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Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also called orangeroot or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears two palmate, hairy leaves with 5–7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring. It bears a single berry like a large raspberry with 10–30 seeds in the summer. Its rhizome is the part used for medicinal purposes. Goldenseal has deep origins as a traditional remedy among Native Americans. Later, pioneers adopted goldenseal and it became a mainstay of American folk medicine.

Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis)


Goldenseal has been a very popular remedy both internally and externally. The root is an ingredient of many herbal remedies because in addition to possessing medicinal virtues of its own, it is said to enhance the potency of other herbs. Internally, the rhizome of this plant has been used for the treatment of a variety of diseases including, gastrointestinal disorders, ulcers, muscular debility, nervous prostration, constipation, cancer and as a bitter tonic and to improve digestive function. Goldenseal is also marketed as an antioxidant and is often combined with echinacea in supplements to support immune function.
Goldenseal has found its way into modern medicine as a treatment for inflamed eyes. Many drug manufacturers include an alkaloid extracted from the root in some eyedrops. Externally, it has also been used successfully for open sores, inflammation, eczema, vaginal infection, ringworm, and itchy skin afflictions (erysipelas). Used with myrrh, Goldenseal has worked wonders for tonsillitis (gargling), mouth sores and bleeding gums.


The root of Hydrastis canadensis contains alkaloids, including hydrastine (1.5%–4%), berberine (0.5%–6%), berberastine (2%–3%), canadine, candaline hydrastinine and other related alkaloids. Other constituents include meconin, chlorogenic acid, phytosterins, and resins. The primary active constituents are hydrastine and berberine. Berberine is primarily responsible for its antimicrobial activity.

Clinical Studies

Among several herbs tested in vitro, goldenseal extract was the most active growth inhibitor of H. pylori. Studies of berberine suggest that it has antimicrobial, cytotoxic, and apoptotic effects. Other animal studies have suggested potential liver toxicity with goldenseal root, but this occurred at very high doses over long-term ingestion. Laboratory studies demonstrating phototoxicity suggest this would be more likely from topical use rather than supplement use.

Biomechanical Mechanism

The active characteristics of goldenseal are attributed to the compound’s hydrastine and berberine, in which most laboratory studies have been conducted. In human prostate and breast cancer cells, berberine induced cell cycle arrest.


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