Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Hydrastis canadensis

A yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant[4, 46, 61]. It is obtained from the root[95].

The pounded root is smeared on the body to act as an insect repellent[213].

  • Medicinal Use

    Goldenseal is a traditional medicine of the North American Indians and is still widely used in Western herbal medicine[4, 254]. In the Nineteenth century it acquired a reputation as a heal-all and was grossly over-collected from the wild and has become rare in the east of its range[213, 222]. It is now being cultivated on a small scale[4]. It is especially valued in treating disorders of the digestive system and mucous membranes and is also extremely useful in the treatment of habitual constipation[4, 254]. See also the notes above on cultivation needs[K].

    The root is the active part of the plant, it is harvested in the autumn after the plant has died down and is dried for later use[4, 213]. It is said to be antiperiodic, antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, stomachic, tonic[4, 21, 46, 165, 222, 238]. It is used mainly in the treatment of disorders affecting the ears, eyes, throat, nose, stomach, intestines and vagina[254].

    The root contains the alkaloids hydrastine, berberine and canadine[213]. Berberine is antibacterial (effective against broad-spectrum bacteria and protozoa[207]), it increases bile secretions, acts as an anticonvulsant, a mild sedative and lowers blood pressure[222]. Use of this plant destroys beneficial intestinal organisms as well as pathogens, so it should only be prescribed for limited periods (a maximum of three months)[238]. The plant should be used with caution, and not at all during pregnancy or by people with high blood pressure[222, 238].

    An infusion of the root is used externally as a wash for skin diseases, vaginal infections, gum diseases etc[213, 238].

  • Edible Use

    None known

  • Cautionary Notes

    The whole plant is poisonous[4, 19].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow autumn or early spring in a moist sandy loam in a shady part of the cold frame or greenhouse[1]. The seed is slow to germinate[238]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year or two. Plant out into their permanent positions when the plants are dormant. Division of the roots in autumn[4]. The roots can be divided into quite small pieces and can also be transplanted at almost any time of the year[4]. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.
Goldenseal is somewhat difficult of cultivation, it prefers a good rich moist loamy leafy soil in shade or partial shade[4, 31, 187]. Prefers a sandy, acid to neutral humus-rich soil[200]. Grows best in a pH range from 6 to 7[238]. Plants are hardy to at least -15¡c[187]. Goldenseal is grown commercially as a medicinal plant[57], but it is not easy to establish the plants[4, 200]. Another report says that all goldenseal root that is used medicinally comes from wild plants[238]. Since the plant is becoming increasingly rare in many parts of its range, it is probably wise to try and find alternatives to this species for medicinal use unless you can be sure that your supply comes from cultivated plants[K].
Eastern N. America – Connecticut to Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.