Hydrastis canadensis. Family: Ranunculaceae
golden seal, yellow root
Goldenseal is a perennial herb native to North America. The roots and rhizome are the parts of the plant that are used.
Goldenseal contains the alkaloids hydrastine and berberine, which possess weak antiseptic properties. These components may help to combat bacteria-induced diarrhea. They should be avoided during pregnancy because of their possible stimulating effect on the uterus.
Goldenseal was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat sore eyes, mouth ulcers, tuberculosis and edema. Now, there is evidence that berberine, a constituent of goldenseal, is effective (in vitro) against multiple resistant strains of tuberculosis. However, berberine is not currently used as a primary or adjunct treatment for tuberculosis.
Goldenseal has also been used to prepare an eye-drop medication for tired, burning, red and irritated eyes.
Medically Valid Uses:
There are no rigorously established uses for goldenseal.
Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.
The constituents of goldenseal, such as berberine and hydrastine, may have significant pharmacological properties. Berberine has demonstrated anti-tubercular activity against multiple-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. Hydrastine has shown promise as an anthelmintic against echinococcus and as a possible central nervous system agent as a potent GABA blocker.
Currently, the biggest use of goldenseal is by individuals attempting to invalidate urine drug-screening results. Goldenseal, however, has no effect on the outcome of these tests.
Traditionally, goldenseal has been used as an eyewash. (Goldenseal tea, used as an eyewash, may soothe itchiness caused by some allergies. Berberine is a major alkaloid of goldenseal and is used in a commercial eye drop to reduce eye irritation.) Goldenseal has also been used as an astringent (contracts the tissues of the body), anti-catarrhal (helps the body remove excess mucous and catarrhal build-up), laxative and muscular stimulant. Goldenseal is also thought to be an oxytocic (stimulates uterine contractions), a bitter (stimulates particular organ systems to work more effectively) and a general tonic for the entire body.
Goldenseal is further claimed to strengthen the immune system, regulate menses (decrease uterine bleeding), stimulate bile production and secretion, stimulate the central nervous system and improve digestion.
Goldenseal is available as capsules, alcohol-free extract, tincture and bitter tea. Depending on the form, follow the packaging instructions for correct dose.
Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:
Goldenseal should be used only under strict supervision if you have:
High dosages can result in breathing difficulty, arrhythmia seizures and paralysis. Berberine is toxic to vertebrates, as well as insects, bacteria and virus. Hydrastine can be irritating to mucosal tissue.
Do not use goldenseal over long periods. When using goldenseal for chronic infection, it should be taken in cycles (two to three weeks on and two to three weeks off). Continuous use may cause problems.
Women who are pregnant should not use goldenseal. Goldenseal has an oxytocic effect and may cause uterine contractions.
Theoretically, goldenseal may increase the hypoglycemic effect of insulin or oral anti-diabetic agents.
Goldenseal may also interfere with some glaucoma medications.
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