Goldenseal is a small (from 6 to 12 inches high) perennial herb, with a horizontal bright yellow root (¼ – ¾ inch thick), erect flowering stem and dark green hairy leaves. A solitary, small, white flower, produced in April, falling away immediately after expansion. The fruit is a fleshy crimson berry, which is ripe in July, has much the appearance of a Raspberry, but is not edible. Botanists refer it to the Buttercup family.
The name Goldenseal this plant gained because of yellow scars left on the rhizome by the stem that burst forth every spring. These scars look like the imprint of an old-fashioned letter seal. The genetic name of the herb is Hydrastis from two Greek words signifying ‘water’ and ‘to accomplish’. Goldenseal is also known as Yellow Root, Orange Root, Yellow Puccoon, Ground Raspberry, Wild Curcuma, Hydrastis Canadensis, Turmeric Root, Indian Dye, Eye Root, Eye Balm, Indian Paint, Jaundice Root or Warnera.
Optimal conditions for its growth are shade and rich moist soil, so shady woods and edge of wooden lands are common places for Goldenseal. This native North American plant is the most abundant in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and New York states and in Ontario, Canada.
Golden Seal was used by Cherokee Indians as a dye (for clothing and weapons), stain (for faces) and as a medicine (for skin diseases, arrow wounds and sore, inflamed eyes). In 1760 it was first introduced into England by Miller under the name of Warnera (after Richard Warner of Woodford), and later was grown at Kew, Edinburgh and Dublin. Hydrastis Canadensis was listed from 1860 to 1926 in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. Goldenseal’s use among North Americans flourished after the Civil War as it was an ingredient in many medicines. It has been collected to the point of near extinction. Goldenseal supplies are diminishing and most is now wild crafted, making herbal supplements costly.
The part used is root, other parts of the plant are poisonous. The root contains alkaloids (berberine – 3-4%, hydrastine – 2-4%, canadine), calcium, iron, manganese, albumin, fatty matter, resin, lignin, starch, sugar, volatile oil, vitamins A, C, E and B-complex.
Among known Goldenseal’s actions are: hepatic, alterative, anti-catarrhal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, astringent, laxative, expectorant, emmenagogue, oxytocic. It may prevent further symptoms from developing and enhance the influence of other herbs which used with.
Yellow Root is a broad spectrum herb so is widely used today in pharmaceutical industry, for production of cosmetics and as food supplement. It’s available as a powder, tincture, capsules, tea, body lotion, eardrops or eyewash.
Long-term use (more than 2 weeks) and high doses of Golden Seal are not recommended. The safe amount for use internally is 250 – 500 mg daily. Pregnant women, children under two and people with high blood pressure should not use the herb at all.