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What Is Goldenseal?
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also known as orange root, yellow root or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb belonging to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. It is a low, sprawling plant native to the rich, shady soil of the deciduous forests of North America growing from southern Quebec to northern Georgia and west to Missouri.
Due to over-harvesting, it is now mostly commercially grown on farms in the U.S. Goldenseal plants have hairy stems with five to seven jagged, lobed leaves and small white flowers that turn into raspberry-like red berries. The bitter tasting roots of the plant are bright yellow or brown, twisted and wrinkled.
The dried underground stems (rhizomes) and roots of the plant are used to make teas, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules as well as natural skin care products. Goldenseal’s potent properties are primarily due to the alkaloids berberine, canadine and hydrastine. These phytochemical alkaloids produce a powerful astringent effect on mucous membranes, reduce disease-causing inflammation and have antiseptic effects.
Health Benefits of Goldenseal
Goldenseal is an impressive herbal remedy with many health benefits:
1. Improves Digestive Issues
Goldenseal is an excellent digestive aid since it is very bitter, which stimulates the appetite, aids digestion and encourages bile secretion. It contains berberine, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat dysentery and infectious diarrhea. This is not surprising since berberine has shown antimicrobial activity against certain pathogens that cause bacterial diarrhea, including E. coli and V. cholera as shown by a randomized controlled clinical trial back in 1987 involving 165 adults with acute diarrhea due to those two bacterial offenders.
Goldenseal can also be helpful to people experiencing small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) symptoms. Current conventional treatment of SIBO is limited to oral antibiotics with inconsistent success. The objective of a study published by Global Advances in Health and Medicine was to determine the remission rate of SIBO using an antibiotic versus an herbal remedy. Researchers found that the herbal treatment, which included berberine, worked just as well as antibiotic treatment and was equally safe.
Some people also use it for stomach swelling (gastritis), peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids and intestinal gas. Another impressive study found that among several herbs tested in vitro, goldenseal extract was the most active in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori, a type of bacteria which can lead to gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer.
As you can see, goldenseal may be able to help a wide range of problems when it comes to the gastrointestinal system.
2. Natural Antibiotic & Immune System Booster
Goldenseal is often found in herbal remedies for allergies, colds, and the flu because of its natural antibiotic and immune-boosting capabilities. Scientific research suggests that medicinal plants like goldenseal and echinacea may enhance immune function by increasing antigen-specific antibody production. A product containing goldenseal and echinacea is an awesome natural bronchitis remedy.
Additionally, research at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School has shown goldenseal’s medicinal effectiveness as an immune stimulant may be due to its ability to reduce the pro-inflammatory response, which indirectly leads to the limiting of clinical symptoms during infection.
There haven’t been any clinical (human) studies to date, but goldenseal is also sometimes recommended to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are caused by bacterial overgrowth in the bladder’s interior walls. The berberine may actually prevent infection-causing bacteria from binding to urinary tract walls.
3. Fights Cancer
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the berberine in goldenseal has been found to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells in multiple studies. (11) For example, one in vitro study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that berberine inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells to a greater extent than doxorubicin (a chemotherapy drug).
Berberine alkaloids have also been shown during in vivo studies to have potent cancer cell killing activity against tumor cells. In vivo research has also been performed on a series of human malignant brain tumor cells and rat brain tumor cells in which berberine was used alone at a dose of 150 mcg/ml and had an average cancer cell kill rate of 91 percent. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug carmustine had a cell kill rate of only 43 percent. The rats treated with berberine at 10 mg/kg had an 81 percent kill rate.
Research will continue, but so far goldenseal showing some noteworthy anticancer abilities.
4. Aids Eye & Mouth Problems
Goldenseal is also commonly used as a mouthwash for sore throats, gum complaints, and canker sores (small ulcers in the mouth). For any of these concerns, a goldenseal mouth rinse can help by reducing inflammation and getting rid of any nasty bacteria.
You can purchase a mouthwash that already contains goldenseal or you can easily make some mouthwash at home. Simply make a cup of goldenseal tea and let it cool down before using it to rinse your mouth. Or you can add five drops of liquid goldenseal extract to eight ounces of warm water with a teaspoon of salt and mix well.
Goldenseal has been utilized as an eyewash for eye inflammation and eye infections like conjunctivitis or “pink eye.” Since the use of it in the eyes is somewhat controversial, consult a health care practitioner before using it in this way.
5. Boosts Heart Health
The cardiovascular effects of the berberine found in goldenseal suggest its possible clinical usefulness in the treatment of arrhythmias and/or heart failure. For this reason, goldenseal is believed to possibly be helpful for chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart function in general.
An animal model study published in the Journal of Lipid Research also demonstrates that the root extract is highly effective in regulation of the liver’s LDL (“bad” cholesterol) receptors and in reducing plasma cholesterol. Overall, the findings identified goldenseal as a natural LDL-lowering agent.
In combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, goldenseal may help to lower cholesterol naturally and boost heart health.