What is it?
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 does not 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 does not 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.
How does it work?
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.
Are there safety concerns?
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.
Children: Don't use goldenseal in newborn babies. It is LIKELY UNSAFE for them. It might cause brain damage (kernicterus).
Are there interactions with medications?
- 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.
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
- 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.
- Oseltamivir is a prodrug, which means that it is converted to an active drug after being taken into the body. Taking goldenseal with oseltamivir might prevent oseltamivir from being converted to its active form. However, it is not clear if this interaction is severe enough to inhibit the effects of oseltamivir.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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