Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Medical Uses

Goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, digestive disorders, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea. It has been used to treat streptococcus, staphylococcus, and bacterial vaginosis. Goldenseal’s major constituent (berberine) has also been effective in treating candidiasis (yeast infections). Scientists have disproved the rumor that goldenseal masks morphine in urine testing.

Historical Uses

Sometimes called “poor man’s ginseng,” goldenseal was discovered by Cherokee Indians who used it for eyewashes, acne, and eczema. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations cites goldenseal as one of the best-selling herbs internationally. It is very bitter.

Growth

Goldenseal is found in wooded areas in eastern North America, but it is endangered because of overharvesting. The plant prefers moist soil and shade.

Part Used

• Root

Major Chemical Compounds

• Alkaloids of berberine and hydrastine

Goldenseal: Clinical Uses

Goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, digestive disorders, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea. It has been used to treat streptococcus, staphylococcus, and bacterial vaginosis. Werbach and Murray (1994) note that goldenseal’s major constituent (berberine) has also been effective in treating candidi-asis. Scientists have disproved the rumor that goldenseal masks morphine in urine testing.

Mechanism of Action

Berberine has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiprotozoal properties and is bacterio-static for streptococci (Alternative Medicine Review, 2000). Berberine is responsible for the yellow color of goldenseal.

Goldenseal: Dosage

Use standardized extract of 5 percent to 15 percent berberine.

Capsules: 250 to 500 mg three times a day. Combination products that contain goldenseal should be taken four times a day. Use goldenseal for only 1 week because it disrupts intestinal flora. A dose of Lactobacillus acidophilus should be given with goldenseal because it is a helpful bacteria for the intestine.

Side Effects

Goldenseal may interfere with vitamin B metabolism. The German Commission E has noted significant nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory and cardiac depression in dogs and cats given high doses (25 mg/kg) of goldenseal. Goldenseal may lower blood glucose levels.

Contraindications

• Goldenseal is contraindicated during pregnancy.

Herb-Drug Interactions

None are known.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Goldenseal should not be used by pregnant women because it has uterine stimulant effects. It also should not be used during breast-feeding.

Summary of Studies

Govindan & Govindan (2000). Ten samples of goldenseal were analyzed by thin-layer chro-matography. Only five contained both hydrastine and berberine; four contained berberine; and one did not contain either of the alkaloids.

Goldenseal: Warnings

• Goldenseal may interfere with vitamin B metabolism and may lower blood sugar levels. Experiments with animals suggest that it may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and slowing of breathing and heart rate at high doses.

• Don’t take goldenseal if you are pregnant because it stimulates the uterus.

• Don’t take goldenseal while breast-feeding.