What is Goldenseal?
Goldenseal also known by its scientific name ‘Hydrastis Canadensis’ is a beautiful perennial plant native to shaded, cool areas in eastern parts of the United States especially in the rich highlands regions of Appalachia. The plant itself grow between 6 and 12 inches in height with one main leaf as well as two more secondary leaves with between five and seven lobes.
Each stem is topped by a single white flower every May and for the next few months before producing a fruit similar to a raspberry around a half inch around. But enough about the appearance of the plant-what we really want to discuss is its therapeutic uses. The main part of the plant which is harvested and dried for medicinal purposes is the rhizome which is slightly less than an inch in thickness and has a number of long yellow roots.
History of Medicinal use
Goldenseal has developed an excellent reputation for its many medicinal uses and it is rapidly growing in popularity especially in the North American market because of its natural antibiotic abilities as well as its ability to enhance the immune system. Despite its recent popularity, goldenseal has a much longer tradition dating back many centuries.
Native Americans have been using goldenseal for a very long time indeed for a variety of health purposes including respiratory, digestive and urinary tract complaints. Goldenseal roots were used by the Cherokee to make a wash to treat inflammation, treat dyspepsia and improve appetite.
Another tribe – the Iroquois used a decoction made from goldenseal root to treat a variety of ailments including whooping cough, fever and pneumonia. They also used it to aid digestive complaints like diarrhea, flatulence as well as to treat liver and heart disease. And that’s not all; the Native Americans prepared a concoction from goldenseal and other native roots to treat earache and eye complaints.
By the late 18th century, goldenseal had started to gain attention as a potent healing herb and news of its virtues rapidly spread beyond the US to England and other European countries and by the mid-19th century it had already become an important commercial product. In both America and in Europe, people were regularly taking goldenseal to aid with digestive complaints and to improve appetite.
It was also regularly used for inflammatory skin conditions and eye problems like conjunctivitis. Other traditional uses included the treatment of peptic ulcers, colitis and dyspepsia.
Because of its appetite stimulant effect, it has been used to help those recovering from illness and to treat those suffering from anorexia nervosa.
Goldenseal packs a powerful punch when it comes to essential minerals and vitamins. It contains i such as iron, calcium and manganese as well as vitamins A, C, E and B complex. The root and rhizomes used to make its medicinal supplements contain a variety of important isoquinole alkaloids such as hydrastine, canadine, candaline and most significantly berberine. Experts believe that the alkaloid content of goldenseal is responsible for many of its natural benefits.
Modern Uses and Benefits of Goldenseal
The many traditional uses of goldenseal and its popularity today can largely be attributed to the natural medicinal qualities it contains such as antibiotic, astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of these properties, goldenseal is a very good natural and generally safe option when dealing with a wide variety of illnesses.
1. For respiratory conditions and sinusitis
If you are suffering from the common cold or feel that you might be coming down with the flu, goldenseal is an effective natural remedy. This herb is known to boost the immune system.
Goldenseal has the necessary nutrients and medical properties to curtail your sickness before it gets any worse. Goldenseal can also help soothe your mucous membranes so try using a diluted tincture as a gargle or enjoying a cup of goldenseal tea to relieve your sore throat. The same properties that help with colds may also be effective in treating symptoms of sinusitis because it can help loosen the mucus which is clogging up the sinuses.
2. Antibacterial qualities
Goldenseal has been traditionally used to treat infections of the skin and a study published in 2012 has done a lot to confirm the efficacy of this traditional use. The study was designed to examine the ability of goldenseal to combat the dangerous staphylococcus aureus virus better known these days as MRSA.
The researchers concluded that goldenseal possessed potent antibacterial properties which were effective against MRSA and lent support to its traditional use. (1) Because of these antibacterial qualities, goldenseal may prove effective in treating minor wounds, cuts and certain skin complaints.
3. For the heart
The Native Americans also traditionally used goldenseal for a variety of heart conditions but is there any truth to this traditional use? Well apparently there is; researchers in a study published in 2006 set out to examine the effects of goldenseal on cholesterol levels. One of the alkaloids contained in goldenseal called berbetine.
Berbetine is already known to have cholesterol reducing effects and researchers were keen to find out whether the herb was as effective. The results were very positive with the researchers concluding that goldenseal root extract was an effective treatment to reduce levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. (2)
4. Urinary tract infections
Because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory nature, goldenseal can help to combat the discomfort caused by infections of the urinary tract. Drinking tea made from goldenseal helps reduce inflammation and can help flush away bacteria from your urinary tract. Some people also recommend a douche made with goldenseal for yeast infections of the vagina and goldenseal suppositories are available commercially.
5. Liver disease
There is not a great deal of scientific evidence regarding the use of goldenseal to treat liver conditions but some people suggest that it is an effective treatment and its use in this regard is long. It works by cleansing and also promoting healthy gland functions by increasing the flow of bile to the digestive enzymes.
6. Digestive complaints
Goldenseal has been traditionally used to deal with a host of digestive complaints ranging from diarrhea to constipation and bloating. Goldenseal can also help stimulate the appetite making it a very useful ally following sickness when appetite tends to be suppressed.
Because of its well-known ability to boost the immune system, people have traditionally used goldenseal to deal with symptoms of chronic fatigue where fatigue is related to illness or a poor functioning immune system.
8. Skin conditions
When either taken internally or applied topically, goldenseal might be an excellent treatment against a range of viral skin conditions as well as being able to treat warts, shingles and cold sores. Its antibacterial properties make goldenseal a great candidate for the treatment of these complaints.
9. Canker sores
If you have suffered from canker sores you know how painful they can be. There are many natural treatments for this infection and goldenseal is among the best. It can be either taken internally or dabbed onto the sore directly to ease pain and fight the bacteria.
10. Other uses
There are a variety of other uses for golden seal including its traditional uses to fight ear and eye infections. It might also be helpful in dealing with gum disease, fever and hay fever.
Goldenseal is available in a variety of supplementary forms including tinctures, capsules, teas and topical ointments. It has a bitter taste so if you are making tea, try sweetening it with honey.
Goldenseal is generally regarded as safe but like all other herbal remedies, you should exercise caution before taking it.
- There are no known drug interactions
- Taken in doses far larger than the recommended dose might result in certain side effects including diarrhea, reduced heart rate, nausea, vomiting or respiratory issues.
- Goldenseal should not be taken for longer than 3 weeks consecutively.
- Pregnant and nursing mothers are not recommended to take goldenseal.