Published in Modern Athletic Health

Goldenseal is an herb, often found in supplement form, and is one of the top five best selling herbal products in America. It is a popular herb because of its both historic and modern claims of its ability to prevent colds, the flu, urinary tract and respiratory infections, and other immune boosting and antibiotic functions. But is there any basis to these claims? Let’s take a look.

Hydrastis canadensis is the golden root of a low-lying plant in the buttercup family that sprawls in the forests of the southeastern US up into southern Canada. The name Goldenseal comes from the yellow scars on the lower stem that resemble a wax seal. It was used extensively by North American Indigenous peoples to treat skin diseases, digestive inflammation, whooping cough, fever, ear infection, sore eyes, pneumonia, liver and heart trouble, as an appetite stimulant, and much more. It was also used as a beautiful, rich dye for clothing. Goldenseal is now primarily used to stimulate immune function, soothing inflamed mucous membranes, preventing and soothe the symptoms of colds, flu, and respiratory conditions, as well as for reducing fevers, alleviating constipation, and improving digestive function.

Goldenseal is often used and easily obtained in tablet and capsule form, but is also prepared as a salve, tincture or liquid extract, and can be found in skin care products. It is full of calcium, manganese, A, C, E, and B complex vitamins, as well as isoquinoline alkaloids hyddrastine, berberine, canadine, canadaline, and I-hydrastine. But let’s break it down and simplify the benefits of this magic-like golden root.

One of the most common uses for Goldenseal is as an immune system supporter. The antibiotic, anti-infective, and immune boosting properties of Goldenseal are believed to be attributed by these alkaloids, as well as the rich variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals found in this beautiful golden root. Berberine is one of the most interesting alkaloids as it is strongly antifungal and anti-diarrheal, as well as preventing bacteria from being able to adhere to tissue surfaces. This causes the bacteria to be easier for the body to expel, reducing the occurrence of infection. Goldenseal is also effective in lowering fevers.

Goldenseal is also renowned for its dermatological benefits. Because of its antimicrobial properties and high amount of antioxidants, it can be a soothing, healing choice for a wide variety of skin conditions. Whether the cause of the condition is viral, fungal, or bacterial, Goldenseal can reduce the inflammation and irritation, and nip the infection in the bud. But the anti-inflammatory benefits aren’t just skin deep! The inflammation reducing properties can be beneficial for joint pain, internal inflammation, sinus conditions, and soothing

And lastly, but far from least, Goldenseal is an important tool in `our digestive health tool bag. Hippocrates said that “all health begins in the gut.” Because of the aforementioned anti-inflammatory properties, it can be a great option for addressing ulcers, irregular bowel movements, constipation, bloating, and cramping. It also helps stimulate healthy appetite.

When you get to the root of the matter - pun absolutely intended - Goldenseal is an incredibly powerful and useful root. But it is a very strong, potent herb that, if used in excess, can cause neurological issues, seizures, and convulsions. Before you begin the use of this or any herbal medicine, consult your medical herbalist or other qualified professional.


These facts and opinions are those of a certified Master Herbalist, Reiki Master Teacher, and a Natural Health Consultant, and are for educational purposes only, and not intended to replace consult with your healthcare practitioner.
If you have any questions or concerns about anything in this article, please contact me or your natural healthcare practitioner immediately.