Billings Clinic
Especially For:

Complementary Medicine - Cam

Goldenseal

Goldenseal

Uses

Botanical names:
Hydrastis canadensis

Parts Used & Where Grown

Goldenseal is native to eastern North America and is cultivated in Oregon and Washington. It is seriously threatened by over-harvesting in the wild. The dried root and rhizome are used in herbal medicine.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Canker Sores
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Because of its soothing effect on mucous membranes (including the lining of the mouth) and its healing properties, chamomile may be tried for canker sores and other mouth irritations.2 A strong tea made from chamomile tincture can be swished in the mouth before swallowing, three to four times per day. Goldenseal has also been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores.

1 Star
Chronic Candidiasis
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Berberine is an alkaloid found in various plants, including goldenseal , barberry , Oregon grape , and goldthread. Berberine exhibits a broad spectrum of antibiotic and antifungal activity in test tube, animal, and human studies.3 , 4 Berberine has shown effective antidiarrheal activity in a number of diarrheal diseases,5 , 6 , 7 and it may offer the same type of relief for the diarrhea seen in patients with chronic candidiasis. Doctors familiar with the use of berberine-containing herbs sometimes recommend taking 2 to 4 grams of the dried root (or bark) or 250 to 500 mg of an herbal extract three times a day. While isolated berberine has been studied, none of these herbs has been studied in humans with chronic candidiasis.

1 Star
Cold Sores
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs, including chaparral , St. John’s wort , goldenseal , myrrh , and echinacea , have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.

1 Star
Common Cold and Sore Throat
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Goldenseal root contains two alkaloids, berberine and canadine, with antimicrobial and mild immune-stimulating effects.8 However, due to the small amounts of alkaloids occurring in the root, it is unlikely these effects would occur outside the test tube. Goldenseal soothes irritated mucous membranes in the throat,9 making it potentially useful for those experiencing a sore throat with their cold. Human research on the effectiveness of goldenseal or other berberine-containing herbs, such as Oregon grape , barberry , or goldthread (Coptis chinensis), for people with colds has not been conducted.

Goldenseal root should only be used for short periods of time. Goldenseal root extract, in capsule or tablet form, is typically taken in amounts of 4 to 6 grams three times per day. Using goldenseal powder as a tea or tincture may soothe a sore throat. Because goldenseal is threatened in the wild due to over-harvesting, substitutes such as Oregon grape should be used whenever possible.

Elderberry has shown antiviral activity and thus may be useful for some people with common colds. Elder flowers are a traditional diaphoretic remedy for helping to break fevers and promote sweating during a cold. Horseradish has antibiotic properties, which may account for its usefulness in easing throat and upper respiratory tract infections. The resin of the herb myrrh has been shown to kill various microbes and to stimulate macrophages (a type of white blood cell). Usnea has a traditional reputation as an antiseptic and is sometimes used for people with common colds.

1 Star
Conjunctivitis and Blepharitis
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Goldenseal and Oregon grape contain the antibacterial constituent known as berberine. While topical use of berberine in eye drops has been clinically studied for eye infections,10 the use of the whole herbs has not been studied for conjunctivitis or blepharitis.

1 Star
Diarrhea
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Due to of its supposed antimicrobial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea. Its major alkaloid, berberine (also found in barberry and Oregon grape ), has been shown to improve infectious diarrhea in some double-blind trials.11 Negative studies have generally focused on people with cholera, while positive studies investigated viral diarrhea or diarrhea due to strains of E. coli. These studies generally used 400–500 mg berberine one to three times per day. Because of the low amount of berberine in most goldenseal products, it is unclear how effective the whole root or root extracts would be in treating diarrhea.

1 Star
Gastritis
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Goldenseal is regarded as an herbal antibiotic and has been traditionally used for infections of the mucous membranes. While no specific research points to goldenseal as a treatment for gastritis, there is some evidence from test tube studies that berberine, an active ingredient in goldenseal, slows growth of H. pylori. 12 Modern herbal practitioners now prefer alternatives to goldenseal, since the plant is threatened with extinction due to overharvesting.

1 Star
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.13 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine , wormwood , gentian, dandelion , blessed thistle , yarrow , devil’s claw , bitter orange, bitter melon , juniper , andrographis , prickly ash , and centaury .14. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.

Some bitters widely used in traditional medicine in North America include yarrow , yellow dock , goldenseal , Oregon grape , and vervain . Oregon grape’s European cousin barberry has also traditionally been used as a bitter. Animal studies indicate that yarrow, barberry, and Oregon grape, in addition to stimulating digestion like other bitters, may relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.15

1 Star
Infection
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Herbs that support a person’s immune system in the fight against microbes and directly attack microbes include the following: barberry , echinacea , elderberry , goldenseal , licorice , Oregon grape , osha, and wild indigo .

1 Star
Influenza
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.16 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea , goldenseal , or thuja.

1 Star
Parasites
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry , Oregon grape , goldenseal , and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections .17 , 18 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.19 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

1 Star
Type 2 Diabetes
1 gram per day of berberine for two months
Learn More
In a preliminary trial, supplementation with 1 gram per day of berberine (one of the active compounds in goldenseal) for two months significantly lowered blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.20
1 Star
Urinary Tract Infection
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Goldenseal is reputed to help treat many types of infections . It contains berberine, an alkaloid that may prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary bladder.21 Goldenseal and other plants containing berberine (such as Oregon grape ) may help in the treatment of UTIs. These herbs have not, however, been studied for the treatment of UTIs in humans.

1 Star
Vaginitis
Refer to label instructions
Learn More

Teas of goldenseal , barberry , and echinacea are also sometimes used to treat infectious vaginitis. Although all three plants are known to be antibacterial in the test tube, the effectiveness of these herbs against vaginal infections has not been tested in humans. The usual approach is to douche with one of these teas twice each day, using 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 grams) of herb per pint of water. One to two pints (500–1,000 ml) are usually enough for each douching session. Echinacea is also known to improve immune function in humans.22 In order to increase resistance against infection, many doctors recommend oral use of the tincture or alcohol-preserved fresh juice of echinacea (1 teaspoon (5 ml) three or more times per day)—during all types of infection—to improve resistance.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Goldenseal was used by Native Americans as a treatment for irritations and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. It was commonly used topically for skin and eye infections and has been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores . Because of its anti-microbial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea , upper respiratory tract infections, and vaginal infections. Goldenseal is often recommended by herbalists in combination with echinacea for the treatment of colds and flu . Its benefits are most likely limited to helping ease the discomfort of a sore throat associated with these conditions. Goldenseal was considered a critical remedy for stomach and intestinal problems of all kinds by early 20th century Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbs).1

How It Works

Botanical names:
Hydrastis canadensis

How It Works

Little research has been done on whole goldenseal root or rhizome, but many studies have evaluated the properties of its two primary alkaloids, berberine and hydrastine. Berberine, the more extensively researched of the two, accounts for 0.5–6.0% of the alkaloids present in goldenseal root and rhizome. However, the effect of goldenseal in the gastrointestinal tract is most likely localized as its alkaloids (particularly berberine) are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, limiting any systemic antibiotic effects.23 Goldenseal also has strong astringent properties which may partially explain its historical use for sore throats and diarrhea . In test tube studies, it has shown a wide spectrum of antibiotic activity against disease-causing organisms, such as Chlamydia, E. coli, Salmonella typhi, and Entamoeba histolytica. 24 Human trials have used isolated berberine to treat diarrhea and gastroenteritis with good results.25 The whole root has not been clinically studied.

How to Use It

Powdered goldenseal root and rhizome, 4–6 grams per day in tablet or capsule form, is sometimes recommended.26 For liquid herbal extracts, use 2–4 ml three times per day. Alternatively, 250–500 mg three times per day of standardized extracts supplying 8–12% alkaloids, are suggested. Continuous use should not exceed three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use.

Due to environmental concerns of overharvesting,27 many herbalists recommend alternatives to goldenseal, such as Oregon grape or goldthread.

Interactions

Botanical names:
Hydrastis canadensis

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • none

Support Medicine

  • none

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • Tetracycline

    Berberine, a chemical extracted from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), barberry (Berberis vulgaris), and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), has been shown to have antibacterial activity. One double-blind study found that giving 100 mg of berberine at the same time as 500 mg of tetracycline four times daily led to a reduction of the efficacy of tetracycline in people with cholera.28 Berberine may have decreased the absorption of tetracycline in this study. Another double-blind trial did not find that berberine interfered with tetracycline in cholera patients.29 Until more studies are completed to clarify this issue, berberine-containing herbs should not be taken simultaneously with tetracycline.

Explanation Required

  • Doxycycline

    Berberine is a chemical extracted from goldenseal  (Hydrastis canadensis), barberry  (Berberis vulgaris), and Oregon grape  (Berberis aquifolium), which has antibacterial activity. However, one double-blind study found that 100 mg berberine given with tetracycline (a drug closely related to doxycycline) reduced the efficacy of tetracycline in people with cholera.30 In that trial, berberine may have decreased tetracycline absorption. Another double-blind trial found that berberine neither improved nor interfered with tetracycline effectiveness in cholera patients.31 Therefore, it remains unclear whether a significant interaction between berberine-containing herbs and doxycycline and related drugs exists.

The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Hydrastis canadensis

Side Effects

Taken as recommended, goldenseal is generally safe. However, as with all alkaloid-containing plants, high amounts (several times higher than the recommended amounts) may lead to gastrointestinal distress and possible nervous system effects.32 Goldenseal is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women. Also, despite some traditional reports, goldenseal is not a substitute for antibiotics.

References

1. Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. 1919. Reprint, Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.

2. Nasemann T. Kamillosan therapy in dermatology. Z Allgemeinmed 1975; 25:1105–6.

3. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577–88 [review].

4. Majahan VM, Sharma A, Rattan A. Antimycotic activity of berberine sulphate: an alkaloid from an Indian medicinal herb. Sabouraudia 1982;20:79–81.

5. Bhakat MP. Therapeutic trial of Berberine sulphate in non-specific gastroenteritis. Indian Med J 1974;68:19–23.

6. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhoea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525–9.

7. Desai AB, Shah KM, Shah DM. Berberine in the treatment of diarrhoea. Indian Pediatr 1971;8:462–5.

8. Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995, 162–72.

9. Bradley PR, ed. British Herbal Compendium, Vol. 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 119–20.

10. Babbar OP, Chatwal VK, Ray IB, et al. Effect of berberine chloride eye drops on clinically positive trachoma patients. Ind J Med Res 1982;76:83–8.

11. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J 1985;291:1601–5.

12. Bae EA, Han MJ, Kim NJ, Kim DH. Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of herbal medicines. Biol Pharm Bull 1998;21(9):990–2.

13. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician’s Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168–73.

14. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.

15. Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of Achillea millefolium Linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28(8):331–6.

16. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381–4.

17. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

18. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143–6.

19. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417–25.

20. Zhang H, Wei J, Xue R, et al. Berberine lowers blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients through increasing insulin receptor expression. Metabolism 2010;59:285–92

21. Sun DX, Abraham SN, Beachey EH. Influence of berberine sulfate on synthesis and expression of pap fimbrial adhesin in uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1274–7.

22. Melchart D, Linde K, Worku F, et al. Immunomodulation with Echinacea—a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 1994;1:245–54.

23. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler’s Honest Herbal. New York: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999, 195–7.

24. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577–88.

25. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525–9.

26. Murray, MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995, 162–72.

27. Bannerman JE. Goldenseal in world trade: Pressures and potentials. HerbalGram 1997;41:51–2.

28. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J 1985;291:1601–5.

29. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis 1987;155:979–84.

30. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. BMJ 1985;291:160–5.

31. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis 1987;155:979–84.

32. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 151–2.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Print This Page
Email to a Friend
Home | Contact | Site Map | Site Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Patient Privacy Policy | Medical Records | Fast Command
2800 10th Ave. North | P.O. Box 37000 | Billings, Montana 59107 | 406.238.2500
© Copyright 2014 Billings Clinic. All Rights Reserved.