Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Goldenseal is a woodland perennial native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States. Related to the buttercup, this herb has enjoyed great popularity as a medicinal herb in recent years. It has been so popular in fact, that wild goldenseal is endangered. Commercial cultivation of the herb is increasing rapdily. It is distinguished by its knotted yellow rootstock. The stem rises above the ground bearing two large palmate leaves and a single small flower. It grows a single berry resembling a raspberry in summer.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Goldenseal is taken for many health conditions including colds, respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, eye infections, vaginitis and sometimes cancer. Historically, it was used for ulcers, skin disease and gonorrhea.
Externally Golden seal can be applied to canker sores, or be used as mouthwash for sore gums, mouth and throat.
Other Uses Golden seal was once used to make a yellow dye.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Goldenseal is often used with Echinacea to fight colds.
Roots The root is the portion used medicinally.
Pregnant women should not take golden seal because it can cause contractions. Breastfeeding women should not take the herb as the effects on nursing infants are unknown. This herb should not be given to infants or young children. People with high blood pressure should not use this herbal remedy. Those with heart conditions should do so with only under the guidance of their physician. Effects of long term use are unknown.
Watch out for adulterated goldenseal. Other herbs that contain berberine, the active ingredient, include Oregon grape and Chinese goldthread. Since goldenseal is becoming harder to come by, these herbs may be substituted and these herbs may have completely different effects on the body. Side effects of goldenseal are rare, but some people do experience nausea, irritation of the mouth or throat, an increase in nervousness or vomiting.
Excessive doses may lead to difficulty in breathing, vomiting, nausea, constipation and hallucinations. Large doses may also decrease the body's ability to absorb vitamin B. This herb may interact with blood thinning medications like heparin.
Preparation and Dosage
Goldenseal can be found powdered, in salve, tablets, capsules and tinctures.
A standard dose for goldenseal is 4 to 6 grams in tablets or capsules per day. Cream can be applied to scrapes and cuts up to three times per day. For inflammation, doses of 500 to 2,000 mg can be taken up to three times per day. If taking a commercial preparation, it is best to follow the directions for dosing on the label.