Botanical name(s):

Hydrastis canadensis. Family: Ranunculaceae

Other name(s):

golden seal, yellow root

General description

Goldenseal is a perennial herb native to North America. The roots and rhizome are the parts of the plant that are used.

Goldenseal contains the alkaloids hydrastine and berberine, which possess weak antiseptic properties. These components may help to combat bacteria-induced diarrhea. They should be avoided during pregnancy because of their possible stimulating effect on the uterus.

Goldenseal was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat sore eyes, mouth ulcers, tuberculosis, and edema. Now, there is evidence that berberine, a constituent of goldenseal, is effective (in vitro) against multiple resistant strains of tuberculosis. However, berberine is not currently used as a primary or adjunct treatment for tuberculosis.

Goldenseal has also been used to prepare an eye-drop medication for tired, burning, red, and irritated eyes.

Medically valid uses

There are no rigorously established uses for goldenseal.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Traditionally, goldenseal has been used as an eyewash. (Goldenseal tea, used as an eyewash, may soothe itchiness caused by some allergies. Berberine is a major alkaloid of goldenseal and is used in a commercial eye drop to reduce eye irritation.) Goldenseal has also been used as an astringent (contracts the tissues of the body), anti-catarrhal (helps the body remove excess mucous and catarrhal build-up), laxative, treatment for the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections, and muscular stimulant. Goldenseal is also thought to be an oxytocic (stimulates uterine contractions), a bitter (stimulates particular organ systems to work more effectively), and a general tonic for the entire body.

Topically, goldenseal is used as a mouthwash for sore gums and mouth. It is also used topically for skin rashes, skin ulcers, wound infections, itching, eczema, acne, dandruff, ringworm, herpes blisters, and herpes labialis. 

Goldenseal is further claimed to strengthen the immune system, regulate menses (decrease uterine bleeding), stimulate bile production and secretion, stimulate the central nervous system, and improve digestion.

Dosing format

Goldenseal is available as capsules, alcohol-free extract, tincture, and bitter tea. Depending on the form, follow the packaging instructions for correct dose.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Women who are pregnant should not use goldenseal. Goldenseal can stimulate uterine contractions. Also, a component of goldenseal can cause dangerous levels of jaundice in newborns.

Goldenseal may also change the way the body processes drugs.

Additional information

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