Latin Name – Hydrastis Canadensis
Goldenseal is a plant that originated in Canada and the Northern United States, where it is now grown commercially. 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.
Historically, Native Americans have used goldenseal for various health conditions such as skin diseases and ulcers.
Now, goldenseal is used as an herbal remedy in the hope of improving symptoms of colds and other respiratory tract infections, infectious diarrhea, eye infections, and vaginitis (inflammation or infection of the vagina).
Goldenseal is also applied to wounds and canker sores, and is used as a mouthwash for sore gums, mouth, and throat.
Goldenseal is often combined with echinacea in preparations that are intended to be used for colds.
Few research 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.
Side Effects and Cautions Summary
- 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.
- Goldenseal 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.
- 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 to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:297–308.
- Goldenseal. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed on July 6, 2007.
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.), Berberine. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on July 3, 2007.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Goldenseal fact sheet Created December 2006, Updated May 2008