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Nutritional Supplement

Goldenseal

  • Immune System Support

    Common Cold and Sore Throat

    Goldenseal root has antimicrobial and mild immune-stimulating effects. It soothes irritated mucous membranes in the throat, making it potentially useful for sore throats.
    Common Cold and Sore Throat
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    Goldenseal root contains two alkaloids, berberine and canadine, with antimicrobial and mild immune-stimulating effects.4 However, due to the small amounts of alkaloids occurring in the root, it is unlikely these effects would occur outside the test tube. Goldenseal soothes irritated mucous membranes in the throat,5 making it potentially useful for those experiencing a sore throat with their cold. Human research on the effectiveness of goldenseal or other berberine-containing herbs, such as Oregon grape, barberry, or goldthread (Coptis chinensis), for people with colds has not been conducted.

    Goldenseal root should only be used for short periods of time. Goldenseal root extract, in capsule or tablet form, is typically taken in amounts of 4 to 6 grams three times per day. Using goldenseal powder as a tea or tincture may soothe a sore throat. Because goldenseal is threatened in the wild due to over-harvesting, substitutes such as Oregon grape should be used whenever possible.

    Elderberry has shown antiviral activity and thus may be useful for some people with common colds. Elder flowers are a traditional diaphoretic remedy for helping to break fevers and promote sweating during a cold. Horseradish has antibiotic properties, which may account for its usefulness in easing throat and upper respiratory tract infections. The resin of the herb myrrh has been shown to kill various microbes and to stimulate macrophages (a type of white blood cell). Usnea has a traditional reputation as an antiseptic and is sometimes used for people with common colds.

    Influenza

    Goldenseal used in combination with wild indigo has been reported to have immune-enhancing effects.
    Influenza
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    Wild indigo contains polysaccharides and proteins that have been reported in test tube studies to stimulate the immune system. The immune-enhancing effect of wild indigo is consistent with its use in traditional herbal medicine to fight the flu.6 However, wild indigo is generally used in combination with other herbs such as echinacea, goldenseal, or thuja.

    Cold Sores

    In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs including goldenseal have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.
    Cold Sores
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    In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs, including chaparral, St. John’s wort, goldenseal, myrrh, and echinacea, have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.7

    Infection

    Goldenseal is both immune supportive and antimicrobial.
    Infection
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    Herbs that support a person’s immune system in the fight against microbes and directly attack microbes include the following: barberry, echinacea, elderberry, goldenseal, licorice, Oregon grape, osha, and wild indigo.8

    Parasites

    Berberine is derived from several plants, including goldenseal. Studies have shown that berberine kills amoebae and can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.
    Parasites
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    Berberine is derived from several plants, including barberry, Oregon grape, goldenseal, and goldthread (Coptis chinensis). Preliminary trials have shown that berberine can be used successfully to treat giardia infections.9,10 In addition, test tube studies show that berberine kills amoebae, although it is not known whether this effect occurs in humans.11 The amount required is approximately 200 mg three times per day for an adult—a level high enough to potentially cause side effects. Therefore, berberine should not be used without consulting a healthcare provider.

  • Digestive Support

    Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity

    Goldenseal is a digestive stimulant widely used in traditional medicine in North America.
    Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
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    Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.12 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.13. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.

    Some bitters widely used in traditional medicine in North America include yarrow, yellow dock, goldenseal, Oregon grape, and vervain. Oregon grape’s European cousin barberry has also traditionally been used as a bitter. Animal studies indicate that yarrow, barberry, and Oregon grape, in addition to stimulating digestion like other bitters, may relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.14

    Gastritis

    Goldenseal is considered an herbal antibiotic and has been traditionally used for infections of the mucous membranes. One of its active ingredients appears to slow H. pylori growth.
    Gastritis
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    Goldenseal is regarded as an herbal antibiotic and has been traditionally used for infections of the mucous membranes. While no specific research points to goldenseal as a treatment for gastritis, there is some evidence from test tube studies that berberine, an active ingredient in goldenseal, slows growth of H. pylori.15 Modern herbal practitioners now prefer alternatives to goldenseal, since the plant is threatened with extinction due to overharvesting.

    Diarrhea

    Due to of its supposed antimicrobial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea. Its major alkaloid, berberine, has been shown to improve infectious diarrhea.
    Diarrhea
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    Due to of its supposed antimicrobial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea. Its major alkaloid, berberine (also found in barberry and Oregon grape), has been shown to improve infectious diarrhea in some double-blind trials.16 Negative studies have generally focused on people with cholera, while positive studies investigated viral diarrhea or diarrhea due to strains of E. coli. These studies generally used 400–500 mg berberine one to three times per day. Because of the low amount of berberine in most goldenseal products, it is unclear how effective the whole root or root extracts would be in treating diarrhea.

  • Oral Health

    Canker Sores

    Goldenseal has been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores.
    Canker Sores
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    Because of its soothing effect on mucous membranes (including the lining of the mouth) and its healing properties, chamomile may be tried for canker sores and other mouth irritations.17 A strong tea made from chamomile tincture can be swished in the mouth before swallowing, three to four times per day. Goldenseal has also been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores.

    Cold Sores

    In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs including goldenseal have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.
    Cold Sores
    ×

    In traditional herbal medicine, tinctures of various herbs, including chaparral, St. John’s wort, goldenseal, myrrh, and echinacea, have been applied topically to herpes outbreaks in order to promote healing.18

  • Women's Health

    Chronic Candidiasis

    Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid with antibiotic and antifungal activity that also been shown to help relieve the diarrhea seen in some people with chronic candidiasis.
    Chronic Candidiasis
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    Berberine is an alkaloid found in various plants, including goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and goldthread. Berberine exhibits a broad spectrum of antibiotic and antifungal activity in test tube, animal, and human studies.19,20 Berberine has shown effective antidiarrheal activity in a number of diarrheal diseases,21,22,23 and it may offer the same type of relief for the diarrhea seen in patients with chronic candidiasis. Doctors familiar with the use of berberine-containing herbs sometimes recommend taking 2 to 4 grams of the dried root (or bark) or 250 to 500 mg of an herbal extract three times a day. While isolated berberine has been studied, none of these herbs has been studied in humans with chronic candidiasis.

    Vaginitis

    Goldenseal is antibacterial and may be effective against infectious vaginitis.
    Vaginitis
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    Teas of goldenseal, barberry, and echinacea are also sometimes used to treat infectious vaginitis. Although all three plants are known to be antibacterial in the test tube, the effectiveness of these herbs against vaginal infections has not been tested in humans. The usual approach is to douche with one of these teas twice each day, using 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 grams) of herb per pint of water. One to two pints (500–1,000 ml) are usually enough for each douching session. Echinacea is also known to improve immune function in humans.24 In order to increase resistance against infection, many doctors recommend oral use of the tincture or alcohol-preserved fresh juice of echinacea (1 teaspoon (5 ml) three or more times per day)—during all types of infection—to improve resistance.

     

    Abnormal Pap Smear

    Though not proven in clinical trials, these herbs are used for their antiviral actions and thought to stimulate tissue healing. Consult a healthcare professional.
    Abnormal Pap Smear
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    Several other herbs have been used as part of an approach for women with mild cervical dysplasia, including myrrh, echinacea, usnea, goldenseal, marshmallow, and yarrow.25 These herbs are used for their antiviral actions as well as to stimulate tissue healing; they are generally administered in a suppository preparation. No clinical trials have proven their effectiveness in treating cervical dysplasia. A doctor should be consulted to discuss the use and availability of these herbs.

  • Blood Sugar and Diabetes Support

    Type 2 Diabetes

    Preliminary research with berberine (an active compound in goldenseal) for two months lowered blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
    Type 2 Diabetes
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    In a preliminary trial, supplementation with 1 gram per day of berberine (one of the active compounds in goldenseal) for two months significantly lowered blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.26
  • Kidney and Urinary Tract Health

    Urinary Tract Infection

    Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid that may prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary bladder
    Urinary Tract Infection
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    Goldenseal is reputed to help treat many types of infections. It contains berberine, an alkaloid that may prevent UTIs by inhibiting bacteria from adhering to the wall of the urinary bladder.27 Goldenseal and other plants containing berberine (such as Oregon grape) may help in the treatment of UTIs. These herbs have not, however, been studied for the treatment of UTIs in humans.

  • Healthy Pregnancy and New Baby

    Chronic Candidiasis

    Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid with antibiotic and antifungal activity that also been shown to help relieve the diarrhea seen in some people with chronic candidiasis.
    Chronic Candidiasis
    ×
     

    Berberine is an alkaloid found in various plants, including goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and goldthread. Berberine exhibits a broad spectrum of antibiotic and antifungal activity in test tube, animal, and human studies.28,29 Berberine has shown effective antidiarrheal activity in a number of diarrheal diseases,30,31,32 and it may offer the same type of relief for the diarrhea seen in patients with chronic candidiasis. Doctors familiar with the use of berberine-containing herbs sometimes recommend taking 2 to 4 grams of the dried root (or bark) or 250 to 500 mg of an herbal extract three times a day. While isolated berberine has been studied, none of these herbs has been studied in humans with chronic candidiasis.

  • Eye Health Support

    Conjunctivitis and Blepharitis

    Goldenseal contains berberine, an antibacterial constituent that has been clinically studied for eye infections.
    Conjunctivitis and Blepharitis
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    Goldenseal and Oregon grape contain the antibacterial constituent known as berberine. While topical use of berberine in eye drops has been clinically studied for eye infections,33 the use of the whole herbs has not been studied for conjunctivitis or blepharitis.

What Are Star Ratings?
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Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

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Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Goldenseal was used by Native Americans as a treatment for irritations and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts. It was commonly used topically for skin and eye infections and has been used historically as a mouthwash to help heal canker sores. Because of its anti-microbial activity, goldenseal has a long history of use for infectious diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections, and vaginal infections. Goldenseal is often recommended by herbalists in combination with echinacea for the treatment of colds and flu. Its benefits are most likely limited to helping ease the discomfort of a sore throat associated with these conditions. Goldenseal was considered a critical remedy for stomach and intestinal problems of all kinds by early 20th century Eclectic physicians (doctors who recommended herbs).34

References

1. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999, 195-7.

2. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577-88 [review].

3. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525-9.

4. Murray, MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995, 162-72.

5. Bradley PR, ed. British Herbal Compendium, Vol. 1. Bournemouth, Dorset, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992, 119-20.

6. Beuscher N, Kopanski L. Stimulation of immunity by the contents of Baptisia tinctoria. Planta Med 1985;5:381-4.

7. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs.Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1999.

8. Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995.

9. Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.

10. Choudhry VP, Sabir M, Bhide VN. Berberine in giardiasis. Indian Pediatr 1972;9:143-6.

11. Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417-25.

12. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168-73.

13. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425-6.

14. Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of Achillea millefolium Linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28(8):331-6.

15. Bae EA, Han MJ, Kim NJ, Kim DH. Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of herbal medicines. Biol Pharm Bull 1998;21(9):990-2.

16. Khin-Maung-U, Myo-Khin, Nyunt-Nyunt-Wai, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J 1985;291:1601-5.

17. Nasemann T. Kamillosan therapy in dermatology. Z Allgemeinmed 1975; 25:1105-6.

18. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs.Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1999.

19. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577-88 [review].

20. Mahajan VM, Sharma A, Rattan A. Antimycotic activity of berberine sulphate: an alkaloid from an Indian medicinal herb. Sabouraudia 1982;20:79-81.

21. Bhakat MP. Therapeutic trial of Berberine sulphate in non-specific gastroenteritis. Indian Med J 1974;68:19-23.

22. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhoea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525-9.

23. Desai AB, Shah KM, Shah DM. Berberine in the treatment of diarrhoea. Indian Pediatr 1971;8:462-5.

24. Melchart D, Linde K, Worku F, et al. Immunomodulation with echinacea—a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 1994;1:245-54 [review].

25. Hudson T. Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Lincolnwood, IL: Keats, 1999, 54.

26. Zhang H, Wei J, Xue R, et al. Berberine lowers blood glucose in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients through increasing insulin receptor expression. Metabolism 2010;59:285-92

27. Sun DX, Abraham SN, Beachey EH. Influence of berberine sulfate on synthesis and expression of pap fimbrial adhesin in uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1274-7.

28. Hahn FE, Ciak J. Berberine. Antibiotics 1976;3:577-88 [review].

29. Mahajan VM, Sharma A, Rattan A. Antimycotic activity of berberine sulphate: an alkaloid from an Indian medicinal herb. Sabouraudia 1982;20:79-81.

30. Bhakat MP. Therapeutic trial of Berberine sulphate in non-specific gastroenteritis. Indian Med J 1974;68:19-23.

31. Kamat SA. Clinical trial with berberine hydrochloride for the control of diarrhoea in acute gastroenteritis. J Assoc Physicians India 1967;15:525-9.

32. Desai AB, Shah KM, Shah DM. Berberine in the treatment of diarrhoea. Indian Pediatr 1971;8:462-5.

33. Babbar OP, Chatwal VK, Ray IB, et al. Effect of berberine chloride eye drops on clinically positive trachoma patients. Ind J Med Res 1982;76:83-8.

34. Ellingwood F. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy. 1919. Reprint, Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.

35. Murray, MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995, 162-72.

36. Bannerman JE. Goldenseal in world trade: Pressures and potentials. HerbalGram 1997;41:51-2.

37. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 151-2.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.