GOLDENSEAL (Hydrastis canadensis)

Family: Ranunculaceae

Parts commonly used: Root and rhizomes.

Properties/energetics: Tonic, astringent, anticatarrhal, antimicrobial, bitter tonic, hepatic, mild cholagogue, laxative/Cold, dry; bitter.

Systems predominantly affected:  Mucous membranes, musculoskeletal, digestive, respiratory, skin.

Uses: Although Goldenseal has secondary antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties useful for treating acute infection of the mucous membranes, it works best as a stimulating tonic to mucous membranes when they are in overly relaxed, sluggish, subacute states. Goldenseal effectively treats subacute conditions where there is little heat or burning, slow, sluggish constipated states, and chronic ongoing illnesses. A mild, bitter cholagogue, Goldenseal is an effective hepatic stimulant that decreases serum cholesterol. It stimulates the gut, regulating mucus secretions from the gastrointestinal tract and the urinary tract, and respiratory structures.

Combinations: Combines with Chamomile for stomach conditions, Echinacea and Saw Palmetto for prostate infection and weakness, and Milk Thistle and Dandelion for liver conditions. Combines well with Myrrh and used externally for treating a wide variety of skin conditions, including ringworm, eczema, and nonspecific itching. Also combines with Myrrh for treating chronic mouth ulcers, canker sores, and any low-grade, ongoing mouth sores.

Affects on specific body types: Obviously useful as one of the primary antimicrobial herbs for acute infection in a wide variety of people. However, as a tonic herb, Goldenseal appears to suit the Monarch best. Useful stimulant for overly relaxed parasympathetic mucous membranes predominant in the Monarch physiology. In the lungs, this appears as damp cough and rattling in the chest, and in the colon, it is manifested in mucus-coated stools; there can also be general bogginess in the genitourinary tract. Useful stimulant to upper gastrointestinal function when above conditions of mucous membranes are present.

Precautions: This herb is best used for the end phase of cold and lung inflammation to clear mucus. It is better not to use it at the beginning of a cold, when mucous membranes are dry. Instead, use Echinacea and a bit of Cayenne. Avoid using Goldenseal in prolonged high doses. Long-term use can weaken probiotic flora in the intestines and diminish vitamin B absorption. Avoid large doses during pregnancy, as it stimulates the involuntary muscles of the uterus. Small doses are okay during breastfeeding.

Preparations/dosage: Infusion: 1/4 to 1/2 cup three times a day. Tincture: 15 to 40 drops three times a day. Externally: Used as infusion or tincture or as salve to treat ringworm, eczema, and itching.

Eco-Note: Goldenseal is being dangerously overharvested due to its immense popularity. When purchasing this herb, please buy only organically cultivated Goldenseal. Oregon Grape, another remarkably effective medicinal, is a plant whose actions can very adequately substitute for Goldenseal in many instances; it, too, is becoming stressed in the wilds, however. Please use it sparingly.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition