Hydrastis canadensis

Other names: Orange Root, Yellow Root, Yellow Puccoon, Ground Raspberry, Wild Curcuma, Turmeric Root, Indian Dye, Eye Root, Eye Balm, Indian Paint, Jaundice Root, Warnera, Indian Plant

Golden Seal belongs to the Buttercup family, though its leaves and fruit look more like those of the Raspberry. It grows in rich woods from Vermont to Georgia, west to Alabama and Arkansas, north to eastern Iowa and Minnesota.

The North American plant Golden Seal produces a drug which is considered of great value in modern medicine.

Goldenseal as an Herb for Medicinal Use

Goldenseal The medicinal parts of goldenseal are the air-dried rhizome with the root fibers. The taste is very bitter. The smell is strong and disagreeable.

The Cherokee used the roots of goldenseal topically to treat inflammation. They drank a root tea to improve appetite and for dyspepsia. The Iroquois used it for liver disorders, fever, sour stomach, and diarrhea.

Goldenseal was listed among the official remedies in the first revision (1830) of the New York edition of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. It was dropped in 1840, then listed again from 1860 to 1926. The root was used primarily for inflammations of the mucous membranes.

In 1905 the United States Department of Agriculture called attention to the increasing demand for Goldenseal for medicinal purposes. There it is stated that the early settlers learned of the virtues of Golden Seal from the American Indians, who used the root as a medicine. They also used its yellow juice as a stain for their faces and a dye for their clothing.

Goldenseal is one of the more popular American herbs. For many years the alkaloids and the powdered root were the chief forms administered. Now the goldenseal root extract is the form most used. The tincture is also official in both the British and the United States Pharmacopoeias.

One modern folk use of goldenseal is based on the plot of a 1900 novel by the pharmacist John Uri Lloyd, Stringtown on the Pike. It says to ingest the herb in an attempt to mask the presence of illicit drugs in the urine. Although there is no scientific evidence to support this practice, some laboratories now test for goldenseal in urinalysis.

Still widely used, goldenseal is a plant in need of new research.

In chronic inflammation of the colon and rectum, injections of hydrastine are often of great service, and it has been used in hemorrhoids with excellent results, the alkaloid Hydrastine having an astringent action. The powder has proved useful as a snuff for inflammation of the nose and throat with increased production of mucus.

As an infusion, goldenseal has great influence in preventing and curing night-sweats. It is sometimes used as a wash for ulcerated mouth. Externally, it is used as a lotion in treatment of eye affections and as a general cleansing application.

In the past century, very little scientific research has been done on goldenseal. Its major effects are attributed to the alkaloids hydrastine and berberine.

How Goldenseal Is Used

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.

Few studies have been published on goldenseal’s safety and effectiveness, but herbalists think highly of goldenseal. 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.

Culinary Uses of Goldenseal

Unknown; generally not recommended for culinary purposes. In large amounts the drug proves very poisonous.

Folklore & “Magical” Uses

Goldenseal is used in money spells and healing rituals.


Several books warn pregnant and nursing women and people with heart problems to use goldenseal cautiously, presumably because of the lack of toxicity studies. While it has not been documented scientifically, goldenseal may disrupt intestinal flora; some herbalists therefore recommend taking acidophilus with it.

Adverse reactions are known in hypoglycemics and should not be used.

Should not be used if pregnant (stimulates the uterus).

Avoid with weak digestion.

Should not be used for more than 10 to 14 days. Overuse can cause imbalances of intestinal flora and can contribute to yeast and mold infections and immune system imblances if taken for long periods.

Not advised when pain present in the digestive tract or if there is a cold constitution (cold hands or feet, feeling chilly, slow pulse, preferring hot drinks to cold, wanting extra clothes or bed covers).

Contains the alkaloid hydrastine and should not be taken in excess.

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