Botanical names:Hydrastis canadensis
Parts Used & Where Grown
Goldenseal is native to eastern North America and is cultivated in Oregon and Washington. It is seriously threatened by over-harvesting in the wild. The dried root and rhizome are used in herbal medicine.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Used for Why 1 StarCanker SoresRefer to label instructions Goldenseal has been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores.
Because of its soothing effect on mucous membranes (including the lining of the mouth) and its healing properties, chamomile may be tried for canker sores and other mouth irritations. A strong tea made from chamomile tincture can be swished in the mouth before swallowing, three to four times per day. has also been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores.
1 StarChronic CandidiasisRefer to label instructions Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid with antibiotic and antifungal activity that also been shown to help relieve the diarrhea seen in some people with chronic candidiasis.
Berberine is an alkaloid found in various plants, including , barberry, Oregon grape, and goldthread. Berberine exhibits a broad spectrum of antibiotic and antifungal activity in test tube, animal, and human studies. Berberine has shown effective antidiarrheal activity in a number of diarrheal diseases, and it may offer the same type of relief for the diarrhea seen in patients with chronic candidiasis. Doctors familiar with the use of berberine-containing herbs sometimes recommend taking 2 to 4 grams of the dried root (or bark) or 250 to 500 mg of an herbal extract three times a day. While isolated berberine has been studied, none of these herbs has been studied in humans with chronic candidiasis.
1 StarCold SoresRefer to label instructions In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs including goldenseal have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.
In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs, including chaparral, St. John’s wort, , myrrh, and echinacea, have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.
1 StarCommon Cold and Sore ThroatRefer to label instructions Goldenseal root has antimicrobial and mild immune-stimulating effects. It soothes irritated mucous membranes in the throat, making it potentially useful for sore throats.
root contains two alkaloids, berberine and canadine, with antimicrobial and mild immune-stimulating effects. However, due to the small amounts of alkaloids occurring in the root, it is unlikely these effects would occur outside the test tube. Goldenseal soothes irritated mucous membranes in the throat, making it potentially useful for those experiencing a sore throat with their cold. Human research on the effectiveness of goldenseal or other berberine-containing herbs, such as Oregon grape, barberry, or goldthread (Coptis chinensis), for people with colds has not been conducted.
Goldenseal root should only be used for short periods of time. Goldenseal root extract, in capsule or tablet form, is typically taken in amounts of 4 to 6 grams three times per day. Using goldenseal powder as a tea or tincture may soothe a sore throat. Because goldenseal is threatened in the wild due to over-harvesting, substitutes such as Oregon grape should be used whenever possible.
Elderberry has shown antiviral activity and thus may be useful for some people with common colds. Elder flowers are a traditional diaphoretic remedy for helping to break fevers and promote sweating during a cold. Horseradish has antibiotic properties, which may account for its usefulness in easing throat and upper respiratory tract infections. The resin of the herb myrrh has been shown to kill various microbes and to stimulate macrophages (a type of white blood cell). Usnea has a traditional reputation as an antiseptic and is sometimes used for people with common colds.
1 StarConjunctivitis and BlepharitisRefer to label instructions Goldenseal contains berberine, an antibacterial constituent that has been clinically studied for eye infections.
and Oregon grape contain the antibacterial constituent known as berberine. While topical use of berberine in eye drops has been clinically studied for eye infections, the use of the whole herbs has not been studied for conjunctivitis or blepharitis.
1 StarDiarrheaRefer to label instructions Due to of its supposed antimicrobial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea. Its major alkaloid, berberine, has been shown to improve infectious diarrhea.
Due to of its supposed antimicrobial activity, has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea. Its major alkaloid, berberine (also found in barberry and Oregon grape), has been shown to improve infectious diarrhea in some double-blind trials. Negative studies have generally focused on people with cholera, while positive studies investigated viral diarrhea or diarrhea due to strains of E. coli. These studies generally used 400–500 mg berberine one to three times per day. Because of the low amount of berberine in most goldenseal products, it is unclear how effective the whole root or root extracts would be in treating diarrhea.
1 StarGastritisRefer to label instructions Goldenseal is considered an herbal antibiotic and has been traditionally used for infections of the mucous membranes. One of its active ingredients appears to slow H. pylori growth.
is regarded as an herbal antibiotic and has been traditionally used for infections of the mucous membranes. While no specific research points to goldenseal as a treatment for gastritis, there is some evidence from test tube studies that berberine, an active ingredient in goldenseal, slows growth of H. pylori. Modern herbal practitioners now prefer alternatives to goldenseal, since the plant is threatened with extinction due to overharvesting.
1 StarIndigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach AcidityRefer to label instructions Goldenseal is a digestive stimulant widely used in traditional medicine in North America.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production. As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
Some bitters widely used in traditional medicine in North America include yarrow, yellow dock, , Oregon grape, and vervain. Oregon grape’s European cousin barberry has also traditionally been used as a bitter. Animal studies indicate that yarrow, barberry, and Oregon grape, in addition to stimulating digestion like other bitters, may relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.
1 StarInfectionRefer to label instructions Goldenseal is both immune supportive and antimicrobial.
Herbs that support a person’s immune system in the fight against microbes and directly attack microbes include the following: barberry, echinacea, elderberry, , licorice, Oregon grape, osha, and wild indigo.
1 StarInfluenzaRefer to label instructions Goldenseal used in combination with wild indigo has been reported to have immune-enhancing effects.
Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu. However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea, , or thuja.
1 StarParasitesRefer to label instructions Berberine is derived from several plants, including goldenseal. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.
Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, , and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections. In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans. The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.
1 StarType 2 Diabetes1 gram daily of berberine for two months Preliminary research with berberine (an active compound in goldenseal) for two months lowered blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.In a preliminary trial, supplementation with 1 gram per day of berberine (one of the active compounds in goldenseal) for two months significantly lowered blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. 1 StarUrinary Tract InfectionRefer to label instructions Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid that may prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary bladder
is reputed to help treat many types of infections. It contains berberine, an alkaloid that may prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary bladder. Goldenseal and other plants containing berberine (such as Oregon grape) may help in the treatment of UTIs. These herbs have not, however, been studied for the treatment of UTIs in humans.
1 StarVaginitisRefer to label instructions Goldenseal is antibacterial and may be effective against infectious vaginitis.
Teas of , barberry, and echinacea are also sometimes used to treat infectious vaginitis. Although all three plants are known to be antibacterial in the test tube, the effectiveness of these herbs against vaginal infections has not been tested in humans. The usual approach is to douche with one of these teas twice each day, using 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 grams) of herb per pint of water. One to two pints (500–1,000 ml) are usually enough for each douching session. Echinacea is also known to improve immune function in humans. In order to increase resistance against infection, many doctors recommend oral use of the tincture or alcohol-preserved fresh juice of echinacea (1 teaspoon (5 ml) three or more times per day)—during all types of infection—to improve resistance.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Goldenseal was used by Native Americans as a treatment for irritations and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. It was commonly used topically for skin and eye infections and has been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores. Because of its anti-microbial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections, and vaginal infections. Goldenseal is often recommended by herbalists in combination with echinacea for the treatment of colds and flu. Its benefits are most likely limited to helping ease the discomfort of a sore throat associated with these conditions. Goldenseal was considered a critical remedy for stomach and intestinal problems of all kinds by early 20th century Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbs).1
Botanical names:Hydrastis canadensis
How It Works
Little research has been done on whole goldenseal root or rhizome, but many studies have evaluated the properties of its two primary alkaloids, berberine and hydrastine. Berberine, the more extensively researched of the two, accounts for 0.5–6.0% of the alkaloids present in goldenseal root and rhizome. However, the effect of goldenseal in the gastrointestinal tract is most likely localized as its alkaloids (particularly berberine) are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, limiting any systemic antibiotic effects.2 Goldenseal also has strong astringent properties which may partially explain its historical use for sore throats and diarrhea. In test tube studies, it has shown a wide spectrum of antibiotic activity against disease-causing organisms, such as Chlamydia, E. coli, Salmonella typhi, and Entamoeba histolytica.3 Human trials have used isolated berberine to treat diarrhea and gastroenteritis with good results.4 The whole root has not been clinically studied.
How to Use It
Powdered goldenseal root and rhizome, 4–6 grams per day in tablet or capsule form, is sometimes recommended.5 For liquid herbal extracts, use 2–4 ml three times per day. Alternatively, 250–500 mg three times per day of standardized extracts supplying 8–12% alkaloids, are suggested. Continuous use should not exceed three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use.
Due to environmental concerns of overharvesting,6 many herbalists recommend alternatives to goldenseal, such as Oregon grape or goldthread.
Botanical names:Hydrastis canadensis
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other CompoundsAt the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
Certain medicines interact with this supplement.What Are Drug InteractionsTypes of interactions:BeneficialAdverseCheck
Replenish Depleted Nutrients
Reduce Side Effects
Potential Negative Interaction
Berberine, a chemical extracted from (Hydrastis canadensis),barberry(Berberis vulgaris), and Oregon grape(Berberis aquifolium), has been shown to have antibacterial activity. One double-blind study found that giving 100 mg of berberine at the same time as 500 mg of tetracycline four times daily led to a reduction of the efficacy of tetracycline in people with cholera. Berberine may have decreased the absorption of tetracycline in this study. Another double-blind trial did not find that berberine interfered with tetracycline in cholera patients. Until more studies are completed to clarify this issue, berberine-containing herbs should not be taken simultaneously with tetracycline.Learn More
Berberine is a chemical extracted from (Hydrastis canadensis),barberry (Berberis vulgaris), and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), which has antibacterial activity. However, one double-blind study found that 100 mg berberine given with tetracycline (a drug closely related to doxycycline) reduced the efficacy of tetracycline in people with cholera. In that trial, berberine may have decreased tetracycline absorption. Another double-blind trial found that berberine neither improved nor interfered with tetracycline effectiveness in cholera patients. Therefore, it remains unclear whether a significant interaction between berberine-containing herbs and doxycycline and related drugs exists.Learn MoreThe Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Botanical names:Hydrastis canadensis
Taken as recommended, goldenseal is generally safe. However, as with all alkaloid-containing plants, high amounts (several times higher than the recommended amounts) may lead to gastrointestinal distress and possible nervous system effects.7 Goldenseal is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women. Also, despite some traditional reports, goldenseal is not a substitute for antibiotics.
- What Are Depletions & Interactions?
1. Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. 1919. Reprint, Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.
2. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999, 195-7.
3. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577-88 [review].
4. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525-9.
5. Murray, MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995, 162-72.
6. Bannerman JE. Goldenseal in world trade: Pressures and potentials. HerbalGram 1997;41:51-2.
7. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 151-2.
Last Review: 04-14-2015
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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2022.