The Wonders of Goldenseal

Goldenseal Plant and Flowers

Many people have heard of the herb Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) but have little idea of the multitude of uses this versatile herb has. Goldenseal has been used throughout history as a medicinal herb, partly because of its amazing ability to stimulate the body’s own immunity. The bushy plant typically grows wild in rich soils. and has beautiful bright yellow flowers that produce a gorgeous red oil when infused. Goldenseal is now an endangered species due to excessive wild harvesting. It should therefore only be purchased from companies who grow it and who do not wildcraft it.

Please note that this information is shared for informational purposes only. None of these statements were reviewed by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Please check with your MD before taking any supplement.

Goldenseal’s popularity is based on the following properties herbalists believe it has:

Antibacterial and Antiviral

Goldenseal has been shown to have powerful antibacterial properties. Because it targets the mucous membranes, it is commonly used to address issues such as upper respiratory infections, dental infections, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, allergies, urinary tract infections, and bacterial diarrhea. It has even been shown to successfully combat the bacteria H Pylori which is thought to cause some forms of bacterial ulcers. Goldenseal is often described as having a “miraculous” effect on colds or flus that have lasted longer than they should. I can attest to Goldenseal’s effectiveness as an antibiotic, having recently used it to avoid needing a prescription antibiotic for an abscessed tooth and a root canal.

Goldenseal’s antibacterial properties make it wonderful to use topically on small wounds and cuts. It is known to be especially useful in preventing or addressing skin infection. Another benefit of Goldenseal is that it is a powerful styptic and can be used to stop bleeding in minor wounds. I again can personally verify its effectiveness on wounds. I used Goldenseal in ample amounts after wrecking my motorcycle two years ago, and had incredibly rapid healing with no infection. I also used it recently when I deeply gashed my finger but didn’t have a way to get to a mainstream medical facility for stitches. I poured Goldenseal powder (which I always keep on hand) over the cut and bound it tightly. The bleeding stopped in less than a minute. (I had been applying strong pressure to the wound for over 45 minutes with no luck.) The wound healed cleanly within a week without stitches, with no infection and with very minimal scarring. I was amazed at how little scarring occurred, as I tend to scar deeply and very easily.

Goldenseal is also known to have powerful antiviral effects which make it popular used internally against colds and flus. It is also commonly used to help with cold sores and herpes lesions when made into a tea and used as a gargle or topical wash. Goldenseal has the added benefit of being known for boosting the body’s own immunity, which makes it a great help in colds and flus.

Anti-fungal

 

Goldenseal is known to be a powerful ally against Candida overgrowth and other forms of fungal infection. Whether used internally or topically, Goldenseal is reported to curtail fungal growth very quickly. The trick with using Goldenseal for Candida is to keep the Candida confused so that it cannot adapt to the antiviral properties of Goldenseal. I use Goldenseal for two weeks and then use a different antifungal supplement for two weeks on a rotation basis.

Digestive Aid

Goldenseal has a long history of use as a digestive aid and a liver supporter. It is thought to stimulate the production of bile, which may make it helpful in digesting fats and as a general digestive aid. The fact it stimulates bile production makes it a popular choice for use in addressing potential liver and gallbladder issues. Goldenseal also has a strong reputation as a bitter herb that stimulates digestion and appetite.

Anti-diabetic

Many herbalists recommend Goldenseal to people with diabetes because of its reputation of helping lower blood sugars and the belief that it has a stimulating effect on the beta cells of the pancreas. Goldenseal is a popular addition to many herbal products designed to help lower blood glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity and support the pancreas. I find that my blood glucose levels stay much lower when I use Goldenseal on a regular basis. It is most effective when used in combination with other herbs that support normal blood sugar levels.

Astringent

Goldenseal has a very astringent effect when used topically, which makes it an excellent choice for topical use on hemorrhoids. It is also known to help alleviate inflammation in hemorrhoids and to have a soothing effect. Some people find that using it as a wash for acne is also very helpful. I find that using an infused oil of Goldenseal in my baths adds a wonderfully soothing touch and makes me feel very pampered.

Preparations
Goldenseal is commonly sold as (listed in order of my opinion of the highest potential strength to lowest):

1.  Tinctures containing an alcohol-based extract of Goldenseal root. Herb Pharm makes one of my favorites: http://amzn.to/Qsmm80

2a. Capsules containing an extract of Goldenseal root.  

2b. Capsules containing powdered, dried Goldenseal root. There are many on the market. I have come to rely on Nature’s Market as an over-the-counter brand providing reliable, high-quality herbs: http://amzn.to/QIdOLO

3.  Teas containing dried Goldenseal root. Alvita carries a wide range of herbal tea bags: http://amzn.to/UFRKQb

When determining what form of Goldenseal to use, select the form you take the most consistently . For example, if you do not like the strong taste of a Goldenseal tincture (which does have a very strong flavor) and may not take it as frequently as needed because of the taste, then using a capsule form may be best. If you find swallowing capsules to be difficult, then a liquid tincture might be best. The powdered extract, which contains only the active chemical in Goldenseal, may or may not be more potent than the straight herb, depending on how many milligrams are delivered per serving. The author’s preference is to use the root in its entirety to ensure receiving the full potential of the herb’s beneficial qualities. There is some evidence that suggests that some of the chemicals in Goldenseal are not soluble in water but are readily soluble in alcohol.

Dosage
There are many different opinions about the ideal dosage of Goldenseal. Please note that the dosages that follow are intended for adults only. Please consult a qualified practitioner before giving Goldenseal to children. The general recommendations for adults include taking 400-2000 mg of the powdered root three times per day. Recommended dosage of an alcohol based tincture is 90-210 drops per day in divided doses. Typical dosage for a powdered extract is 30-120 mg three times per day. As with any herb, discontinue use if any unusual symptoms or reactions occur after starting to take Goldenseal.
In my experience, a low dose (500 mg, three times per day) of powdered root is effective for Candida overgrowth, while higher doses (1000-2000 mg, three to five times per day) are effective for bacterial infections. I used 6000 mg/day when battling my abscessed tooth and during my root canal. It worked like a charm!
Considerations
As with any herb, there are some things that should be considered when taking Goldenseal. Although these considerations are important, please note that Goldenseal is considered a very safe herb to use. I recommend Goldenseal without hesitation when appropriate.

1. Goldenseal should never be used by pregnant women or given to children under age two unless under the direction of a qualified practitioner.

2. People using the prescription medications Warfarin (Coumadin), protease inhibitors or cardiac glycosides should not use Goldenseal due to a potential interaction with these prescription medication.

3. Goldenseal can sometimes cause an imbalance in the bacterial balance of the digestive tract. It is therefore recommended to take a probiotic (acidophilus or other probiotic) when taking it long-term. If using Goldenseal on a short-term basis, most people take it for a period of 10-14 days, then take a break of one to two weeks, then resume taking it if needed.

4. People taking prescription antibiotics should refrain from taking Goldenseal within two hours of taking the prescription medication.

5. Some people with pre-existing hypertension have noticed higher blood pressures when taking Goldenseal for a prolonged period of time. Although this side effect is rare, it is wise to check blood pressures frequently if taking Goldenseal for more than two weeks.

6. Goldenseal may lose its effect if taken for a long period of time. For that reason, I typically recommend a “two weeks on, two weeks off” regimen when Goldenseal is needed for use over an extended period of time.

7. Diabetics who use Goldenseal should check blood glucose levels more frequently.

This explains why Goldenseal is one of my most favorite herbs!!!


[i] Mahady GB, Pendland SL, Stoia A, et al. In vitro susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to isoquinoline alkaloids from Sanguinaria canadensis and Hydrastis canadensis. Phytother Res. 2003;17(3):217-21.
[ii] Jellin J.M., Gregory P.J., Batz F. and Hitchens K. (2004): Pharmacist’s Letter/ Prescriber’s Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA, Therapeutic Research Faculty. http://www.naturaldatabase.com/member_home.asp?ph_img=memberhome.gif&ex=0&ex=0

Some links in this post are affiliate links. Each was provided solely to provide an example of the product being discussed.

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 The Wonders of Goldenseal
Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.
 The Wonders of Goldenseal

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6 Responses to The Wonders of Goldenseal

  1. annmarie says:

    Hi!
    Great write up on Goldenseal. I’m wondering if it is ok to use Goldenseal while on Zantac. I am taking this reluctantly, yet with hopes of healing an ulcerated stomach and esophagus. I am also using colloidal silver, olive leaf, monolaurin and sulfuraphane. Do you see any contraindications to using goldenseal tea with this list?
    Thanks for any help.
    Annmarie K.

  2. Bob says:

    Great succinct article, thank you. One question if I may. If I take goldenseal and also take probiotics, should I separate the ingestion of them by some period of hours? If “yes,” how many hours?

  3. Lindy says:

    Husband recently diagnosed with Diabetes Type II. Using Goldenseal among other things to help bring blood sugar down. Was 297 when he was diagnosed. Now around 170. In your opinion, can this be used long term? I have always heard not to use over 10 days. He has been on it for 3 weeks now, tried to discontinue but blood sugar shot back up. Thank you.

  4. […] Liquid Herbal Tinctures (Extracts): Most people now use the term “tincture” to refer to any liquid herbal extract, but this term is actually incorrect. My definition is that a tincture is made using fresh plant materials and extracts are made using dried plant materials. However, everyone seems to have their own definition to distinguish between liquid tinctures and extracts. Since the term “tincture” is commonly used to refer to all liquid extracts, that’s the term I use in this post. Liquid herbal tinctures are concentrated forms of medicinal herbs that contain the beneficial properties of the herb extracted into a liquid. Tinctures are typically made by placing an herb or herbs in a natural solvent, such as alcohol, glycerin or vinegar, and allowing the mixture to infuse for three weeks or longer. The amounts of herb, solvent and water used are very specific and are dependent upon the herb being used. (Some herbs require higher amounts of solvent, some require lesser amounts.) . It is actually very easy to make your own herbal tinctures. I make them frequently and love being able to make my own in the comfort of my kitchen. For detailed information on how to make herbal tinctures and other herbal products, I highly recommend reading Richo Cech’s book, Making Plant Medicine. The book provides ample information about herbs and provides detailed information about how to use herbs in a variety of ways. Herbal tinctures can be used for any and all conditions which are treated with herbs. They are typically taken internally, although some people use them topically in poultices. Some people even add anti-bacterial herbal tinctures to their neti pot. Why use a herbal tinctures instead of drinking teas or taking herbal capsules? Because a therapeutic dose of the desired herb can be obtained in a tiny amount of the tincture instead of having to eat pounds of the raw herb or drink gallons of tea. My personal preference is to use liquid tinctures instead of dried extracts in capsules because I believe they are stronger and because it avoids consuming “fillers” commonly used in capsuled products. Herbal tinctures can have a very strong taste, but diluting them in a bit of water or juice effectively modifies the taste.Glycerites are herbal extracts made in glycerin  Glycerin is a very sweet vegetable liquid that is often used to make liquid herbal extracts for children. The glycerin is used so that the extracts taste good. The problem with glycerites is that (for most herbs) glycerin is not as strong a solvent as alcohol, which makes glycerites weaker in terms of their medicinal potential. However, glycerites are a good compromise for anyone who cannot tolerate the taste of alcohol tinctures. (For detailed information on one of my favorite herbal tinctures, Goldenseal, please read The Wonders of Goldenseal.) […]

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