Hydrastis canadensis, Berberidaceae
Goldenseal is a perennial herb in the barberry family , native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears two palmate leaves with 5–7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring. It has a single red berry in the summer.
Goldenseal is known for its golden color & its very bitter taste. It has been an extremely over-harvested plant. For this reason, only cultivated plants should be used for natural medicine.
The active constituents are isoquinoline alkaloids including hydrastine, berberine, & canadine, make it a bitter tonic with alterative, astringent, anti-catarrhal, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties. Berberine and hydrastine are poorly soluble in water but freely soluble in alcohol.The herb seems to have synergistic antibacterial activity over berberine possibly due to efflux pump inhibitory activity. Multiple bacteria and fungi, along with selected protozoa and chlamydia are susceptible to berberine in vitro. Berberine alone has weak antibiotic activity in vitro since many microorganisms actively export it from the cell (although a whole herb is likely to work on the immune system as well as on attacking the microbes and hence have a stronger clinical effect than the antibiotic activity alone would suggest). Interestingly, there is some evidence for other berberine-containing species synthesizing an efflux pump inhibitor that tends to prevent antibiotic resistance, a case of solid scientific evidence that the herb is superior to the isolated active principle. Goldenseal is often used as a multi-purpose remedy, and is thought to possess many different medicinal properties. Topically, goldenseal is useful for treating irritations of mucus membranes, gum diseases, eye infections, dry, cracked skin conditions, fungal and yeast infections. It is also taken internally as a digestion aid, and may remove canker sores when gargled. Goldenseal may be purchased in salve, tablet, tincture form, or as a bulk powder.
Herbalists use goldenseal for gastritis, colitis, duodenal ulcers, loss of appetite and liver disease. It is used for its astringent effects on mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, the bladder, and the skin. Goldenseal is very bitter, thus stimulating the appetite and aiding digestion, often stimulating bile secretion. It should not be taken for extended periods of time (two weeks) or in large doses. Goldenseal root does not have any effects on drug testing whatsoever and should not be wasted in this way. It is known to have oxytocic effects so should not be used by pregnant or lactating women. Taking goldenseal over a long period of time can reduce absorption of B vitamins. Avoid goldenseal with gastrointestinal inflammation, and with proinflammatory disorders.
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