Goldenseal: Herbal Remedies


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Goldenseal's many herbal remedy uses include aiding with digestion and working as an anti-inflammatory.

The root of this low-growing woodland plant is cultivated in the fall as an important antimicrobial agent. In fact, its use has been so extensive that overharvesting has all but wiped out wild goldenseal.

To protect this popular herb from extinction, never dig up wild goldenseal plants or buy them from anyone who does. This botanical is now farmed in woodland settings to meet the great market demand without further endangering goldenseal in its natural setting. And the demand is indeed great: More than 150,000 pounds of goldenseal is consumed annually in America alone! With good reason. Goldenseal is a powerful herbal remedy that serves as an anti-inflammatory, digestive aid and more.

Uses for Goldenseal

Goldenseal is so valued because it improves health in many ways: It is a strong antimicrobial, a mild anti-inflammatory, and a digestive tonic! Its astringent properties make it useful for treating conditions of the throat, stomach, and vagina, when these tissues are inflamed, swollen, or infected.

The yellow-pigmented powder also makes a good antiseptic skin wash for wounds and for internal skin surfaces, such as in the vagina and ear canal. Goldenseal eye washes are useful for simple conjunctivitis. An anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial astringent, goldenseal is particularly effective on the digestive system -- from the oral mucosa to the intestinal tract. It is helpful for canker sores in the mouth and as a mouth rinse for infected gums.

For sore throats, goldenseal works well combined with echinacea and myrrh. Gargling with goldenseal is effective, too; extended surface contact with the infected area is ideal treatment. Irritable bowel diseases also benefit from the use of goldenseal when there is diarrhea and excessive intestinal activity and secretions.

For general debility of the stomach and digestion, such a chronic gas, indigestion, and difficulty with absorption of nutrients, herbalists recommend a combination of equal parts goldenseal and cayenne pepper, in tincture or capsules, before meals on a regular basis. Goldenseal has been found useful in treating the many types of diarrhea from travelers diarrhea to the types seen only in AIDS patients. Weakened immune function makes people susceptible to intestinal and other infections; goldenseal can help prevent and treat these infections.

Goldenseal has been found to be effective against a number of disease-causing organisms, including Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Chlamydia species, E. coli, Salmonella typhi, Entamoeba histolytica and many others. Berberine and related alkaloids in goldenseal have been credited with its antimicrobial effects. Berberine may be responsible for the increased white blood cell activity associated with goldenseal use, as well as its promotion of blood flow in the liver and spleen.

Promoting circulation in these organs enhances their general function. Berberine has been used recently in China to combat the depression of the white blood cell count that commonly follows chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer. Both human and animal studies suggest berberine may have potential in the treatment of brain tumors and skin cancers. Berberine also improves cardiovascular health, lowering LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides, decreases blood pressure when elevated, and improves the function of the heart muscle.

Since goldenseal acts as an astringent to mucosal tissues, it has been recommended to treat oral cancers, as well as abnormal cells in the cervix (cervical dysplasia) and cervical cancer. Goldenseal's astringent and immune-stimulating action seems to heal inflamed cells and eliminate abnormal cells.

Goldenseal has the curious reputation as an herb that people take before undergoing a drug test to ensure that they pass. There is no logical basis for this, but herbalist author and photographer Steven Foster cleared up this rumor when he pointed out it stemmed from the plot of a fictional murder mystery written by a prominent herbalist, John Uri Lloyd, almost a century ago.

To lean how to prepare golenseal remedies and some precautions you should know before taking this herb in the next section.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Preparations and Warnings for Goldenseal

Aside from the many benefits of goldenseal, there are some downsides. Learn more in the sections below.

Goldenseal Preparations and Dosage

Goldenseal's extremely bitter taste makes it more appropriate for tinctures and capsules than for teas. The following doses are recommended.

Tincture: Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon every one to two hours in adults with an acute sore throat or intestinal infection. When treating infections with herbal preparations, it is usually best to take a dose fairly frequently at the onset of symptoms and reduce the frequency in the following days as symptoms improve.

Capsules: Take 1 or 2 capsules every two to four hours when an infection first begins, and then reduce the frequency over several days' time. This botanical is fine for children and the elderly, but they require a lower dosage. Be sure to check with an herbalist for the appropriate dosage.

Goldenseal Precautions and Warnings

Because of the overharvesting of goldenseal, many herbalists recommend using goldenseal only occasionally, suggesting use of other antimicrobial herbs, such as Oregon grape, thyme, or garlic in its place whenever possible.

Be aware that goldenseal is also used as a yellow dye, so medicinal tinctures and teas will permanently stain clothing. Don't worry, though: Topical applications won't stain your skin or your eyes if you use the eyewash.

Side Effects of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is considered quite safe but due to its alkaloid content, it should be avoided during pregnancy. Researchers and herbalists disagree, however, about whether goldenseal can impair the beneficial bacteria of the digestive tract the way that pharmaceutical antibiotics can.

Not all bacteria are harmful; our bodies need some types of bacteria to assist in digestion, for example. So if you are one of the rare individuals who needs to use goldenseal long term, you should supplement your diet with Lactobacillus acidophilus bacterial strains, such as those found in active-culture yogurt, to replenish the body's supply of beneficial bacteria.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.