Two species of rhizomatous perennials make up this genus, which occurs in northeastern N America and Japan. Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal) shares the same habitats as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, See american ginseng); "seng" diggers therefore increased profits by also collecting "seal" plants. In 1909 "seal" fetched up to $1.50 a pound (.454kg), when the rate for more common herbs was 2.5-5 cents. After centuries of exploitation, populations in the wild are now severely depleted; Hydrastis canadensis was listed as an endangered species and given international protection in 1997. Goldenseal was used for a variety of purposes by native N Americans. The Cherokees pounded the roots with bear fat as an insect-repellent ungeunt, and made decoctions for sore eyes and digestive problems. It became a popular home remedy among settlers and was listed in the U. S. Pharmacopoeia at various times during the 19th and 20th centuries. The bright yellow roots contain isoquinoline alkaloids, including berberine (as found in Berberis vulgaris; See, barberry), suggesting that for some purposes Berberis species might be equally effective.

Named for its bright-yellow roots, goldenseal was used by the Cherokee Indians as a wash for wounds and skin diseases and as a treatment for sore, inflamed eyes. Because it effectively calms inflammation of the mucous membranes, it is used today as a soothing ingredient in many lotions. The berberine in goldenseal also fights various species of chlamydia, staphylococcus and streptococcus, and the herb has been shown to increase the activity of immune system cells called macrophages, which literally engulf and devour invading cells and cellular debris.

Deciduous perennial with a yellow rhizome and roots, and palmate, deeply-toothed leaves, 12-20cm (5-8in) long. Tiny flowers with green-white stamens appear in clusters in spring, followed by red, inedible fruits.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Eye Balm, Eye Root, Indian Dye, Orangeroot, Turmeric Root, Wild Curcuma, Yellowroot
Botanical Name:
Hydrastis canadensis
Native Location:
Northeastern N America
Moist, rich, well-drained soil in shade. pH6.0-7.0
By seed sown when ripe, not stratified; by division when dormant; by cuttings of roots or rhizomes in spring. Germination slow and erratic. Seedlings take 5-6 years to reach harvestable size; plants from cuttings take 3-4 years.
Rhizomes are lifted in autumn, after foliage has died down, and dried for use in decoctions, liquid extracts, tablets, and tinctures.
20-38cm (8-15in)
15-30cm (6-12in)
Parts Used:
A bitter, fetid, alterative herb that checks bleeding, reduces inflammation, stimulates bile flow and uterine contractions, and acts as a mild laxative. It also improves digestion, is decongestant, and effective again bacterial and amebic infections.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for peptic ulcers, digestive disorders, mucus, sinusitis, excessive and painful menstruation, postpartum hemorrhage, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Not give to pregnant women or patients with high blood pressure. Destroys beneficial intestinal organisms as well as pathogens, so it is prescribed for limited periods only (maximum three months). Externally for eczema, ear inflammations, conjunctivitis, vaginal infections, and gum disease. Combined with Chamaemelum nobile (See, Roman Chamomile) and Filipendula ulmaria (See, meadowsweet) for digestive problems; with Trillium erectum (See, bethroot) for uterine bleeding; and Euphrasia officinalis (See, eyebright) and Hamamelis virginiana (See, common witch hazel) for eye infections.
To treat gastrointestinal ulcers, gastritis, bladder infections, sore throat, postpartum hemorrhage, tuberculosis, and skin disorders such as eczema, boils, and pruritis.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of goldenseal to treat bladder infections may range from 500 to 1000 mg of freeze-dried root taken three times daily.
Possible Side Effects:
Goldenseal's side effects include mucous membrane irritation, constipation, and digestive disorders.
Drug Interactions:
Taking goldenseal with these drugs may cause excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Amitriptyline, (Elavil, Levate)
Amoxapine, (Asendin)
Bupropion, (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
Buspirone, (BuSpar, Nu-Buspirone)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Cyclobenzaprine, (Flexiril, Novo-Cycloprine)
Desipramine, (Alti-Desipramine, Norpramin)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
Doxepin, (Sinequan, Zonalon)
Fluoxetine, (Prozac, Sarafem)
Fluphenazine, (Prolixin, Modecate)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Imipramine, (Apo-Imipramine, Tofranil)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Metoclopramide, (Apo-Metoclop, Reglan)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Morphine Hydrochloride, (Morphine Hydrochloride)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Nefazodone, (Serzone)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Olanzapine, (Zydis, Zyprexa)
Oxazepam, (Novoxapam, Serax)
Oxcarbazepine, (Trileptal)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Quetiapine, (Seroquel)
Risperidone, (Risperdal)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tramadol, (Ultram)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Zolpidem, (Ambien)
Taking goldenseal with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug:
Atenolol, (Apo-Atenol, Tenormin)
Benazepril, (Lotensin)
Captopril, (Capoten, Novo-Captopril)
Carvedilol, (Coreg)
Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Enalapril, (Vasotec)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
Felodipine, (Plendil, Renedil)
Fosinopril, (Monopril)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Isradipine, (DynaCirc)
Labetalol, (Normodyne, Trandate)
Lansoprazole, (Prevacid)
Lisinopril, (Prinivil, Zestril)
Metoprolol, (Betaloc, Lopressor)
Nadolol, (Apo-Nadol, Corgard)
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Omeprazole, (Losec, Prilosec)
Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
Prazosin, (Minipress, Nu-Prazo)
Propranolol, (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Quinapril, (Accupril)
Ranitidine, (Alti-Ranitidine, Zantac)
Sucralfate, (Carafate, Sulcrate)
Timilol, (Betimol, Timoptic)
Valsartan, (Diovan)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking goldenseal with these drugs may increase the risk of hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood):
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Taking goldenseal with these drugs may increase vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels):
Ephedrine, (Pretz-D)
Ergotamine, (Cafergor, Cafergot)
Rizatriptan Benzoate, (Maxalt)
Zolmitriptan, (Zomig)
Taking goldenseal with these drugs may increase drug effects:
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Lab Test Alterations:
  • May increase blood osmolality.
  • May increase serum or urine plasma sodium.
Disease Effects:
May worsen inflammatory or infectious gastrointestinal diseases by irritating the gastrointestinal tract.
Supplement Interactions:
May reduce absorption of B vitamins when the herb is taken in large doses.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 239
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. PP.250-252