Ultimate Herbals Guide: Golden Seal

Ultimate Herbals Guide: Golden Seal

Your Herb Guide to Goldenseal

What is ‘Golden Seal’?

This Herb Guide provides everything you need to know about the herb Goldenseal- it’s common names, how and why it’s used, whether it works and what it works for best, research conducted, whether it’s safe to use and the potential side effects and cautions.

Generally, an herb is a plant or part of a plant used for its flavor, scent, or potential therapeutic properties, and may include the flowers, leaves, bark, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots of the plant.

Goldenseal is a plant that grows wild in parts of the United States but has become endangered by over-harvesting. With natural supplies dwindling, goldenseal is now grown commercially across the United States, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Common Names – Goldenseal, Yellow Root

Latin Name - Hydrastis Canadensis

What conditions is Goldenseal used to treat?
  • Historically, Native Americans have used goldenseal for various health conditions such as skin diseases, ulcers, and gonorrhea.
  • Now, goldenseal is used for colds and other respiratory tract infections, infectious diarrhea, eye infections, and vaginitis (inflammation or infection of the vagina). It is occasionally used to treat cancer.
  • It is also applied to wounds and canker sores, and is used as a mouthwash for sore gums, mouth, and throat.
How is Goldenseal used as an herbal dietary supplement?
  • The underground stems or roots of goldenseal are dried and used to make teas, liquid extracts, and solid extracts that may be made into tablets and capsules.
  • Goldenseal is often combined with echinacea in preparations that are intended to be used for colds.

What the Science Says

Does Goldenseal work? If so, prove it!
  • Few studies have been published on goldenseal’s safety and effectiveness, and there is little scientific evidence to support using it for any health problem.
  • Clinical studies on a compound found in goldenseal, berberine, suggest that the compound may be beneficial for certain infections-such as those that cause some types of diarrhea, as well as some eye infections. However, goldenseal preparations contain only a small amount of berberine, so it is difficult to extend the evidence about the effectiveness of berberine to goldenseal.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is researching berberine (a plant alkaloid found in the roots and bark of goldenseal), including a study to understand the mechanism by which it may act against tumors.
Is Goldenseal effective for masking illicit drugs in urine tests?

No. Goldenseal’s effectiveness for masking illicit drug use in urine drug tests has not been proven in scientific studies.

Goldenseal became a part of American “urban legend” associated with chemical testing errors, especially those testing for illicit drugs, such as marijuana.

  • Two studies have demonstrated no effect of oral goldenseal on urine drug analysis over water alone.
  • Subjects who drank large amounts of water had the same urine drug levels as subjects who took goldenseal capsules along with the water.
  • Believers Use Caution: Because of the popular perception that goldenseal does in fact mask illicit drugs in urine analysis, some drug tests will analyze the presence of hydrastine (another natural alkaloid found together with berberine in the roots of goldenseal) in the urine, and use positive results for goldenseal as likely proof that a person being tested is a drug user.

Side Effects and Cautions

Is it safe to take Goldenseal supplements? What should I be careful of while using them?
  • Goldenseal is considered safe for short-term use in adults at recommended dosages. Rare side effects may include nausea and vomiting.
  • There is little information about the safety of high dosages or the long-term use of goldenseal.
  • Although drug interactions have not been reported, goldenseal may cause changes in the way the body processes drugs, and could potentially increase the levels of many drugs. However, a study of goldenseal and indinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection, found no interaction.
  • Other herbs containing berberine, including Chinese goldthread (Coptis trifolia) and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), are sometimes substituted for goldenseal. These herbs may have different effects, side effects, and drug interactions than goldenseal.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using goldenseal. The berberine in the herb may cause the uterus to contract, increasing the risk of premature labor or miscarriage. Berberine may also be transferred through breast milk, causing life-threatening liver problems in nursing infants.
  • Goldenseal should not be given to infants and young children.
  • Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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