Drugs A - Z
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.)
Generic Name: goldenseal
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
BBR, berberine bisulfate, curcuma, eye balm, eye root, golden root, goldensiegel, goldsiegel, ground raspberry, guldsegl, hydrastidis rhizoma, hydrophyllum, Indian dye, Indian paint, Indian plant, Indian turmeric, jaundice root, kanadische gelbwurzel, kurkuma, Ohio curcuma, orange root, tumeric root, warnera, wild curcuma, wild turmeric, yellow eye, yellow Indian plant, yellow paint, yellow paint root, yellow puccoon, yellow root, yellow seal, yellow wort.
Note: Goldenseal is sometimes referred to as "Indian turmeric" or "curcuma," but should not be confused with turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.).
Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States. However, there is little scientific evidence about its safety or effectiveness. Goldenseal can be found in dietary supplements, eardrops, feminine cleansing products, cold/flu remedies, allergy remedies, laxatives, and digestive aids.
Goldenseal is often found in combination with echinacea in treatments for upper respiratory infections and is suggested to enhance the effects of echinacea. However, the effects when these agents are combined are not scientifically proven.
Goldenseal has been used by some people due to the popular notion that detection of illegal drugs in urine may be hidden by use of the herb, although scientific information is limited in this area.
The popularity of goldenseal has led to a higher demand for the herb than growers can supply. This high demand has led to the substitution of other herbs such as Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis Fransch.) and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium [Pursh] Nutt.), that do not contain exactly the same isoquinoline alkaloids and may not affect the body in the same way as goldenseal.
Studies of the effectiveness of goldenseal are limited to one of its main chemical ingredients, berberine salts (there are few published human studies of goldenseal itself). Due to the small amount of berberine actually present in most goldenseal preparations (0.5-6%), it is difficult to extend the research of berberine salts to the use of goldenseal. Therefore, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of goldenseal in humans for any medical condition.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
A small amount of research reports that berberine, a chemical found in goldenseal, may be beneficial in the treatment of chloroquine-resistant malaria when used in combination with pyrimethamine. Due to the very small amount of berberine found in most goldenseal preparations, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have these effects. More research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Common cold / upper respiratory tract infection:
Goldenseal has become a popular treatment for the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections, and is often added to echinacea in commercial herbal cold remedies. Animal and laboratory research suggests that the goldenseal component berberine has effects against bacteria and inflammation. However, due to the very small amount of berberine in most goldenseal preparations, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have the same effects.
One study suggests that berberine in addition to a standard prescription drug regimen for chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) may improve quality of life and decrease ventricular premature complexes (VPCs) and mortality. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Immune system stimulation:
Goldenseal is sometimes suggested to be an immune system stimulant. However, there is little human or laboratory evidence in this area. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Berberine has been used as a treatment for diarrhea caused by bacterial infections (including diarrhea from cholera). Due to the very small amount of berberine in most goldenseal products, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have the same effects. Therefore, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to make a firm recommendation in this area.
Narcotic concealment (urine analysis):
It has been suggested that taking goldenseal can hide the presence of illegal drugs from urine tests. However, there is limited research to support this idea. One study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, looked at marijuana and cocaine use and suggested that goldenseal probably does not have this effect.
Trachoma (Chlamydia trachomatosis eye infection):
The goldenseal component berberine has effects against bacteria and inflammation. Several poorly designed human studies report benefits of berberine used in the eye to treat trachoma. Better research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Adults (18 years and older)
For general use, various types of goldenseal dosing have been used, each taken by mouth three times daily, including 0.5 to 1 gram tablets or capsules, 0.3 to 1 milliliter of liquid/fluid extract (1:1 in 60% ethanol), 0.5 to 1 gram as a decoction, or 2 to 4 milliliters as a tincture (1:10 in 60% ethanol).
For infectious diarrhea, 100 to 200 milligrams of berberine hydrochloride taken by mouth four times daily or a single dose of 400 milligrams taken by mouth has been studied. Berberine sulfate is often used as well, and the hydrochloride and sulfate forms are generally thought to be equivalent.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is not enough scientific evidence to safely recommend the use of goldenseal in children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Goldenseal should be avoided by people with known allergy/hypersensitivity to goldenseal or any of its constituents, including berberine and hydrastine.
Side Effects and Warnings
Goldenseal is rarely reported to cause nausea, vomiting, breathing failure, or a feeling of numbness in the arms or legs. Large doses of goldenseal may cause mucus membrane irritation and worsening or stomach ulcers. Goldenseal used on the skin may cause irritation or ulcers.
Goldenseal may cause low sodium levels in the blood.
Possible effects of berberine, a chemical found in small amounts in goldenseal, include headache, slow heart rate, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and low white blood cell count. It is not clear if the amount of berberine in goldenseal products is enough to cause these reactions. Toxic doses of berberine may cause seizures or irritation of the esophagus and stomach when taken by mouth. Berberine used intravenously (through the veins) may cause abnormal heart rhythms. Berberine may increase blood concentrations of bilirubin. Berberine theoretically may cause low blood pressure, although a different chemical in goldenseal, hydrastine, may actually cause increased blood pressure.
Goldenseal or berberine could increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Goldenseal or berberine may cause increased sun sensitivity, although this is not a commonly reported symptom.
Berberine may lower blood sugar. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
The popularity of goldenseal has led to the substitution of other alkaloid-containing herbs, including Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis) and Oregon grape, which do not contain the same active components and may increase the risk of serious toxicity or adverse events.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Use of goldenseal or berberine is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The chemical hydrastine (found in goldenseal) may induce labor when taken by mouth during pregnancy, and could have dangerous effects.
Interactions with Drugs
Goldenseal or its component berberine could increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Goldenseal may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and this may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Chemicals in goldenseal may increase the effects of L-phenylephrine and decrease the effects of tetracycline, neostigmine, or yohimbine.
Berberine may reduce the gastrointestinal absorption of P-glycoprotein mediated substrates including chemotherapeutic agents such as daunomycin.
Berberine may lower blood sugar. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Interactions with beta-blockers or 1,3,-bisC2- chloroethyn-1-nitosurea (BCNU) may occur.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Goldenseal or its component berberine could increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs or supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Goldenseal may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs and supplements using a liver enzyme called cytochrome P450. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system, such as bloodroot, cat's claw, or chamomile. The goldenseal component berberine may reduce the effectiveness of yohimbine, which is found in small amounts in yohimbe bark extract.
Berberine may lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels increasing the effects of some herbs and supplements like red rice yeast and guggul.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Ethan Basch, MD (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Samuel Basch, MD (Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, NY); Dawn Costa, BA, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Mary Coulliard PhD, RN, FNP (North County Children's Clinic); Paul Hammerness, MD (Harvard Medical School); Beth Kerbel, PharmD (Northeastern University); Michael Smith, MRPharmS., ND (Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine); David Sollars, M.Ac, HMC (New England School of Acupuncture); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Jen Woods, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Bhowmick SK, Hundley OT, Rettig KR. Severe hypernatremia and hyperosmolality exacerbated by an herbal preparation in a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 2007 Nov;46(9):831-4.
Gurley BJ, Gardner SF, Hubbard MA, et al. In vivo effects of goldenseal, kava kava, black cohosh, and valerian on human cytochrome P450 1A2, 2D6, 2E1, and 3A4/5 phenotypes. Clin Pharmacol Ther 2005;77(5):415-426.
Gurley BJ, Swain A, Hubbard MA, et al. Supplementation with goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), but not kava kava (Piper methysticum), inhibits human CYP3A activity in vivo. Clin Pharmacol Ther 2008 Jan;83(1):61-9.
Inbaraj JJ, Kukielczak BM, Bilski P, et al. Photochemistry and photocytotoxicity of alkaloids from Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) 1. Berberine. Chem Res Toxicol 2001;14(11):1529-1534.
Khin MU, Myo K, Nyuat NW, et al. Clinical trial of berberine in acute watery diarrhoea. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 12-7-1985;291(6509):1601-1605.
Kong W, Wei J, Abidi P, et al. Berberine is a novel cholesterol-lowering drug working through a unique mechanism distinct from statins. Nat Med 2004;10(12):1344-1351.
Pan GY, Huang ZJ, Wang GJ, et al. The antihyperglycaemic activity of berberine arises from a decrease of glucose absorption. Planta Med 2003;69(7):632-636.
Pan JF, Yu C, Zhu DY, et al. Identification of three sulfate-conjugated metabolites of berberine chloride in healthy volunteers' urine after oral administration. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2002;23(1):77-82.
Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect.Dis 1987;155(5):979-984.
Sheng WD, Jiddawi MS, Hong XQ, et al. Treatment of chloroquine-resistant malaria using pyrimethamine in combination with berberine, tetracycline or cotrimoxazole. East African Medical Journal 1997;74(5):283-284.
Wang DY, Yeh CC, Lee JH, et al. Berberine inhibited arylamine N-acetyltransferase activity and gene expression and DNA adduct formation in human malignant astrocytoma (G9T/VGH) and brain glioblastoma multiforms (GBM 8401) cells. Neurochem Res 2002;27(9):883-889.
Yao M, Ritchie HE, Brown-Woodman PD. A reproductive screening test of goldenseal. Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol 2005 Oct;74(5):399-404.
Yin J, Hu R, Chen M, et al. Effects of berberine on glucose metabolism in vitro. Metabolism 2002;51(11):1439-1443.
Yount G, Qian Y, Moore D, et al. Berberine sensitizes human glioma cells, but not normal glial cells, to ionizing radiation in vitro. J Exp Ther Oncol 2004;4(2):137-143.
Zeng XH, Zeng XJ, Li YY. Efficacy and safety of berberine for congestive heart failure secondary to ischemic or idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Am J Cardiol 7-15-2003;92(2):173-176.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.