Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.)

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Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States. However, there is little scientific evidence about its safety or effectiveness. Goldenseal may be found in dietary supplements, eardrops, feminine cleansing products, cold/flu remedies, allergy remedies, laxatives, and digestive aids.
Goldenseal is often found in combination with echinacea in treatments for upper respiratory infections and is suggested to enhance the effects of echinacea. However, the effects when these agents are combined are not scientifically proven.
Goldenseal has been used by some people due to the popular notion that detection of illegal drugs in urine may be hidden by use of the herb; however, scientific information is limited in this area. The popularity of goldenseal has led to a higher demand for the herb than growers can supply.
Studies on the effectiveness of goldenseal are limited to one of its main chemical ingredients, berberine salts. A small amount of berberine is actually present in most goldenseal preparations. Therefore, it is difficult to extend the research of berberine salts to the use of goldenseal. There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of goldenseal in humans for any medical condition.

Related Terms

Berberastine, berberine, berberine bisulfate, canadine, curcuma, eye balm, eye root, golden root, goldensiegel, goldsiegel, ground raspberry, guldsegl, hydrastine, Hydrastis rhizoma, hydrophyllum, Indian dye, Indian paint, Indian plant, Indian turmeric, isoquinoline alkaloids, jaundice root, Kanadische Gelbwurzel (German), kurkuma, Ohio curcuma, orange root, Ranunculaceae (family), sello de oro (Spanish), tumeric root, warnera, wild curcuma, wild turmeric, yellow eye, yellow Indian plant, yellow paint, yellow paint root, yellow puccoon, yellow root, yellow seal, yellow wort.
Note: Goldenseal is sometimes referred to as "Indian turmeric" or "curcuma," but it should not be confused with turmeric (Curcuma longa). Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid constituent in goldenseal, so it is mentioned in this monograph, but a separate monograph is available on this topic.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Chloroquine-resistant malaria (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that berberine, a chemical found in goldenseal, may be beneficial in the treatment of chloroquine-resistant malaria when used in combination with pyrimethamine. Due to the very small amount of berberine found in most goldenseal preparations, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have these effects. More research is needed in this area.
Common cold / upper respiratory tract infection (Grade: C)
Goldenseal has become a popular treatment for the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections, and is often added to echinacea in commercial herbal cold remedies. Berberine may have effects against bacteria and inflammation. However, due to the very small amount of berberine in most goldenseal preparations, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have the same effects.
Heart failure (Grade: C)
Early research suggests that berberine, in addition to a standard medication for chronic congestive heart failure (CHF), may improve quality of life, heart function, and mortality. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
High cholesterol (Grade: C)
Limited research suggests that berberine may lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Additional research is needed in this area.
Immune system stimulation (Grade: C)
Goldenseal is sometimes suggested to be an immune system stimulant. Further research is needed in this area.
Infectious diarrhea (Grade: C)
Berberine has been used as a treatment for diarrhea caused by bacterial infections (including diarrhea from cholera). Due to the very small amount of berberine in most goldenseal products, it is unclear if goldenseal contains enough berberine to have the same effects. Additional studies are needed in this area.
Narcotic concealment (urine analysis) (Grade: C)
It has been suggested that taking goldenseal may hide the presence of illegal drugs from urine tests. However, there is limited research to support this use.
Trachoma (Chlamydia trachomatosis eye infection) (Grade: C)
The goldenseal component berberine may have effects against bacteria and inflammation. Early research suggests berberine may help treat trachoma. Further research is needed in this area.
Wound healing (Grade: C)
Berberine, a chemical found in goldenseal, has been used in a combination product to treat burn wounds. Further research in this area using berberine alone is needed.