THE HERBAL CORNER - "Goldenseal"
(Hydrastis canadensis)

GOLDENSEAL is the dried, yellow rhizome and rootlets of a small woodland-floor plant (Hydrastis canadensis) native to eastern North America. The herb’s growing popularity has made it increasingly rare in the wild, leading a number of states to list the plant as "endangered."

Goldenseal root was used by Native American tribes, including the Cherokee and Iroqouis, as a yellow dye and for health conditions ranging from topical inflammations, debility, cancer, and dyspepsia to whooping cough, pneumonia, diarrhea, fever and sour stomach. European settlers of the 18th century used a goldenseal root wash for eye inflammations. Folk uses expanded during the 19th and 20th centuries, to include inflammations and infections of the mucus membranes (e.g., canker sores and sore gums or throat), skin sores, cancers, bleeding, menstrual complaints, ulcers, gastritis, colitis, constipation, ringworm, acne, genitourinary infections, thrush, and snake bite.

Today, Goldenseal has both internal and external applications. It is taken orally to alleviate colds and fevers, stop recurrent ear infections, and stimulate the immune system. Its ability to counter microbes and parasites makes it useful in conditions such as vaginitis and urinary tract infections, and digestive ailments such as infectious diarrhea. The herb acts as a stimulant and seems to affect the body's mucous membranes by drying up secretions, reducing inflammation, and fighting infection through the mild antimicrobial action of its active ingredients, alkaloid compounds called hydrastine and berberine.

Herbalists often recommend it topically for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic actions, which make it useful to clean wounds, reduce hemorrhoids, soothe canker sores, and alleviate skin infections (including ringworm and athlete’s foot). It can also help treat eye infections such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis.

Studies have recently explored the mechanisms by which berberine inhibits certain human cancer cells and reduces inflammation, and found that berberine is more effective in clearing a malaria-related parasite than tetracycline.

Goldenseal is generally safe when taken as directed. It is potent enough, however, that it should not be taken in large amounts (which may cause gastrointestinal distress and possible nervous system effects) or over a long term (do not exceed three weeks of continuous use without a break of at least two weeks). Goldenseal is not recommended for women who are pregnant or lactating.

Liquid extracts and capsules that contain the whole, dried herb are the most popular products. Goldenseal is also available in tincture form and is frequently sold and consumed in a combination supplement which includes other herbs.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.


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