Goldenseal

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

While goldenseal may not help you win a gold medal in the Olympics, it may have a place in your supplement cupboard for times of need. This medicinal herb appears to have a wide spectrum of antibiotic and antiseptic properties that may help the body fight infections and remove unwanted toxins — giving your body a little extra protection anytime the risk of infection, stress, or illness is increased.

Other names for Goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis, yellowroot, ground raspberry, yellow puccoon, wild circuma, eye-balm, yellow paint, wild tumeric, yelloweye

Where to find Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a small, bitter-tasting plant that produces a single white flower on top of a hairy stalk. Its yellowish colored dried root and stem is used for its herbal/medicinal purposes. Goldenseal is grown in the northwestern parts of America.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Goldenseal

The immune system can take a pretty good beating during intense training phases, making our bodies less resistant to illness. And goldenseal might give us just a little extra protection during cold and flu season or any time the risk of infection is increased.

Ways that Goldenseal can enhance Longevity:
  • Enhance the immune system, fighting a variety of infections (such as the common cold) by inhibiting bacteria
  • Detoxify the body by cleansing the blood, which may protect the liver

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Goldenseal deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Goldenseal

Research indicates that Goldenseal may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Diarrhea
  • Food poisoning
  • Giardia
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Liver disorders
  • Common cold
  • Flu
  • Fever
  • Eye infections
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Yeast infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Urinary tract infections

DISCUSSION

More about Goldenseal

The herb goldenseal was originally cultivated by Native Americans as a medical “cleansing” and “healing” agent. It was primarily used for its antiseptic properties for cleansing the skin, treating eyesores, and fighting off various infections. At the turn of the century, goldenseal was used to remedy gastrointestinal diseases and stomach disorders. Since then, the root of this medicinal herb has been used to relieve these as well as a wide variety of additional complaints — from constipation to heartburn to urinary tract infections and even to colds and fevers.

Researchers have isolated the mechanism behind goldenseal’s antiseptic properties in that it contains an alkaloid known as “berberine.” Berberine is believed to inhibit (attack) harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, prevent infections, enhance the immune system, and even lower fevers. In addition, this herb contains some other potentially beneficial alkaloids, such as “berbamine,” which has been shown in research to help reduce inflammation and fight off harmful free radicals.

Therapeutic uses

Most notably, goldenseal has gained a reputation for its cold- and flu-fighting properties. It appears to soothe a sore throat and irritated mucous membranes in addition to its antibiotic and immune-stimulating effects.

Recognized for its potential blood-cleansing and detoxifying activities, goldenseal may help fight several liver ailments, such as jaundice, cirrhosis, and hepatitis, or help prevent the damaging effects of certain drugs that can be hard on the liver.

As well, goldenseal has a long history of being beneficial for the digestive system, helping the body digest food and absorb nutrients, which may lead to greater cellular synthesis and regeneration. And it’s been shown to be quite effective for relieving diarrhea, including traveler’s diarrhea, food poisoning, and giardia, as well as treating a number of common gastrointestinal infections.

Because of its acidic content, goldenseal is believed to be a mild diuretic of sorts. That is, it may help flush additional, unneeded water out of the body. And because of its potential antibacterial abilities, goldenseal has been used to help treat yeast infections and bronchitis.

Used in clinical settings, goldenseal has been shown to fight diarrhea, eye infections (such as pink eye), and even gonorrhea and syphilis.

Caveats

Although many sources have suggested goldenseal’s detoxifying properties may help “clear” the system before blood or urine drug tests (and “mask” the use of illegal drugs), it appears this is a myth and is not suggested as a tactic.

Although goldenseal does appear to have antibiotic properties, that doesn’t mean it should be used as a substitute for antibiotics. Use common sense — if your doctor says you need penicillin or another potent antibiotic, don’t think you’ll fight it off with only goldenseal.

Take note

Because it has been so highly valued for its medicinal properties, goldenseal has been literally “picked dry” in some areas. In fact, it’s considered an endangered plant in South Carolina. It should be noted that many herbalists recommend using an alternative to goldenseal, such as barberry, Oregon grape, or goldthread, because goldenseal is becoming increasingly harder to grow and get. These alternative herbs all appear to have similar “healing” properties and mechanisms of action within the body because they all contain the primary alkaloid berberine, which makes them virtually interchangeable.

In conclusion

While goldenseal may not help you win a gold medal in the Olympics, it may require a place in your supplement cupboard — to be used in times of need. You see, the immune system can become taxed during intense training phases, making our bodies less resistant to illness and more susceptible to infections, such as colds and flus. When those times strike, goldenseal might give us just a little extra fighting power to thwart off the cold or flu or be taken as a preventative measure during cold and flu season.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

For capsule or powder forms: 250 to 500 mg of goldenseal root extract with 8% to 10% berberine content taken 3 times a day is found to be most effective. For liquid forms: 2 to 4 ml 3 times per day.

Timing

Goldenseal should be taken with meals to avoid possible stomach discomfort.

Important note

Because goldenseal contains the alkaloid berberine, many experts suggest limiting use to three weeks with a break of at least two weeks before starting supplementation again. It is not recommended for prolonged use.

Synergists of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is often found combined with Echinacea to help treat infections such as the common cold.

Some experts suggest using a combination of Vitamin C, zinc, Echinacea, and goldenseal at the first sign of a cold or sore throat.

Wild indigo, which also has bacteria-fighting properties, is often used with goldenseal to help fight the flu.

Goldenseal mixed with witch hazel may help reduce itching when applied topically.

Safety of Goldenseal

If you are pregnant or lactating, goldenseal is not recommended.

If you have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or glaucoma, check with your doctor before supplementing with goldenseal.

Toxicity of Goldenseal

High amounts of goldenseal (over 3,000 mg per day), because it contains the alkaloid berberine, may cause stomach discomfort, vomiting, and a “pins and needles” feeling in the hands and feet. If these symptoms are experienced, discontinue use.


Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Albal, M.V., et al., “Clinical Evaluation of Berberine in Mycotic Infections,” Indian J Ophthalmol 34 (1986) : 91-2.
  • Hahn, F.E., and Ciak, J., “Berberine,” Antibiotics 3 (1976) : 577-88.
  • Marin-Neto, J.A., et al., “Cardiovascular Effects of Berberine in Patients with Severe Congestive Heart Failure,” Clin Cardiol 11.4 (1988) : 253-60.
  • Murray, M.T., The Healing Power of Herbs (Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 1995) 162-72.