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Botanical name(s):

Hydrastis canadensis L. Family: Ranunculaceae

Other name(s):

golden seal, yellow root

General description

Goldenseal is a perennial herb. It’s native to eastern North America. The roots and rhizome are the parts that are used.

Goldenseal contains the alkaloids hydrastine and berberine. These have weak antiseptic effects. They may help fight bacteria-induced diarrhea. You shouldn’t take goldenseal during pregnancy. This is because it may cause uterine contractions.

In the past, goldenseal was used by Native Americans to treat sore eyes, mouth ulcers, tuberculosis, and edema. Now, there’s evidence that berberine works against resistant strains of tuberculosis. But berberine isn’t used as a primary or add-on treatment for tuberculosis. Berberine may also work well to control blood sugar in people with diabetes.

Goldenseal has also been used as in eye drops. It’s used on tired, burning, red, and irritated eyes.

Medically valid uses

There are no proven uses for goldenseal.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Goldenseal tea has been used as eyewash. The eyewash may soothe itchiness caused by allergies.

Berberine is used in an eye drop to reduce eye irritation. Goldenseal has also been used as an astringent. This contracts the tissues of the body. It’s also been used as an anti-catarrhal. This helps the body remove extra mucous and catarrhal buildup.

Goldenseal may also be used as the following:

  • Laxative

  • Treatment for the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections

  • Muscular stimulant

  • Bring on uterine contractions

  • A bitter to stimulate organ systems to work better

  • A tonic for the whole body

  • Strengthen the immune system

  • Control menstrual periods. Specifically, it may decrease bleeding.

  • Stimulate bile production and secretion

  • Stimulate the central nervous system

  • Aid in digestion

Topical goldenseal may also be used as a mouthwash. It’s used to treat sore gums and mouth. It is also used topically for these conditions:

  • Skin rashes

  • Skin ulcers

  • Wound infections

  • Itching

  • Eczema

  • Acne

  • Dandruff

  • Ringworm

  • Herpes blisters

  • Herpes labialis 

Dosing format

Goldenseal comes as capsules, alcohol-free extract, tincture, and bitter tea. Follow the instructions on the package for the correct dose.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Women who are pregnant shouldn’t use goldenseal. It can bring on contractions. Also, goldenseal can cause harmful levels of jaundice in newborns.

Goldenseal may also change the way your body processes medicines.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019