What is it?
Goldenseal is an herb. The dried root is used to make medicine.
Goldenseal is used for many conditions, but so far, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not it is effective for any of them.
We do know that goldenseal isn’t effective for its most famous use, masking illegal drugs in the urine. Despite rumors to the contrary, goldenseal won’t cause false-negative results for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines or numerous other illegal drugs. Interestingly, the idea of using goldenseal to alter drug screen results came from the novel Stringtown on the Pike, by the pharmacist John Uri Lloyd. However, in this book, goldenseal caused a false-positive for strychnine poisoning, not illegal drugs.
Goldenseal is also used for the common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections, as well as stuffy nose and hay fever. Some people use goldenseal for digestive disorders including stomach pain and swelling (gastritis), peptic ulcers, colitis, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, and intestinal gas.
Goldenseal is used for urinary tract infections (UTIs), internal bleeding, bleeding after childbirth, liver disorders, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), jaundice, gonorrhea, fever, pneumonia, malaria, whooping cough, and an eating disorder called anorexia.
Women use goldenseal for vaginal pain and swelling and menstrual period problems.
Goldenseal is applied to the skin for rashes, ulcers, wound infections, itching, eczema, acne, dandruff, ringworm, herpes blisters, and cold sores. It is used as a mouthwash for sore gums and mouth.
Some people use goldenseal as an eyewash for eye inflammation and eye infections called conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”
Goldenseal is used in the ears for ringing, earache, and deafness.
Goldenseal is commonly found in the deep woods from Vermont to Arkansas and received its name from the golden-yellow scars on the base of the stem. When the stem is broken, the scar resembles a gold wax letter seal.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for GOLDENSEAL are as follows:
Possibly ineffective for...
- Masking illegal drugs in urine tests. Goldenseal is often promoted to mask illicit drugs in the urine, but taking goldenseal by mouth doesn’t seem to cause a false-negative result on drug tests for amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Drinking one gallon of water with goldenseal doesn’t increase the number of false negatives over water alone.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Stomach upset.
- Loss of appetite (anorexia).
- Stomach ulcers.
- Menstrual irregularities.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Nasal congestion.
- Hay fever.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate goldenseal for these uses.
Goldenseal contains the chemical berberine, which might have effects against bacteria and fungi. For example, it can prevent the bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) from binding to urinary tract walls. Berberine also has properties that can lower blood pressure and improve irregular heartbeats. In addition, early research suggests that berberine can lower blood sugar and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Many of the important chemicals in goldenseal are poorly absorbed when taken by mouth and might not reach the concentrations needed to have significant effects in humans. So, it is unknown whether goldenseal has the same benefits as berberine.
Goldenseal is POSSIBLY SAFE when used as a single dose. There is not enough reliable information to know if goldenseal is safe for long-term use.
Don't use goldenseal in newborn babies. It is LIKELY UNSAFE for them. It might cause brain damage (kernicterus).
Special precautions & warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Using goldenseal during pregnancy or breast-feeding is LIKELY UNSAFE for the infant. A hazardous chemical in goldenseal can cross the placenta and can also find its way into breast milk. Brain damage (kernicterus) has developed in newborn infants exposed to goldenseal. Do not use goldenseal during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Be cautious with this combination.
Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
The body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) to get rid of it. Goldenseal might decrease how fast the body breaks down cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune). This might cause there to be too much cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) in the body and could potentially cause side effects.
Taking goldenseal with digoxin (Lanoxin) might cause a very slight increase in digoxin (Lanoxin) levels in the body. But this does not seem to be an important interaction.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Goldenseal might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking goldenseal along with some medications that are changed by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of your medication. Before taking goldenseal, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), and others.
Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Goldenseal might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking goldenseal along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking goldenseal, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications changed by the liver include lovastatin (Mevacor), clarithromycin (Biaxin), indinavir (Crixivan), sildenafil (Viagra), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), and many others.
Medications moved by pumps in cells (P-Glycoprotein Substrates)
Some medications are moved by pumps in cells. Goldenseal might make these pumps less active and increase the amount of some medications that get absorbed by the body. This might increase the amount of some medications in the body, which could lead to more side effects. But there is not enough information to know if this is a big concern.
Some medications that are moved by these pumps include etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine, ketoconazole, itraconazole, amprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, saquinavir, cimetidine, ranitidine, diltiazem, verapamil, corticosteroids, erythromycin, cisapride (Propulsid), fexofenadine (Allegra), cyclosporine, loperamide (Imodium), quinidine, and others.
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The appropriate dose of goldenseal depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for goldenseal. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Chinese Goldenseal, Eye Balm, Eye Root, Fard Inolien, Framboise de Terre, Goldenroot, Goldsiegel, Ground Raspberry, Hydraste, Hydraste du Canada, Hydrastis canadensis, Indian Dye, Indian Plant, Indian Tumeric, Jaundice Root, Orange Root, Racine à la Jaunisse, Racine Orange, Sceau D'Or, Sello de Oro, Turmeric Root, Warnera, Wild Curcuma, Yellow Indian Paint, Yellow Paint, Yellow Puccoon, Yellow Root.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).
To see all references for the Goldenseal page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/943.html.
- Gurley BJ, Swain A, Hubbard MA, et al. Clinical assessement of CYP2D6-mediated herb-drug interactions in humans: Effects of milk-thistle, black cohosh, goldenseal, kava kava, St. John's wort, and Echinacea. Mol Nutr Food Res 2008;52:755-63.
- Gurley BJ, Swain A, Barone GW, et al. Effect of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and kava kava (Piper methysticum) supplementation on digoxin pharmacokinetics in humans. Drug Metab Dispos 2007;35:240-5.
- Kim SH, Shin DS, Oh MN, et al. Inhibition of the bacterial surface protein anchoring transpeptidase sortase by isoquinoline alkaloids. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2004;68:421-4.
- Li B, Shang JC, Zhou QX. [Study of total alkaloids from rhizoma coptis chinensis on experimental gastric ulcers]. Chin J Integr Med 2005;11:217-21.
- Gurley BJ, Gardner SF, Hubbard MA, et al. In vivo effects of goldenseal, kava kava, black cohosh, and valerian on human cytochrome P450 1A2, 2D6, 2E1, and 3A4/5 phenotypes. Clin Pharmacol Ther 2005;77:415-26.
- Ang ES, Lee ST, Gan CS, et al. Evaluating the role of alternative therapy in burn wound management: randomized trial comparing moist exposed burn ointment with conventional methods in the management of patients with second-degree burns. Med Gen Med 2001;3:3.
- Tsai PL, Tsai TH. Hepatobiliary excretion of berberine. Drug Metab Dispos 2004;32:405-12.
- Wu X, Li Q, Xin H, Yu A, Zhong M. Effects of berberine on the blood concentration of cyclosporin A in renal transplanted recipients: clinical and pharmacokinetic study. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 2005;61:567-72.
- Hsiang CY, Wu SL, Cheng SE, Ho TY. Acetaldehyde-induced interleukin-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha production is inhibited by berberine through nuclear factor-kappaB signaling pathway in HepG2 cells. J Biomed Sci 2005;12:791-801.
- Anis KV, Rajeshkumar NV, Kuttan R. Inhibition of chemical carcinogenesis by berberine in rats and mice. J Pharm Pharmacol 2001;53:763-8.
Zeng XH, Zeng XJ, Li YY. Efficacy and safety of berberine for congestive heart failure secondary to ischemic or idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Am J Cardiol 2003;92:173-6
- Janbaz KH, Gilani AH. Studies on preventive and curative effects of berberine on chemical-induced hepatotoxicity in rodents. Fitoterapia 2000;71:25-33.
- Fukuda K, Hibiya Y, Mutoh M, et al. Inhibition by berberine of cyclooxygenase-2 transcriptional activity in human colon cancer cells. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;66:227-33.
- Sandhu RS, Prescilla RP, Simonelli TM, Edwards DJ. Influence of goldenseal root on the pharmacokinetics of indinavir. J Clin Pharmacol 2003;43:1283-8.
- Scazzocchio F, Corneta MF, Tomassini L, Palmery M. Antibacterial activity of Hydrastis canadensis extract and its major isolated alkaloids. Planta Med 2001;67:561-4.
- Arinaga S, Karimine N, Takamuku K, et al. Enhanced induction of lymphokine-activated killer activity after lentinan administration in patients with gastric carcinoma. Int J Immunopharmac 1992;14:535-539.
- Nishino H, Kitagawa K, Fujiki H, Iwashima A. Berberine sulfate inhibits tumor-promoting activity of teleocidin in two-stage carcinogenesis on mouse skin. Oncology 1986;43:131-4.
- Sun D, Courtney HS, Beachey EH. Berberine sulfate blocks adherence of Streptococcus pyogenes to epithelial cells, fibronectin, and hexadecane. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1370-4.
- Amin AH, Subbaiah TV, Abbasi KM. Berberine sulfate: antimicrobial activity, bioassay, and mode of action. Can J Microbiol 1969;15:1067-76.
- Budzinski JW, Foster BC, Vandenhoek S, Arnason JT. An in vitro evaluation of human cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibition by selected commercial herbal extracts and tinctures. Phytomedicine 2000;7:273-82.
- Bhide MB, Chavan SR, Dutta NK. Absorption, distribution and excretion of berberine. Indian J Med Res 1969;57:2128-31.
- Winek CL, Elzein EO, Wahba WW, Feldman JA. Interference of herbal drinks with urinalysis for drugs of abuse. J Anal Toxicol 1993;17:246-7.
- Chan E. Displacement of bilirubin from albumin by berberine. Biol Neonate 1993;63:201-8.
- Gupte S. Use of berberine in treatment of giardiasis. Am J Dis Child 1975;129:866.
- Kaneda Y, Torii M, Tanaka T, Aikawa M. In vitro effects of berberine sulphate on the growth and structure of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Trichomonas vaginalis. Ann Trop Med Parasitol 1991;85:417-25.
- Sun D, Abraham SN, Beachey EH. Influence of berberine sulfate on synthesis and expression of Pap fimbrial adhesin in uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32:1274-7.
- Rehman J, Dillow JM, Carter SM, et al. Increased production of antigen-specific immunoglobulins G and M following in vivo treatment with the medicinal plants Echinacea angustifolia and Hydrastis canadensis. Immunol Lett 1999;68:391-5.
- Wu AH, Forte E, Casella G, et al. CEDIA for screening drugs of abuse in urine and the effect of adulterants. J Forensic Sci 1995;40:614-8.
- Cone EH, Lange R, Darwin WD. In vivo adulteration: excess fluid ingestion causes false-negative marijuana and cocaine urine test results. J Anal Toxicol 1998;22:460-73.
- McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC 1997.
- Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.
- Show more references
- Show fewer references
Last reviewed - 07/15/2011
This copyrighted, evidence-based medicine resource is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database disclaims any responsibility related to consequences of using any product. This monograph should not replace advice from a healthcare professional and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
Copyright © 1995 - 2013 Therapeutic Research Faculty
, publishers of Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database
, Prescriber’s Letter
, Pharmacist’s Letter
. All rights reserved. For scientific data on natural medicines, professionals may consult the Professional Version of Natural Medicines Comprehensive DatabaseNatural Medicines Comprehensive Database (http://www.naturaldatabase.com/)