Virginia Ahearn, B.S. CPM PCDCertified Professional Midwife • Practitioner of Herbal Medicine • Certified Postpartum Doula
Goldenseal: A Frequently Misused Herb
Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canidensis) is a wonderful, fabulous herb. It is a blood cleanser, antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, kills yeast, stimulates the liver and smooth muscle tissue, it is bitter, and a mild laxative. Some say it will even clean the system of recreational drugs to change results of drug tests administered at the workplace. What’s true and what’s not? Sounds like it can cure anything. Can it? Some people believe this and take it all the time. Should they?
Let’s take these questions one at a time. Goldenseal is a great herb, and it is one that I rarely use. There are two reasons for this: one is that it is an herb meant for short term use. If you take it all the time, or for months at a time, you are taking too much. Goldenseal should only be used in small doses because it is a powerful herb meant to be taken for specific situations. Long term use can destroy bowel flora and deplete your body’s storage of vitamin B. I tell people to think of goldenseal they way they think of aspirin. Do you take aspirin all the time in case you get a headache? No. Aspirin is not a preventive medicine, neither is goldenseal.
The second reason that I rarely use it is because it is an endangered species. That is why it costs $100 per pound! Let me say that again – it is an endangered species! There is not a lot left on the planet. Please think about this before you buy goldenseal. The herb industry has done little to protect this herb; there are many herb companies that lack awareness, and simply want to sell whatever people will buy. Goldenseal has had the misfortune of becoming popular on the ‘Herbal Hit Parade’, and it gets marketed in many inappropriate ways.
Another interesting note is that goldenseal does not grow bountifully. It grows only at high altitudes and the roots are small and thin. One can speculate that this is nature’s way of telling us that it is not meant to be used a lot. Luckily, Nature always provides us with what we need and there are many substitutes for goldenseal, such as Oregon Grape Root. It’s about $12 per pound and is not endangered.
So, what is goldenseal good for? It is most commonly used for cold or the flu. It is also used for “pink eye” (conjunctivitis) and yeast infections, to name some other uses. For colds and flu, you can use it during the time you are ill, and for two to three days after recovery. I usually recommend capsules because the tea tastes so bitter that it is too disgusting to drink. Four to eight capsules a day is a rough adult dosage. For “pink eye” you can make an eyewash by simmering a scant ¼ teaspoon of goldenseal per 2 cups of water, allowing it to cool, and using an eyecup or even compress of the tea to wash the eye. I have no experience using goldenseal for yeast infections but capsules taken orally is probably beneficial.
With most illnesses and conditions, it is necessary to look at other factors, such as diet, stress level, quality of sleep, and emotional state. For instance, if you have a yeast infection, you absolutely have to look at your sugar intake. If you are eating a lot of sugar, then all the goldenseal in the world won’t improve your situation; it may temporarily improve things at best.
As far as using goldenseal to help you “pass” a drug test, most of them will also test for goldenseal, which, if your result turns up positive would raise suspicions that perhaps you are trying to hide something. Most of the outrageously priced products advertised to help “pass” drug tests probably work because they tell you to drink at least a gallon of water along with the product. It is most likely the water flushing out your system, not the herbs in the product, that is changing your results. These products are a rip off, and have nothing to do with promoting healthy, wholesome foods and lifestyles.
In summary, goldenseal is an herb that is overused, and needs to be treated with respect. Please consider using oregon grape root instead. All of the above doses and suggestions for goldenseal can be used with oregon grape root as well.
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