Goldenseal’s numerous uses are attributed to its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It soothes irritated mucus membranes aiding the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Taken at the first signs of respiratory problems, colds or flu, Goldenseal helps can help to prevent further symptoms from developing. It has also been used to help reduce fevers, and relive congestion and excess mucous.
Goldenseal cleanses and promotes healthy glandular functions by increasing bile flow and digestive enzymes, therefore regulating healthy liver and spleen functions. It can relieve constipation and may also be used to treat infections of the bladder and intestines as well.
Goldenseal contains calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, B-complex, and other nutrients and minerals. The roots and rhizomes of goldenseal contain many isoquinoline alkaloids, including hydrastine, berberine, canadine, canadaline, and l-hydrastine as well as traces of essential oil, fatty oil and resin. It is believed that the high content of these alkaloids gives its antibiotic, anti-infective and immune stimulating qualities.
Historical uses for Goldenseal
Native Americans used goldenseal both medicinally and non-medicinally. The best known non-medicinal use for goldenseal was as a fabric dye.
The Cherokee used goldenseal for inflammation, as a cancer treatment, and to treat digestive problems. The Iroquois used goldenseal to treat diarrhea, to bring down fevers and to treat ear and eye infections.
Other problems treated with goldenseal included whooping cough, heart disease and mouth sores.
By the mid-1800s, goldenseal had become so popular that wild populations of this small perennial began to decline dramatically. In 1997 goldenseal was place on the Endangered Species list and gathering the herb on public lands became illegal. Today, because of continuing demand, many goldenseal products are adulterations using goldenseal leaves instead of the vastly more valuable roots.
Today’s herbalists understand that goldenseal is poisonous in large doses so they use the herb sparingly–mainly for its anti-microbial properties. A handful of studies have shown goldenseal to be an effective antibacterial and anti-parasitic. Herbalists prescribe goldenseal to treat bacterial infections, tapeworm infestations, bacteria-caused diarrhea and more.
Both of goldenseal’s active constituents, berberine and hydrastine, appear to strengthen the circulatory system and berberine has shown significant antispasmodic properties. Additional studies seem to indicate that goldenseal may someday prove effective in the fight against cancer.