Goldenseal is a popular herbal supplement in the United States for the prevention of colds and flu; however it is beneficial for many other health conditions. Available over-the-counter in a variety of forms, goldenseal is an affordable herbal medication that is considered safe to use and can also be combined with other herbal supplements to increase its effectiveness.
The Goldenseal Plant
Goldenseal (Hydratis canadensis) grows wild in the northern part of North America and thrives in the shade in rich soil. It grows as a single stem with two jagged leaves and blooms both a white flower and a raspberry-looking fruit. The root of the plant is yellow-brown and very twisted. It is the root of the plant that is used to make herbal remedies.
The Native Americans introduced goldenseal to North American settlers and in the 1800’s it became a popular herbal medicine used by physicians and herbalists. Because of its more recent popularity, especially combined with Echinacea, wild goldenseal was in danger of becoming an endangered species and since 1997 has been closely monitored. Goldenseal sold today is grown on farms that produce it for a demanding market.
Active Ingredient in Goldenseal
Goldenseal is one of the most popular herbal remedies yet it is one of the least studied by the scientific community. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the one known active ingredient in goldenseal is berberine which has shown to kill many types of bacteria in test tube studies. Berberine has also been shown to be effective in killing germs associated with various infections. Another study found berberine may able to boost white blood cells in the blood stream, thus fighting infection this way. Goldenseal also has antiseptic properties which makes is beneficial in treating external wounds or eye infections.
Health Benefits of Goldenseal
The Native Americans used goldenseal mainly to disinfect wounds, treat skin conditions, treat eye infections and for digestive disorders. Traditional Chinese Medicine used goldenseal to treat diarrhea and dysentery. Throughout the years, people have found that goldenseal is effective in treating many other health conditions, both internal and external. Health conditions most commonly treated by goldenseal include:
Allergies, Colds and Flu – Goldenseal is effective in both stimulating mucus and drying up mucus when there is too much. When first taken, goldenseal helps stimulate mucus so it can block infection by carrying away bacteria and viruses. After using goldenseal for two or more days, it begins to work as a drying agent to reduce the amount of mucus in the body. Mark Stengler, ND, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies suggests not taking goldenseal in the first day or two of a cold or flu in order to allow the mucus to flow freely then start taking to fight off infection that may result from a long-term cold or flu. Goldenseal is also effective in treating sore throats and chronic sinusitis.
Diarrhea – Goldenseal has long been used to kill bacteria responsible for diarrhea. Berberine, its active ingredient, has shown to be effective in killing several types of bacteria that lead to diarrhea such as E. coli.
Digestive Disorders – Goldenseal is a bitter herb and therefore works well as an aid for digestion. Goldenseal stimulates the digestive system so food is broken down and digested easily. It also stimulates the liver and gallbladder and helps the body break down fats more effectively. This herb has been used to treat Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Diuretic – Goldenseal is considered to be a gentle diuretic and can be used to eliminate excess fluid in the body that causing swelling and bloating.
Eye Infections – Goldenseal can be combined with saline or sterile water to make an effective eye wash to treat eye infections.
Immune System Builder – Because goldenseal helps build up white blood cells which fight infection, it can be an effective herb for building a strong immune system. Goldenseal is generally paired with Echinacea to help people build up their immune system before cold and flu season starts.
Mouth Sores and Sore Throat – Goldenseal also works well as a mouthwash to heal canker sores, sore gums, thrush and to heal a sore throat.
Natural Antibiotic – Goldenseal is considered to be a natural antibiotic because of its ability to kill some bacteria. It has been used for years as a cure for candida (yeast) infections, urinary tract infections, sinus infections, respiratory infections and bronchitis. Treatment of urinary tract infections is more effective if combined with other herbs such as Echinacea, horsetail and marshmallow. (However, for serious infections you should always consult a doctor). It also works well for preventing infection in external wounds.
Side-Effects of Goldenseal
Goldenseal is a strong herbal medicine and should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Goldenseal can also alter or interfere with some prescription medicines such as antibiotics, blood thinners and medication for high blood pressure and liver and heart disease. Taken in large doses, goldenseal may become toxic, so it is recommended to not take for long periods of time. Always talk to your doctor before trying this or any herbal medication.
Available Forms of Goldenseal
Goldenseal is available in tablet, capsule, tincture, extract and tea forms as well as in dried herb to make your own medicines and tea. Goldenseal is also found in special mouthwash and cream and lotion forms.
Goldenseal is an effective herbal remedy for many serious health conditions. It is an affordable and easy natural remedy for both the prevention and treatment of many common illnesses.
University of Maryland Medical Center “Goldenseal” Retrieved August 27, 2010.
The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies by Mark Stengler, ND
Prentice Hall Press 2001 & 2010