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Herbal Benefits of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a wild plant that grows in Canada and as far south in the United States as Georgia.  Alternative medicine practitioners claim that goldenseal has antioxidant effects and can protect against colon cancer, treat bladder infections and boost the immune system.  Physicians from universities around the world have been able to back up some of these claims with well-designed studies that show goldenseal's true potential as a medicinal herb. 

Description 

Goldenseal's scientific name is Hydrastis canadensis.  The goldenseal plant has a yellow root with a hair stem that has white and green flowers, five-parted leaves and a fruit similar in appearance to the raspberry.  There are no food sources of this herb, so it must be taken in a tea, capsule or tincture.  Professionals from the University of Iowa recommend taking 4 to 6 grams of the powdered root, 2 to 4 milliliters of the tincture or 1 milliliter of liquid extract daily. 

Active Ingredient 

The active ingredient in goldenseal is berberine.  This compound is known to kill bacteria that cause diarrhea.  It can also kill the fungus that causes yeast infections, as well as viruses and tapeworms.  Berberine is also reputed to activate the white blood cells of the body, which makes them better at killing infectious organisms.  Because berberine is a known disinfectant and antibiotic, it can be used internally or topically. 

Medicinal Uses 

Goldenseal is often used as an astringent or disinfectant.  Astringents can tone and tighten the skin, making them useful for cosmetic purposes.  Goldenseal can be used directly on cuts and scrapes to prevent infectious organisms from entering the bloodstream and causing systemic infections.  Herbalists use goldenseal to treat people with allergies, influenza and the common cold.  This herb can also be used to treat inflammatory conditions of the skin and eyes, such as pink eye and sinus infections.  Laboratory studies conducted on berberine have shown that is has the potential to enhance the immune system and kill germs.  This herb may also benefit the cardiovascular system by dilating the blood vessels.  This can help to improve outcomes for people who have heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.   

Warnings 

Avoid using this herb if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as its effects on fetal development and breastfed infants are not known.  Berberine may decrease the effectiveness of certain types of antibiotics, so it should not be used while taking a course of antibiotic therapy.  Possible side effects of goldenseal include nausea, increased sensitivity to sunlight, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth, vagina, throat and skin.