Goldenseal Health Benefits and Uses

hydrastis
James Steakley/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is one of the most popular herbs on the market today. It was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat skin disorders, digestive problems, liver conditions, diarrhea, and eye irritations. Goldenseal became part of early colonial medical care as the European settlers learned of it from the Iroquois and other tribes.

Goldenseal gained widespread popularity in the early 1800s due to its promotion by a herbalist named Samuel Thompson.

Thompson believed goldenseal to be a magical cure for many conditions. Demand for this herb dramatically increased, until Thompson's system of medicine fell out of popularity. Over the years, goldenseal has gone through periods of popularity.

Goldenseal is available in nutritional supplement form. It is also available as a cream or ointment to heal skin wounds. Other names include Yellow root, Orange root, Puccoon, Ground raspberry, and Wild Curcuma.

Goldenseal herbal tincture can be used as a mouthwash or gargle for mouth sores and sore throats

Uses for Goldenseal

According to some alternative medicine practitioners, goldenseal is ​a bitter that stimulates the secretion and flow of bile, and can also be used as an expectorant. In alternative medicine, goldenseal is used for infections of the mucus membranes, including the mouth, sinuses, throat, the intestines, stomach, urinary tract, and vagina.

  • Minor wound healing
  • Bladder infections
  • Fungal infections of the skin
  • Colds and flu
  • Sinus and chest congestion

Goldenseal became the center of a myth that it could mask a positive drug screen. This false idea was part of a novel written by pharmacist and author John Uri Lloyd.

So far, scientific support for the claim that goldenseal can treat infections (or any other condition) is lacking.

Caveats

One of goldenseal's chief constituents, berberine, has been reported to cause uterine contractions and to increase levels of bilirubin. Goldenseal should not be used by people with high blood pressure. Those with heart conditions should only use goldenseal under the supervision of a health professional.

Side effects are rare, but include irritation of the mouth and throat, nausea, increased nervousness, and digestive problems. The liquid forms of goldenseal are yellow-orange and can stain.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications have not been established. If you're considering the use of goldenseal or any other alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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