Golden Seal

By James Steakley (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Hydrastis canadensis-Golden Seal

Family: Ranunculaceae

Other names: Orange Root, Yellow Root,Yellow Puccoon, Ground Raspberry, Eye Balm, Eye Root, Indian Paint, Yellow Paint, Golden Root, Wild Turmeric, Indian Turmeric, Jaundice Root, Yellow Eye, Warnera, Hydrastis trifolia,Warnera canadensis, Warnera diphylla, Warnera tinctoria

Habitat: Native to North America, it was used extensively by Native Americans as an herbal medication and clothing dye.  It is mostly cultivated. Rich shady woods and moist areas on woodland edges. Mesic, deciduous forests, often on clay soils at elevations of 50 – 1200 metres.

hazardsmallThe whole plant is poisonous. Do not use by pregnant or lactating women, babies or patients with cardiovascular disease, epilepsy or coagulation problems. Goldenseal side effects include stomach upset, nervousness, depression. Plant is scare please do not wild craft this herb but cultivate it.

Goldenseal is a traditional medicine of the North American Indians and is still widely used in Western herbal medicine. In the Nineteenth century it acquired a reputation as a heal-all and was grossly over-collected from the wild and has become rare in the east of its range. It is now being cultivated on a small scale. It is especially valued in treating disorders of the digestive system and mucous membranes and is also extremely useful in the treatment of habitual constipation. See also the notes on cultivation needs. The root is the active part of the plant, it is harvested in the autumn after the plant has died down and is dried for later use. It is said to be antiperiodic, antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, stomachic, tonic. It is used mainly in the treatment of disorders affecting the ears, eyes, throat, nose, stomach, intestines and vagina. The root contains the alkaloids hydrastine, berberine and canadine. Berberine is antibacterial (effective against broad-spectrum bacteria and protozoa), it increases bile secretions, acts as an anticonvulsant, a mild sedative and lowers blood pressure. Use of this plant destroys beneficial intestinal organisms as well as pathogens, so it should only be prescribed for limited periods (a maximum of three months). The plant should be used with caution, and not at all during pregnancy or by people with high blood pressure. An infusion of the root is used externally as a wash for skin diseases, vaginal infections, gum diseases etc.

By James Steakley (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Golden Seal:

Hydrastis canadensis is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in). 
It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation of Golden Seal:

Golden seal is somewhat difficult of cultivation, it prefers a good rich moist loamy leafy soil in shade or partial shade. Prefers a sandy, acid to neutral humus-rich soil. Grows best in a pH range from 6 to 7. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. Goldenseal is grown commercially as a medicinal plant, but it is not easy to establish the plants. Another report says that all goldenseal root that is used medicinally comes from wild plants. Since the plant is becoming increasingly rare in many parts of its range, it is probably wise to try and find alternatives to this species for medicinal use unless you can be sure that your supply comes from cultivated plants.

Propagation of Golden Seal:

Seed – sow autumn or early spring in a moist sandy loam in a shady part of the cold frame or greenhouse. The seed is slow to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year or two. Plant out into their permanent positions when the plants are dormant. Division of the roots in autumn. The roots can be divided into quite small pieces and can also be transplanted at almost any time of the year. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Collection: Unearth root and rhizome from three-year-old plants in the autumn, after the ripening of the seeds. Clean carefully and dry slowly in the air.

Culinary uses of Golden Seal:

None known

hydrastis-canadensis,golden_sealMedicinal uses of Golden Seal:

Actions: Bitter, hepatic, alterative, anti-catarrhal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, laxative, expectorant, emmenagogue, oxytocic.

Part Used: Root and rhizome.

Indications: Golden seal‘s medicinal use centered around its ability to soothe the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and genitourinary tracts in inflammatory conditions induced by allergy or infection. One of our most useful remedies owing much of its value to the tonic effects it has on the mucous membranes of the body. This is why it is of such help in all digestive problems, from peptic ulcers to colitis. Its bitter stimulation helps in loss of appetite, and the alkaloids it contains stimulate bile production and secretion. All catarrhal conditions improve with Golden Seal, especially sinus ones. The anti-microbial properties appear to due to alkaloids present. As an example of research that has been done on plant constituents we shall consider berberine. Berberine, found in a number of other herbs as well, has antibiotic, immuno-stimulatory, antispasmodic, sedative, hypotensive, uterotonic, cholerectic, & carminative activity. Its demonstrable pharmacological activities strongly contribute to the therapeutic use of Hydrastis. Berberine has marked antimicrobial activity, and whilst not in the same league as antibiotics, it has a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. In vitro antimicrobial effects have been demonstrated against bacteria, protozoa, and fungi, including:



Staphyloccus spp. 
Streptoccus spp. 
Chlamydia spp. 
Corynebacterium diphtheria 
Escherichia coli 
Salmonella typhi 
Vibrio cholerae 
Diplococcus pneumonia 
Pseudomonas spp. 
Shigella dysenteriae 
Entamoeba histolytica 
Trichomonas vaginalis 
Neisseria gonorrhoeae 
Neisseria meningitidis 
Treponema pallidum 
Giardia lamblia 
Leishmania donovani 
Candida albicans. 

Berberine’s action against some of these pathogens is actually stronger than that of antibiotics commonly used, however, please remember that we are dealing with whole plants and not extracted constituents. Berberine’saction in inhibiting Candida, as well as other pathogenic bacteria, prevents the overgrowth of yeast that is a common side effect of antibiotic use. This fascinating alkaloid increases blood supply to the spleen. This improved blood supply may promote optimal activity of the spleen by increasing the release of compounds that potentiate immune response. It has also been shown to activate macrophages in a number of ways. Coupled with its ability to inhibit tumor formation in the laboratory, suggests that berberine possesses some antineoplastic activity.

Berberine has been shown in several clinical studies to stimulate the secretion of bile (i.e. it is a cholerectic) and bilirubin. One clinical trial that examined the effect of berberine on 225 patients with chronic cholecystitis. Oral doses of 5 to 20 mg three times a day before meals caused, over a period of 24-48 hours, disappearance of clinical symptoms, decrease in bilirubin level, and an increase in the bile volume of the gallbladder. Berberine corrects the elevated levels of tyramine found in patients with liver cirrhosis. It prevents the elevation of serum tyramine following oral tyrosine load, by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosine decarboxylase found in bacteria in the large intestine.

Traditionally Hydrastis canadensis has been used during labour to help contractions, but it is for just this reason that it should be avoided during pregnancy. Applied externally it can be helpful in eczemaringwormitchingearache andconjunctivitis.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a “mild, positive, permanently stimulating vaso-tonic with especial influence upon the portal system, entirevenous system and right heart. Tropho-restorative to mucous membranes when irritated, inflamed or ulcerated” They give the following specific indications: catarrhal conditions of mucous membranes, especially gastric. Orifice soreness or discharge, conjunctivitiskeratitistonsillitis,pharyngitisvaginitis, cervicitis. Ellingwood recommends it for the following patholgies: functional disorders of the stomach, catarrhal gastritisatonic dydpepsiachronic constipationhepatic congestionchronic alcoholism,hepatic congestiongeneral debilityprotracted feverscerebral engorgementsprostrating nightsweatsmenorrhagia or metrorrhagia due touterine subinvolutionpost-partum haemorrhagetumorscatarrhal conditions,aphtous ulcersindolent ulcersnasalcatarrhdiphtheriatonsilitis,inflammation of the eyesleucorrhoeaanal fissureeczemagallstones,cholecyctitiscongestive jaundicegoitrenon-malignant mammary tumors.

Combinations: In stomach conditions it combines well with Meadowsweet and Chamomile. In uterine haemorrhage it is best combined with Beth Root.Externally as a wash for irritation and itching it combines well with distilled Witch Hazel. As ear drops it may be combined with Mullein. Echinacea with Golden seal root are often combined for inflammed mucosa throughout the body.

Preparations & Dosage:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1/2-1 teaspoonful of the powdered herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes, This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 1 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Contra-Indications: Like all berberine containing plants and strong bitters,Hydrastis is not recommended for use during pregnancy.

Other uses of Golden Seal:

Dye,  Repellent.

A yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant. It is obtained from the root. The pounded root is smeared on the body to act as an insect repellent.

my Golden Seal fairy
Esoteric uses of Golden Seal:

Healing rituals, money spells, success. Beneficial in business dealings and matters of finance. Work into any charm or spell to increase its power.

The Chemistry:


  • Isoquinoline alkaloids, mainly hydrastine, berberine, berberastine, canadine, candaline, and hydrastinine.
  • Miscellaneous; fatty acids, resin, polyphenolic acids, meconin, chlorogenic acid, phytosterins and a small amount of volatile oil.
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