Goldenseal is a herb with many health benefits that has been used for thousands of years.
In particular, this herb has been used for its antimicrobial, antiparasitic, and anti-inflammatory effects.
It has a long history of use in traditional Native American medicine. It was also a prized herb by Eclectic physicians.
In this article, we’ll get into the benefits of goldenseal, as well as its history and safety.
Table of Contents
- What is Goldenseal?
- Health Benefits of Goldenseal:
- Goldenseal Safety:
- History & Traditional Use:
- Naming & Taxonomy:
What is Goldenseal?
Goldenseal is a small perennial plant in the Ranunculaceae family that grows throughout North America.
It’s prized for its bright yellow roots. The roots get their color from a phytochemical known as berberine, which has been shown to have a host of various benefits.
This herb has many benefits, including antimicrobial & antiparasitic activity, support for heart health, as well as anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to berberine, goldenseal also contains other beneficial compounds, including hydrastine and canadine (both in the alkaloid family).
Health Benefits of Goldenseal:
Berberine benefits the body in a variety of different ways. Many of these benefits come from the high berberine content (~3%) that goldenseal contains.
Below are the top research-backed benefits of goldenseal.
1. Antimicrobial Properties
Goldenseal is a triple threat in that it’s known for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It’s also antiparasitic.
A test-tube study showed that a goldenseal extract had antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus sanguis, S. mutans, S. pyogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli.
The antibacterial activity was attributed to the alkaloids present, which include berberine, canadine, and canadaline.
Goldenseal is one of the most important antifungal herbs.
Research shows that goldenseal is effective against a variety of fungi, including Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Microsporum canis, Trichophyton rubrum, Epidermophyton floccosum, and Microsporum gypseum.
A number of in vitro studies suggest that berberine (found in Goldenseal) has antiviral activity against a variety of viruses, including influenza, herpes simplex, cytomegalo, chikungunya, and Enterovirus.
Goldenseal also has antiparasitic activity against various protozoan parasites, including Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis, and Leishmania donovani.
Summary:Goldenseal may have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties.
2. May Lower Cholesterol
Research has demonstrated that goldenseal extract has strong lipid-lowering activity.
Interestingly, the rhizome extract was more effective than isolated berberine for its anti-cholesterol effects. This is thought to be due to the presence of canadine, a strong up-regulator of LDLR expression.
A clinical trial found that berberine supplementation (over 3 months) worked to reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) numbers.
Summary:Several studies have found that goldenseal may be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels.
3. May Manage Blood Sugar & Weight Loss
Research shows that berberine has significant hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) activity. In fact, berberine may be one of the most important phytochemicals for hyperglycemia.
The mechanism of action for this is thought to be due to increased insulin sensitivity and secretion, as well as glucose absorption and metabolism.
A clinical trial involving 80 patients with metabolic syndrome found that berberine helped to regulate blood glucose and blood lipid levels, as well as reduce insulin resistance. It also found that the berberine group had reduced inflammation markers throughout their body.
Another study compared berberine to metformin in patients with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that the hypoglycemic effect of berberine was similar to metformin.
A secondary study was conducted by these same researchers and they found that further berberine supplementation (over 3 months) also reduced blood sugar levels and LDL cholesterol numbers.
Based on these substantive clinical trials, it appears that berberine is an effective natural approach for blood sugar regulation.
Summary:Goldenseal may be beneficial in regulating blood sugar and weight loss, however, additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.
4. May Boost Your Immune System
Goldenseal may be one of the best herbs for immune health.
Goldenseal has been used in traditional medicine as an immune system stimulant. Recent research is starting to verify this traditional usage.
Studies show that goldenseal extract has the ability to increase primary IgM (immunoglobulin M) response to an antigen in mice. IgM is the first antibody to appear in the response to initial exposure to an antigen.
This is in addition to goldenseal’s well-documented antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Summary:Goldenseal may be beneficial in improving immune health.
5. Other Benefits
• May Support Digestion: Research indicates that berberine, a major alkaloid found in goldenseal, may be used as a bitter tonic. Goldenseal has also been traditionally used to treat ulcers and digestive disorders.
Safety Class: 2b (not for use during pregnancy)
Interaction Class: C (clinically relevant interactions are known to occur)
Pregnancy & Lactation:
Similar to other berberine-containing plants, goldenseal is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.
Most of the safety concerns around goldenseal are due to the alkaloid compounds, such as Berberine, that are present. Whole root powders that aren’t standardized to contain a high amount of berberine are generally much safer to take.
Berberine may work to slow the metabolism of drugs that works via the CYP3A4 and CYP2D6 pathways. Caution should be used when combining these types of drugs with berberine.
Capsules: 700mg to 2 g/day of the dried rhizome/root
Tincture: 2-5 mL/day of the 1:3 tincture; 3.5 to 8.0 mL/day of the 1:5 tincture.
This herb may be taken long-term within the recommended dosage.
History & Traditional Use:
Hydrastis canadensis was known to the Cherokee nation long before the settlement of America by Europeans. They used the root for dyeing and as an internal remedy and introduced early settlers to its properties.
It was known by the name “yellow puccoon” or simply, “yellow root”.
Goldenseal was a very prominent herb in the Eclectic tradition. It was specifically indicated for catarrhal states of the mucous membranes, especially the sinuses.
Muscular debility was another key traditional indication. As a bitter, it was used to sharpen appetite and aid digestion and overall gut health.
Naming & Taxonomy:
Goldenseal’s scientific name is Hydrastis canadensis. It’s a small perennial plant that’s part of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family.
The plant is indigenous to central and eastern North America, but its population is now much reduced through overexploitation.
Hence, it is preferable to use cultivated sources of Hydrastis because of its endangered status. The high price commanded by the root and rhizome means that Hydrastis is susceptible to adulteration.
The stems are purplish and hairy above ground, with the roots being yellow. The yellow rhizome is characterized by depressions caused by the annual stems falling away (hence the name “golden seal,” as in the impression in wax once used to seal letters).
Each year the stems bear two or three large, slightly hairy five-part leaves. The small flower develops into a berry-like fruiting head, bright red in color when fully ripe, resembling a raspberry.
Alkaloids (2.5% to 6%), including those of the isoquinoline group, the protoberberines: berberine (2% to 4.5%), canadine (0.5% to 1%), hydrastine (2.2% to 4%).
Bitter, hepatic, alterative, anticatarrhal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, laxative, emmenagogue, oxytocic.
Goldenseal is a herb with potent antimicrobial properties, as well as the ability to stabilize blood sugar and reduce cholesterol.
It has been used for centuries in North America and has a strong safety profile when taken properly.
Consider using this herb to naturally support your body!
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