C, Olson KR. Photosensitivity reaction in a woman using an herbal supplement containing ginseng, goldenseal, and bee pollen. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2003;41(6):865-867.1467779878. Chen S, Wan L, Couch L, et al. Mechanism study of goldenseal-associated DNA damage. Toxicol Lett. 2013;221(1):64-72.2374741479. Gorodetzky CW. Beating the urine test for heroin: ingestion of water and the herb, goldenseal (GS). Federation proceedings. 2012;36(3):4053. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/o/cochrane/clcentral/articles/247/CN-00198247/frame.html. Accessed June 17, 2014.80. McCarty CA, Berg RL, Rottscheit CM, Dart RA. The use of dietary supplements and their association with blood pressure in a large Midwestern cohort. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Nov 28;13(1):339.2428338181. Liu R, Tam TW, Mao J, Saleem A, Krantis A, Arnason JT, Foster BC. The effect of natural health products and traditional medicines on the activity of human hepatic microsomal-mediated metabolism of oseltamivir. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2010;13(1):43-55.20456830

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For centuries, people have combined echinacea and goldenseal to restore health and battle a variety of ailments. Exactly how these herbs work is still a bit of a mystery, but some studies have proven their effectiveness for specific ailments and conditions. Both herbs are alteratives, meaning they help restore health and cleanse the blood of impurities. Alteratives don’t work quickly. People take them over the long term to address chronic conditions.

Echinacea as an Immune Booster

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, echinacea contains active substances that enhance the immune system. It also relieves pain, reduces inflammation and offers hormonal, antiviral and antioxidant effects. Its uses include treatment of urinary tract infections, vaginal candida yeast infections, ear infections, athlete’s foot, hay fever and sinusitis. Some reports claim that applying echinacea extract on sores helps reduce healing time, but no scientific proof supports this claim. Echinacea does have antiseptic properties, however, so it makes sense that it would help wounds heal faster.

Echinacea for Infections

In 2003, an article in “Phytomedicine” reported that Echinacea purpurea extracts induce macrophage — mobile white blood cell — activation. It also activates polymorphonuclear leukocytes — white blood cells produced by bone marrow — and natural killer cells, making echinacea an immune booster. According to the “Herbal Materia Medica,” echinacea offers antimicrobial, antibacterial and lymphatic properties, making it a choice for infections.

Goldenseal to Calm and Nourish Mucous Membranes

The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that some people use goldenseal to ease and nourish mucous membranes, making it a viable choice for urinary tract infections, sore throats, vaginitis, diarrhea, eye infections and canker sores. According to the “Herbal Materia Medica,” goldenseal is an alterative, so it cleans the blood, while its antimicrobial and astringent properties soothe and protect the mucous membranes. Because of its bitter properties, goldenseal benefits the digestive tract and may ease the effects of indigestion.

Goldenseal to Lower Cholesterol

One of the biggest advantages that goldenseal has to offer is its ability to lower cholesterol. “The Journal of Lipid Research” published an animal study that identified goldenseal as a natural LDL-lowering agent. Goldenseal contains an alkaloid called berberine, which in the study helped lower LDL in hamsters.

Recommended Use and Precautions

According to Janet Zand, writing on the website Healthy.net, people may take echinacea and goldenseal two to three times per day for one to two weeks per month. Both remedies may be in the form of tinctures or pills, with tinctures the most effective. Long-term, continuous use of these herbs may have adverse effects, however. Also, these herbs may interact with prescription drugs, so check with your doctor before taking either.

Goldenseal for Upper Respiratory Infections

Goldenseal for Upper Respiratory Infections

May 2000; Volume 3; 56-58

By Dónal P. O’Mathúna, PhD

Goldenseal remains one of the most popular herbs sold in the United States. In the first eight months of 1999, sales of echinacea and goldenseal, often formulated together, ranked fifth among herbal remedies sold through mainstream markets.1 If your patients use herbal remedies, there’s a good chance they take goldenseal as a “natural antibiotic” to treat and prevent colds and flu.

History and Harvesting

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a member of the buttercup family. It is a low-growing herbaceous perennial, characterized by a bright yellow rhizome (or underground thickened stem), from which it gets its name. Other common names include golden root, eye root, and ground raspberry, because of its small red fruit. It grows naturally in the woodland areas across much of the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Overharvesting of goldenseal in the 1980s and early 1990s led to concerns that it was becoming an endangered species, especially as it was difficult to cultivate. Much progress has since been made in this area, leading to significantly expanded agricultural acreage.2


Native American tribes (including the Cherokee, Iroquois, Crow, Seminole, and Blackfoot) commonly used this herb as a diuretic and stimulant, as a treatment for stomach ulcers, and as a wash for irritated eyes and mouth sores. It was also an important source of yellow dye. European settlers first mentioned it in 1804 as a powerful “bitter” to increase appetite and facilitate digestion, and as a mouth and eye wash.3 Goldenseal was enthusiastically promoted by the Eclectic medical doctors, who focused on herbal remedies and gave many American herbs their first scientific evaluations by carefully observing and recording their effects.3 Many Eclectics were critical of overblown claims about goldenseal, such as its alleged ability to cure cancer.

With the decline of the Eclectics in the 1930s, goldenseal’s use dropped off in the United States. Recent interest in goldenseal began when it was reported during the 1970s that oral ingestion would mask morphine in drug urinalysis. These claims have been shown to be without scientific merit, but they persist, and have broadened to include masking of marijuana and cocaine.4

Official Recommendation and Current Use

Goldenseal was officially approved as a medicinal herb in the United States Pharmacopoeia (1830-1840 and 1860-1926), and in the National Formulary (1888 and 1936-1955).3

Many pharmaceutical companies sold the root and preparations of it until the early 20th century. Goldenseal is now sold as a cure-all type of herb to prevent and treat colds and flu, strengthen the immune system, potentiate insulin, cleanse vital organs, and promote the functioning capacity of the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, and colon.


The active ingredients in goldenseal are a group of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, the most abundant of which are berberine and hydrastine. Alkaloids are a diverse group of alkaline nitrogen-containing compounds made by many plants from a small group of amino acids. Many have pharmacological activity. The chloride salt of berberine is responsible for goldenseal’s yellow color. Most of goldenseal’s alleged medicinal effects have been linked to berberine, with recent studies confirming the lack of antibacterial activity of other constituents.5

The active ingredients in goldenseal belong to the group of plant chemicals called:

a. flavonoids.

b. diterpenes.

c. alkaloids.

d. steroids.

Mechanism of Action

The mode of action of goldenseal and berberine in humans is not understood well. Berberine (also isolated from barberry, Oregon grape root, golden thread, and several Chinese herbs) has antimicrobial effects, inhibiting the adherence of microorganisms to host cells.5 Berberine has in vitro antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of microbes, including Bacillus, Streptococcus, and Candida organisms.6 Antiviral activity has not been reported for berberine.

Goldenseal is believed to relieve colds and flu by increasing the flow of mucous and causing the release of more antibodies.7 Goldenseal allegedly acts in humans as an “alterative,” an herbalist’s term for substances that gradually produce beneficial changes in the body by stimulating natural healing processes. In this case, goldenseal’s GI effects are said to result from “increasing deficient flow but decreasing excessive flow” of various mucous secretions.7

Animal Studies

One animal study examined goldenseal’s effect on the rat immune system.8 Animals given goldenseal in their drinking water showed significantly elevated IgM antibody levels compared to control rats during the first two weeks, but not in the four subsequent weeks. Levels of IgA antibodies did not differ between the two groups.

Another animal study provides some support for goldenseal’s relief of cold symptoms.9 Mice with drug-induced diabetes were fed a diet containing 6.25% by weight of goldenseal to investigate its reputation as a natural diabetes treatment. No significant changes in plasma glucose and insulin concentrations were detected, but hyperphagia and polydipsia were significantly reduced.

Clinical Studies

A search of MEDLINE, TOXLINE, and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (using the terms goldenseal, golden seal, hydrastis, and berberine) found no clinical studies using goldenseal. Several goldenseal monographs also were consulted, and none reported clinical studies. A clinical study of giardiasis and berberine found it active against Vibrio cholerae, protozoa, and fungi.10

Goldenseal contains 2-4% of berberine, so one would have to take 26 commercial 500 mg goldenseal capsules daily to obtain the berberine dose typically given in the referenced clinical studies. Twenty-six capsules (or 13 g) daily far exceeds the usual recommended dose.7

The active ingredient in goldenseal has shown activity as an:

a. insulin-regulating compound.

b. antibacterial agent.

c. estrogen replacement agent.

d. antiviral agent.


Goldenseal reportedly enhances the effects of echinacea and is frequently added to other herbal preparations. It is available as dried root and rhizome in capsules, tinctures, extracts, tablets, salves, and ointments. For colds and flu, one or two 500 mg capsules are recommended 2-3 times daily. Alternatively, one teaspoonful of herb (the contents of 2 or 3 capsules) or tincture can be added to a cup of boiling water to make a tea taken three times daily. Stronger mixtures are recommended for external use only.

Adverse Effects

Large doses or prolonged use of goldenseal can cause nausea, vomiting, paresthesia, hypertension, and respiratory failure. Fatalities have been reported.11 Goldenseal (10 capsules; strength not reported) is one of several berberine-containing herbs used as abortifacients.7 Berberine displaces serum-bound bilirubin, raising blood levels and increasing the risk of brain damage in infants with previously raised bilirubin levels.12


Widespread use of goldenseal has led to over-collection and deforestation of the plant, leading to high prices and adulteration with less expensive berberine-producing herbs.13 These include Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis), yellow root (Xanthorhiza simplicissima), and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium or Berberis vulgaris), which have different overall effects. Oregon grape in particular has been associated with adverse effects, especially diarrhea, nephritis, confusion, and stupor.14 The European Union’s drug regulating agency in 1996 listed Oregon grape as an Herbal Drug with Serious Risks because of its berberine content.7


The likely active ingredient in goldenseal has in vitro antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic activity. However, its systemic efficacy, especially against viral infections, remains unproven. One animal study showed it may induce short-lasting immune system stimulation.


Given goldenseal’s serious adverse effects, its popular use for colds and flu appears unwarranted. Goldenseal certainly should not be used during pregnancy or lactation. Traditional usage has primarily been as a topical antimicrobial, and berberine does have broad antimicrobial activity. Ironically, goldenseal has fallen prey to the same tendency toward overuse as have prescription antibiotics, resulting in endangerment of the plant’s wild variety.

Which group of patients should most certainly limit or avoid use of goldenseal?

a. Older men

b. Teenagers

c. Immunosuppressed adults

d. Pregnant women

Dr. O’Mathúna is Professor of Bioethics and Chemistry at Mount Carmel College of Nursing, Columbus, OH.

1. Blumenthal M. Herb market levels after five years of boom. HerbalGram 1999;47:64-65.

2. McGuffin M. AHPA goldenseal survey measures increased agricultural production. HerbalGram 1999;46:66-67.

3. Hobbs C. Golden seal in early American medical botany. Pharm Hist 1990;32:79-82.

4. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler’s Honest Herbal. 4th ed. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:195-197.

5. Gentry EJ, et al. Antitubercular natural products: Berberine from the roots of commercial Hydrastis canadensis powder. Isolation of inactive 8-oxotetra-hydrothalifendine, canadine, beta-hydrastine, and two new quinic acid esters, hycandinic acid esters-1 and -2. J Nat Prod 1998;61:1187-1193.

6. Pepeljnjak S, Petricic J. The antimicrobic effect of berberine and tinctura berberidis. Pharmazie 1992;47:307-308.

7. Bergner P. The Healing Power of Echinacea, Golden-seal, and Other Immune System Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing; 1997.

8. Rehman J, et al. Increased production of antigen-specific immunoglobulins G and M following in vivo treatment with the medicinal plants Echinacea angustifolia and Hydrastis canadensis. Immunol Lett 1999;68:391-395.

9. Swanston-Flatt SK, et al. Evaluation of traditional plant treatments for diabetes: Studies in streptozotocin diabetic mice. Acta Diabetol Lat 1989;26:51-55.

10. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

11. Lewin NA, et al, eds. Goldfrank’s Toxicological Emergencies. 5th ed. Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange; 1996:963-979.

12. Chan TY, et al. Chinese herbal medicines revisited: A Hong Kong perspective. Lancet 1993;342:1532-1534.

14. Fetrow CW, Avila JR. Professional’s Handbook of Complementary & Alternative Medicines. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Publishing Company; 1999.

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What is Goldenseal?

Goldenseal is a perennial herb found in the rich woods of the Ohio River Valley and other locations in the northeastern United States. The single, green-white flower, which has no petals, appears in the spring on a hairy stem above a basal leaf and 2 palmate, wrinkled leaves. The flower develops into a red-seeded berry. The plant grows from horizontal, bright yellow rhizomes, which have a twisted, knotty appearance.

Scientific Name(s)

Hydrastis canadensis L. Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercups)

Common Name(s)

Goldenseal is also known as yellowroot, orangeroot, eyebalm, eyeroot, goldenroot, ground raspberry, Indian turmeric, yellow puccoon, jaundice root, Radix Hydrastis, sceau d’or

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Goldenseal root was used medicinally by American Indians of the Cherokee, Catawba, Iroquois, and Kickapoo tribes as an insect repellent, a diuretic, a stimulant, and a wash for sore or inflamed eyes. It was used to treat arrow wounds and ulcers, as well as to produce a yellow dye. Early settlers learned of these uses from American Indians and the root found its way into most 19th century pharmacopeias. The Eclectic medical movement, a branch of American medicine incorporating biobotanical elements and popular in the late 19th century, was particularly enthusiastic in its adoption of goldenseal for gonorrhea and urinary tract infections.

General uses

Traditional uses of goldenseal are not supported by clinical studies, although it may be of use in diabetes, lipid disorders, heart/blood vessel conditions, and cancer.

What is the recommended dosage?

Few well-controlled clinical trials are available to guide dosage for goldenseal root extract. Recommended dosages vary considerably: 250 mg to 1 g 3 times daily. Some product labeling suggests higher dosages. Traditional dosages include 0.5 to 1 g dried rhizomes 3 times daily, and 0.3 to 1 mL 1:1 liquid extract in 60% ethanol 3 times daily.


None well defined.


Avoid use; activity as a uterine stimulant has been documented. Safety in breast-feeding has not been established.


Goldenseal may affect the enzymes involved in drug metabolism.

Side Effects

Information from clinical studies is lacking, but adverse reactions with common doses are rare. Very high doses of goldenseal may rarely induce nausea, anxiety, depression, seizures, or paralysis.


Toxicological concerns have been reported, with some evidence of cancer in rodents.

1. Goldenseal. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons . St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; April 2014.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

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Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States. Native Americans historically used goldenseal for various health concerns including skin diseases, ulcer symptoms and gonorrhea. Today’s traditional uses of goldenseal have broadened to include the natural treatment and prevention of colds, respiratory tract infections, allergies, eye infections, digestive issues, canker sores, vaginitis, urinary tract infections and even cancer. (1)

Goldenseal contains berberine, which has been been proven to be antimicrobial, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and blood glucose–lowering. (2, 3, 4, 5) It has also gained popularity after a rumor spread that taking the herb can help block a positive test for illegal drugs. However, there is no scientific evidence that has proven this rumor to be correct. Yet, fortunately there is research to support the medicinal use of it.

What Is Goldenseal?

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also known as orange root, yellow root or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb belonging to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. It is a low, sprawling plant native to the rich, shady soil of the deciduous forests of North America growing from southern Quebec to northern Georgia and west to Missouri.

Due to over-harvesting, it is now mostly commercially grown on farms in the U.S. Goldenseal plants have hairy stems with five to seven jagged, lobed leaves and small white flowers that turn into raspberry-like red berries. The bitter tasting roots of the plant are bright yellow or brown, twisted and wrinkled.

The dried underground stems (rhizomes) and roots of the plant are used to make teas, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules as well as natural skin care products. Goldenseal’s potent properties are primarily due to the alkaloids berberine, canadine and hydrastine. These phytochemical alkaloids produce a powerful astringent effect on mucous membranes, reduce disease-causing inflammation and have antiseptic effects.

5 Health Benefits of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is an impressive herbal remedy with many health benefits:

1. Improves Digestive Issues

Goldenseal is an excellent digestive aid since it is very bitter, which stimulates the appetite, aids digestion and encourages bile secretion. It contains berberine, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat dysentery and infectious diarrhea. This is not surprising since berberine has shown antimicrobial activity against certain pathogens that cause bacterial diarrhea, including E. coli and V. cholera as shown by a randomized controlled clinical trial back in 1987 involving 165 adults with acute diarrhea due to those two bacterial offenders. (6)

Goldenseal can also be helpful to people experiencing small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) symptoms. Current conventional treatment of SIBO is limited to oral antibiotics with inconsistent success. The objective of a study published by Global Advances in Health and Medicine was to determine the remission rate of SIBO using an antibiotic versus an herbal remedy. Researchers found that the herbal treatment, which included berberine, worked just as well as antibiotic treatment and was equally safe. (7)

Some people also use it for stomach swelling (gastritis), peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids and intestinal gas. Another impressive study found that among several herbs tested in vitro, goldenseal extract was the most active in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori, a type of bacteria which can lead to gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer. (8)

As you can see, goldenseal may be able to help a wide range of problems when it comes to the gastrointestinal system.

2. Natural Antibiotic & Immune System Booster

Goldenseal is often found in herbal remedies for allergies, colds, and the flu because of its natural antibiotic and immune-boosting capabilities. Scientific research suggests that medicinal plants like goldenseal and echinacea may enhance immune function by increasing antigen-specific antibody production. A product containing goldenseal and echinacea is an awesome natural bronchitis remedy.

Additionally, research at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School has shown goldenseal’s medicinal effectiveness as an immune stimulant may be due to its ability to reduce the pro-inflammatory response, which indirectly leads to the limiting of clinical symptoms during infection. (9)

There haven’t been any clinical (human) studies to date, but goldenseal is also sometimes recommended to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are caused by bacterial overgrowth in the bladder’s interior walls. The berberine may actually prevent infection-causing bacteria from binding to urinary tract walls. (10)

3. Fights Cancer

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the berberine in goldenseal has been found to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells in multiple studies. (11) For example, one in vitro study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that berberine inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells to a greater extent than doxorubicin (a chemotherapy drug). (12)

Berberine alkaloids have also been shown during in vivo studies to have potent cancer cell killing activity against tumor cells. In vivo research has also been performed on a series of human malignant brain tumor cells and rat brain tumor cells in which berberine was used alone at a dose of 150 mcg/ml and had an average cancer cell kill rate of 91 percent. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug carmustine had a cell kill rate of only 43 percent. The rats treated with berberine at 10 mg/kg had an 81 percent kill rate. (13)

Research will continue, but so far goldenseal showing some noteworthy anticancer abilities.

4. Aids Eye & Mouth Problems

Goldenseal is also commonly used as a mouthwash for sore throats, gum complaints, and canker sores (small ulcers in the mouth). For any of these concerns, a goldenseal mouth rinse can help by reducing inflammation and getting rid of any nasty bacteria.

You can purchase a mouthwash that already contains goldenseal or you can easily make some mouthwash at home. Simply make a cup of goldenseal tea and let it cool down before using it to rinse your mouth. Or you can add five drops of liquid goldenseal extract to eight ounces of warm water with a teaspoon of salt and mix well.

Goldenseal has been utilized as an eyewash for eye inflammation and eye infections like conjunctivitis or “pink eye.” Since the use of it in the eyes is somewhat controversial, consult a health care practitioner before using it in this way.

5. Boosts Heart Health

The cardiovascular effects of the berberine found in goldenseal suggest its possible clinical usefulness in the treatment of arrhythmias and/or heart failure. For this reason, goldenseal is believed to possibly be helpful for chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart function in general. (14)

An animal model study published in the Journal of Lipid Research also demonstrates that the root extract is highly effective in regulation of the liver’s LDL (“bad” cholesterol) receptors and in reducing plasma cholesterol. Overall, the findings identified goldenseal as a natural LDL-lowering agent. (15)

In combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, goldenseal may help to lower cholesterol naturally and boost heart health.

Goldenseal History & Interesting Facts

Goldenseal gets its name from the golden-yellow scars that form on the base of the stem when it is broken. The scars resemble a gold wax letter seal, hence the name.

It has been said that the powers of goldenseal were first introduced to European settlers by Native Americans, who harvested its rhizomes and roots to treat a variety of health complaints including eye, skin and digestive issues. Native Americans also mixed the plant with bear grease for use as an insect repellent and they used the color-rich roots to dye clothing.

Goldenseal has become one of the top selling herbs of North America. It can be found as an active ingredient in many commercial or over-the-counter drugs in the form of elixirs, tablets, capsules, or suppositories. (16) Health products combining it with echinacea are very common and are created with immune system enhancement in mind.

Despite rumors, goldenseal will not cause a false-negative result for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or any other illegal drugs. The idea of using it to alter drug test results came from the novel “Stringtown on the Pike,” by the pharmacist John Uri Lloyd. However, in this book, goldenseal caused a false-positive for strychnine (a poison), not illegal drugs, in a murder case.

Possible Side Effects of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is considered safe for short-term use in adults at recommended dosages. Rare side effects may include nausea and/or vomiting. Discontinue use if any negative reactions like these occur. It is not meant for long-term use.

If you are currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications or have any health issues, check with your doctor before taking goldenseal. People with high blood pressure, liver disease, or heart disease should consult their health care provider before taking it.

Goldenseal is not suggested for use in children or infants. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also avoid using it.

Recommended Use of Goldenseal

Goldenseal can easily be found in tea or supplement form at your local health store or online. Depending on which product you purchase, make sure to read the label for each brand’s recommended dosage.

For the powdered root and rhizome, four to six grams per day in tablet or capsule form is sometimes recommended. For liquid herbal extracts, a typical recommended dosage is two milliliters (40 drops) in two ounces of water or juice three to five times per day.

Continuous use of this herbal remedy should not exceed three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use. You can also talk to your health care practitioner about what amount would be best for you and your particular health concern(s). It is best taken internally between meals.

For external use, there is no standard recommended dosage, but read the label of the topical product for instructions. Most likely, it will recommend that you use the product on the area of concern at least once a day.

Goldenseal Key Points

  • Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States.
  • The dried underground stems (rhizomes) and roots of the plant are used to make teas, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules as well as natural skin care products
  • This herbal remedy inherently contains an active component called berberine, which research has shown can have numerous health benefits including: calming inflammation; boosting heart, digestive and immune health; and even fighting cancer.
  • Continuous use should not exceed 21 days or three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use.

Read Next: Use Antiviral Herbs to Boost Immune System & Fight Infection

Advanced Info

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is an immune-stimulating herb that is well-documented in both traditional medicine and within the scientific community. The patented extract ECHINAMIDE has been proven consistently to enhance immune system function. When taken at the first sign of infection, ECHINAMIDE may stop a cold from developing, may ease symptoms and accelerate healing. ECHINAMIDE uses a patented extraction method to guarantee the bioavailability of the three known plant actives in Echinacea purpurea: alkylamides, cichoric acid, and polysaccharides.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is an antimicrobial and immune-boosting herb. The main active constituent of goldenseal, berberine, is clinically shown to have antimicrobial effects against a wide variety of pathogens, including bacteria, yeast, and fungus.

Combining ECHINAMIDE with goldenseal in a fresh herb tincture maximizes the cold-fighting power of the herbal remedy. Natural Factors ECHINAMIDE Anti-Cold Echinacea & Goldenseal Tincture contains certified organic echinacea, which is grown in BC’s Okanagan Valley. The plants are harvested when the active ingredients are at their peak concentration.

ECHINAMIDE is a valuable way to prevent and treat infections in cold and flu season. This formula is the perfect combination to boost immune system function and to help the body combat viruses and pathogens.



  • Goldenseal is a plant native to North America. Overharvesting and loss of habitat have decreased the availability of wild goldenseal, but the plant is now grown commercially in the United States, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Historically, Native Americans used goldenseal for skin disorders, ulcers, fevers, and other conditions. European settlers adopted it as a medicinal plant, using it for a variety of conditions.
  • Currently, goldenseal is used as a dietary supplement for colds and other respiratory tract infections, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), ulcers, and digestive upsets such as diarrhea and constipation. It is also used as a mouthwash for sore gums and as an eyewash for eye inflammation, and it is applied to the skin for rashes and other skin problems.
  • The roots of goldenseal are dried and used to make teas, extracts, tablets, or capsules. Goldenseal is often combined with echinacea in commercial products.

How Much Do We Know?

  • Very little research has been done on the health effects of goldenseal.

What Have We Learned?

  • The scientific evidence does not support the use of goldenseal for any health-related purpose.
  • Berberine, a substance found in goldenseal, has been studied for heart failure, diarrhea, infections, and other health conditions. However, when people take goldenseal orally (by mouth), very little berberine may be absorbed by the body or enter the bloodstream, so study results on berberine may not apply to goldenseal.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is funding research to study how goldenseal may act against bacteria and to develop research-grade goldenseal for use in human studies.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • There isn’t much reliable information on the safety of goldenseal.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use goldenseal, and it should not be given to infants. Berberine can cause or worsen jaundice in newborn infants and could lead to a life-threatening problem called kernicterus.
  • Goldenseal contains substances that may change the way your body processes many medications. If you’re taking medication, consult your health care provider before using goldenseal.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

NOW® Echinacea & Goldenseal 225mg (100 Capsules)

Traditionally used as a broad-spectrum immune system stimulant in herbal cold relief. A healthy respiratory response is essential for optimal overall immune health.

What is Echinacea & Goldenseal?

The extract of Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea angustifolia–whole plant; the above ground extract of Echinacea purpurea is preferred because it has been better studied (with over 300 studies to its credit!). It is commonly called “purple coneflower”, and is related to the sunflower.

Goldenseal is an herb grown in North America and is part of the buttercup family. It was used extensively by Native Americans and is thought to have wide ranging medicinal uses.

Health Benefits Of Echinacea & Goldenseal

The ability of Echinacea to stimulate the immune system is extremely well documented. Echinacea has been thoroughly demonstrated to reduce the duration and severity of common cold and flu symptoms. This is herbal cold relief product deserves a space in your medicine cabinet. Benefits of Goldenseal:

• May provide relief for sore throat

• Support bladder and urinary health

• May improve overall immune health

NOW Foods Echinacea & Goldenseal Supplement to Promote Wellness

NOW Foods Echinacea and Goldenseal are viewed as beneficial in supporting the body’s healthy overall immune function. When combined in Now Foods Echinacea & Goldenseal Root, a unique synergism occurs. That makes Now Foods Echinacea & Goldenseal Root one of the most effective supplements available to promote optimal wellness. Try our Echinacea & Goldenseal supplement at the first sign of a cold or sore throat. It can reduce your discomfort and boost your immune system. Keep it on hand so you’re ready when cold and flu season hits.

Summit Medical Group Web Site


What are other names for this remedy?

Type of medicine: natural remedy

Scientific and common names: Hydrastis canadensis, goldenseal, ground raspberry, indian dye, jaundice root, orange root, yellow indian paint, hydrastis, goldenroot

What is goldenseal?

Goldenseal is a small plant with a single hairy stem. It has jagged leaves, small flowers, and raspberrylike fruit. The root is used medicinally.

What is it used for?

This remedy has been used to treat several conditions. Studies in humans or animals have not proved that this remedy is safe or effective for all uses. Before using this remedy for a serious condition, you should talk with your healthcare provider.

Goldenseal has been taken by mouth to treat:

  • Colds, flu, sinus infections, and hay fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach upset
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Menstrual problems

It may be used with echinacea to treat colds and the flu.

How is it taken?

Goldenseal can be taken by mouth as capsules, pills, tinctures, or teas. Check the label on the package for the specific dose.

Goldenseal can be put on the skin as a poultice, cream, powder, ointment, or lotion. Do not use goldenseal on your skin for longer than 2 weeks.

Do not take goldenseal for longer than 2 weeks. Do not take higher dosages than recommended.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve uses for natural remedies. The FDA does not inspect or regulate natural remedies the way they do prescription medicines.

What if I overdose?

Symptoms of an acute overdose have not been reported.

What should I watch out for?

Talk with your healthcare provider before taking this remedy if you have:

  • Heart disease
  • Colitis or other inflammation of the intestines
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures

Goldenseal can be poisonous if you use too much. Taking too much goldenseal may interfere with your body’s ability to process B vitamins. Very high dosages can lead to vomiting, trouble breathing, slow heart rate, high blood pressure, seizures, and death.

Do not use goldenseal on newborns. It may increase jaundice and cause brain damage.

If you need emergency care, surgery, or dental work, tell the healthcare provider or dentist you are taking this medicine.

Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about any natural remedy that you are using or thinking about using. If your provider does not tell you how to take it, follow the directions that come with the package. Do not take more or take it longer than recommended. Ask about anything you do not understand. Remember:

  • Natural remedies are not always safe.
  • You should not take them if you are pregnant or breast-feeding without your healthcare provider’s approval. They should not be taken by infants, children, or older adults without your provider’s approval.
  • They affect your body and may interact with prescription medicines that you take.
  • Natural remedies are not standardized and may have different strengths and effects. They may be contaminated.

What are the possible side effects?

Along with its desirable effects, this remedy may cause some unwanted side effects. Some side effects may be very serious. Some side effects may go away as your body adjusts to the remedy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that continue or get worse.

Life-threatening (Report these to your healthcare provider right away. If you cannot reach your healthcare provider right away, get emergency medical care or call 911 for help.): Allergic reaction (hives; itching; rash; trouble breathing; chest pain or tightness in your chest; swelling of your lips, tongue, and throat).

Serious (report these to your healthcare provider right away): Long term usage can lead to seizures, irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, stomach problems, low blood pressure.

What products might interact with this remedy?

When you take this remedy with other medicines, it can change the way the remedy or the medicines work. Vitamins and certain foods may also interact. Using these products together might cause harmful side effects. Before taking this remedy, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking:

If you are not sure if your medicines might interact, ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider. Keep a list of all your medicines with you. List all the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Be sure that you tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all the products you are taking.

Keep all natural remedies and medicines out of the reach of children.

This advisory includes select information only. The information was obtained from scientific journals, study reports, and other documents. The author and publisher make no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the information. The advisory may not include all side effects associated with a remedy or interactions with other medicines. Nothing herein shall constitute a recommendation for the use of any remedy. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information.

Goldenseal: The Cure for Everything?

What is goldenseal?

Goldenseal is a low, sprawling plant with palm-shaped leaves. A single white flower appears in the center of each set of leaves, turning into one red berry with about 10 seeds. It’s native to the hardwood forests east of the Mississippi River, but its prevalence in the wild has decreased because of mining and overharvesting.

Some claim goldenseal’s medicinal powers range from curing toenail fungus to helping fight pancreatic cancer. But is goldenseal really an all-conquering super plant?

What does goldenseal treat?

In short, it might be easier to make a list of conditions goldenseal hasn’t been associated with helping. Early American medical texts refer to the Cherokees and Iroquois using goldenseal to treat cancer, mouth ailments such as canker sores, and stomach issues.

Today, it’s marketed as a treatment for a vast array of symptoms. Some claim that it can ease colds and upper respiratory infections. Other conditions it’s said to help include:

  • gonorrhea
  • malaria
  • pneumonia
  • just about any stomach or digestive condition
  • skin problems such as dandruff, ringworm, and eczema
  • eye infections
  • bladder infections

Goldenseal is also said to increase the effectiveness of other herbs and medicines. It’s regularly combined with echinacea, an herb associated with strengthening the immune system.

What’s goldenseal’s secret?

Modern research has isolated a chemical in goldenseal called berberine that might be the source of its acclaimed benefits.

According to a 2006 study, berberine is an antidiabetic agent, though it’s not understood why. A 2014 study done on rats concluded that berberine might also help lower cholesterol. Berberine also seems promising as a treatment for gastrointestinal problems and digestive issues.

Goldenseal also seems to be effective against the bacterium E. coli, which can cause urinary tract infections and digestive problems leading to diarrhea. Goldenseal’s antibacterial qualities might be the reason behind its reputation as a treatment for various skin ailments and infections.

There are antifungal and anti-infective properties of goldenseal that help explain the healing actions of this herb.

Goldenseal root is dried and powdered. It’s sold in capsules for internal use, and also comes in creams and topical preparations to treat skin conditions. Tinctures are also available, and these can be used to treat mouth conditions.

What’s the bottom line?

Taken in moderate doses, goldenseal is probably harmless. Always talk to your doctor about any supplements you’re considering taking, especially if you’re on prescription medicines. They might interact with herbal supplements.

There isn’t enough research available to indicate whether goldenseal is safe for children. It isn’t recommended if you’re pregnant or nursing.

There’s no recommended dosage for the forms of goldenseal you apply to your skin. If you’re treating a wound, use enough to cover the wound at least once a day, and wash the area daily to make sure nothing is trapped in the healing skin.

How much goldenseal is safe to take orally is unclear. Read labels for each brand’s recommended dose, and talk to your doctor about what’s safe for you.

There are no miracle cures. In moderate doses, goldenseal is probably harmless, but there’s very little scientific evidence that it will cure what ails you.

Goldenseal extract and berberine benefits Influenza A patients.

A study entitled “Inhibition of H1N1 influenza A virus growth and induction of inflammatory mediators by the isoquinoline alkaloid berberine and extracts of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)” done in the Department of Microbiology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC, United States, that was published in the International Immunopharmacology 2011 Nov states that isoquinoline alkaloid berberine can inhibit the growth of influenza A. These studies revealed strong effectiveness at high concentrations, although upon dilution extracts were somewhat less effective than purified berberine. Taken together, the results suggest that berberine may indeed be useful for the treatment of infections with influenza A.

Goldenseal extracts synergistically enhance the antibacterial activity of berberine

In a study entitled “Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) extracts synergistically enhance the antibacterial activity of berberine via efflux pump inhibition” as done in the Department of Chemistry/Biochemistry, The University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC USA., published in the Planta Medicinal 2011 May, states that goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) can combat inflammation and infection. Its antibacterial activity in vitRO has been attributed to its alkaloids, the most abundant of which is berberine. Synergistic antibacterial activity was observed between the aerial extract (FIC 0.375) and to a lesser extent the root extract (FIC 0.750) and berberine. These studies indicate that the roots of goldenseal contain higher levels of alkaloids than the aerial portions, but the aerial portions synergize with berberine more significantly than the roots. Furthermore, extracts from the aerial portions of goldenseal contain efflux pump inhibitors, while efflux pump inhibitory activity was not observed for the root extract. The three most abundant goldenseal alkaloids, berberine, hydrastine, and canadine, are not responsible for the efflux pump inhibitory activity of the extracts from H. canadensis aerial portions.

Supplementation with goldenseal inhibits human CYP3

Another study entitled “Supplementation with goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), but not kava kava (Piper methysticum), inhibits human CYP3A activity in vivo” done in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. As published in the Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2008 Jan; reported the effects of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and kava kava (Piper methysticum) supplementation on human CYP3A activity. In the study were evaluated using midazolam (MDZ) as a phenotypic probe. Sixteen healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either goldenseal or kava kava for 14 days. Comparisons of pre- and post-supplementation MDZ pharmacokinetic parameters revealed significant inhibition of CYP3A by goldenseal (AUC(0-infinity), 107.9+/-43.3 vs 175.3+/-74.8 ng x h/ml; Cl/F/kg, 1.26+/-0.59 vs 0.81+/-0.45 l/h/kg; T(1/2), 2.01+/-0.42 vs 3.15+/-1.12 h; Cmax, 50.6+/-26.9 vs 71.2+/-50.5 ng/ml). MDZ disposition was not affected by kava kava supplementation. These findings suggest that significant herb-drug interactions may result from the concomitant ingestion of goldenseal and CYP3A substrates.

Goldenseal extract acts as an LDL lowering agent.

In the study “The medicinal plant goldenseal is a natural LDL-lowering agent with multiple bioactive components and new action mechanisms” published in the Journal of Lipid Research, Oct 2006, It is reported that identified berberine (BBR), an alkaloid isolated from the Chinese herb huanglian, has a unique cholesterol-lowering drug that upregulates hepatic low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) expression through a mechanism of mRNA stabilization. In this study, it was demonstrated that the root extract of goldenseal, a BBR-containing medicinal plant, is highly effective in upregulation of liver LDLR expression in HepG2 cells and in reducing plasma cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c) in hyperlipidemic hamsters, with greater activities than the pure compound BBR. The substantial evidence show that goldenseal contains natural MDR1 antagonist(s) that accentuate the upregulatory effect of BBR on LDLR mRNA expression. These new findings identify goldenseal as a natural LDL-c-lowering agent, and our studies provide a molecular basis for the mechanisms of action.

Antimicrobial activity of goldenseal constituents.

In another study entitled “Antimicrobial constituents from goldenseal (the Rhizomes of Hydrastis canadensis) against selected oral pathogens” that was published in the Planta Medicinal Journal of July 2003, reported that two new C-methyl flavonoids, 6,8-di- C-methylluteolin 7-methyl ether (1) and 6- C-methylluteolin 7-methyl ether (2), were isolated from a commercially available sample of the roots of Hydrastis Canadensis (goldenseal), along with seven known compounds, berberine (3), beta-hydrastine (4), canadine (5), canadaline (6), isocorypalmine (7), canadinic acid (8), and beta-sitosterol 3- O-beta- D-glucoside (9). The structures of the new compounds 1 and 2 were elucidated on the basis of their spectral data including 1D and 2D NMR techniques. Of these isolates, berberine (3) and, to a lesser extent, 1 and 2, showed antimicrobial activity when evaluated against the oral pathogens Streptococcus mutans and Fusobacterium nucleatum. Berberine (3) exhibited an additive antimicrobial effect when tested against S. mutans in combination with 1.

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