Goldenseal Information and Side Effects
Goldenseal is a member of the buttercup family. It’s native to America and widely used as a natural remedy. The name comes from the golden color of the roots, which are used in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of ailments.
Native Americans used goldenseal to treat skin diseases, wounds and eye infections/inflammations. References in medical books dating back to the early 1800’s indicate goldenseal tea was also used as a treatment for indigestion.
Today, alternative medical practitioners recommend goldenseal to treat stomach ailments and boost the immune system.
It’s often combined with echinacea in preparations used to ward off colds and flu—although reliable data on its efficacy is lacking.
The alkaloids hydrastine and berberine are the active ingredients in goldenseal.
Some studies on berberine have also shown activity against intestinal parasites, eye infections, bacterial diarrhea and cardiac arrhythmias. More interestingly, berberine has hypoglycemic and antiobesity effects, and may be useful for treating type 2 diabetes.
Of course, this is berberine, not goldenseal. As a natural product, goldenseal contains varying—and relatively low—amounts of berberine. Thus, in the absence of direct human or animal studies on goldenseal itself, it’s difficult to predict how useful it might be for treating any of the above conditions. In truth, reproductive toxicity tests suggest that goldenseal is poorly absorbed, although this observation remains to be confirmed.
Since goldenseal root has been harvested extensively, it’s nearly extinct in the wild. Most goldenseal available today is grown specifically for use in herbal supplements. The herb is sold in bulk powder form, or in capsules, tablets and tinctures. The best quality extracts are standardized to contain 5–10% alkaloids.
What About Goldenseal Side Effects?
Though generally safe, goldenseal root should not be taken in very large doses or for more than three weeks at a time. Because of the alkaloids in goldenseal, gastrointestinal distress may result from long term or excessive use.
As with many herbal supplements, use of this herb by pregnant and lactating women is not recommended. Similarly, children under the age of two should not use goldenseal root.