Goldenseal Root For Colds, Infections, Stomach Issues

Goldenseal root, a member of the buttercup family, has been used to treat everything from the common cold to urinary tract infections.  Also known as yellow puccoon, it is commonly found in the northern and eastern portions of the United States as well as Canada.  Most of the supplements available today are said to be sourced from Ohio.

There is a literal laundry list of ailments and conditions that goldenseal is purported to treat including various skin problems, ulcers, gonorrhea, hemorrhoids, stomach issues, conjunctivitis and other eye concerns, congestion, and hay fever.

In addition to its ingestible applications, it has been used topically to treat wounds and sores and applied to the mouth and gums to help relieve sore throats and canker sores.  In Chinese medicine it is commonly used to treat serious cases of diarrhea and dysentery.

What does the research say?

Although it is one of the most popular herbal supplements, found most often in echinacea products to treat cold symptoms, there haven't been many studies conducted to date.

One of the components of goldenseal, called berberine, was shown in lab studies to destroy certain kinds of bacteria and fungus.  However whether or not the same is true in humans has not been determined.

Other studies have shown that it may be effective in treating certain infections, specifically those related to diarrhea and the eye.  These studies were again conducted on berberine, which may not be present in a large enough concentration in goldenseal to yield the same results.

Are there any safety concerns?

Goldenseal root is deemed safe for adult use, although not enough is known about its potential side effects to rate it safe for children.  It is considered especially dangerous for babies, and can cause brain damage or worsening of jaundice in newborn children.  

As with many herbal supplements women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not take goldenseal (it is thought to pose the same dangers for children in utero as it does for newborns), and those taking medication should consult a doctor before using it.

Though goldenseal is popularly known to affect the way that the body processes drugs, its benefits as a masking agent for those looking to disguise illicit drugs in urine (possibly before a urine test) are unproven.  Despite the claims, oral use of goldenseal does not appear to create false-negatives on drug tests for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), regardless of whether one drinks a gallon of water with the goldenseal or not.  So if you are trying to hide drug use (for shame!) it may not be effective.

So what's the verdict on goldenseal?

Like many other popular herbal supplements on the market, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence of goldenseal's efficacy, especially when it comes to fighting the common cold.  It's also used in TCM, traditional Chinese medicine, which has been honed over thousands of years.

If you are going to try it for its many health applications, make sure you speak to your doctor first to ensure it won't interfere or be influenced by any other medications you may be taking.  Also, look for standardized extract manufactured by a reputable company.  That way you have a better chance of actually seeing the results you are looking for.

Have any experience with goldenseal supplements or topical applications?  Please tell us about it so that we may share it with our readers.

Find related supplements on our medicinal herbs page or return to the HSG home


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