Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has been widely used by Native Americans for centuries. Goldenseal is a small plant with tiny flowers and a raspberry like non edible fruit. The plant does grow well and is typically found growing in rich shady soil in the north east USA.

It was first introduced to the settlers in the north east somewhere in the late 1800s. Initially goldenseal was used to treat a variety of skin and eye disorders. Being a member of the buttercup family the plant extracts were also used as a yellow dye to stain fabrics and the body. Goldenseal is also sold in herbal stores as Eye balm, Ground raspberry or Indian paint.

In the early part of the 20th century, extracts of the plant were made into a tonic to help quell stomach upset and ease menstrual pains. In the late 1990s, there was an erroneous report that goldenseal could help hide the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs in the urine. The drug masking properties led to a surge in the use of this herb in the 90s. The harvesting of goldenseal was so extensive that it placed this herb at a risk of extinction. As a result, now the cultivation of this plant is strictly monitored and controlled. Extracts of goldenseal have been analyzed and found to contain substances that contain beriberine- a substance that can kill bacteria, yeast and parasites. There are also claims that the extract can stimulate white blood cells and strengthen the immune system. For this reason goldenseal has been widely used an antibiotic and disinfectant.

Today, goldenseal is widely used to ease stomach cramps, acidity, relieve upset stomach and as an antibacterial agent. Many experts feel that goldenseal is the ideal natural antibiotic. The herb is often combined with Echinacea to further potentiate its anti bacterial properties. Manufactures of goldenseal also recommend the herb for allergies, hay fevers, the common cold and as an anti septic to clean wounds.

Many consumers also use goldenseal to treat a variety of skin, eye and mouth sores. It is widely used a mouth wash to treat herpetic sores and blisters in the oral cavity and on lips. The benefits of goldenseal have not been thoroughly studied in controlled human studies and most reports are anecdotal. The Chinese and Orientals have used goldenseal extracts to treat diarrhea from various causes and also upper respiratory tract infections.

Other research has shown that extracts of goldenseal can help open up blood vessels and may be useful in certain heart disorders or treatment of irregular heart rate. However, scientific studies show that the levels of beriberine levels are very low in goldenseal products sold throughout North America and it is unlikely to be of benefit in treating any type of heart disorder.

To date only the topical preparation of the goldenseal has been shown to contain high levels of beriberine.

Goldenseal supplements are available in many formulation including tablets, capsules, liquid extracts, and glycerites (low-alcohol extracts). Goldenseal is also sold in combination with the herb Echinacea. The dose of goldenseal depends on the formula one is taking. The dose of tablets varies from 500-2000 mg three times a day.

Goldenseal is generally a safe product but it can induce allergies. Individuals who have high blood pressure should avoid using this herb as it can worsen control. The herb can also cause skin irritation, rash and diarrhea. After taking the herb, extensive blistering can also occur in the presence of sunlight. Because goldenseal can interact with conventional drugs, it is best to discuss use of this herb with a physician before consumption.

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