Alternative Nature Online Herbal

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goldenseal plant picture with red berry


Hydrastis canadensis

Goldenseal is endangered and should be cultivated, not harvested from the wild.

Other Names:  Yellowroot, Yellow puccoon, Eye balm, Eye root, Indian dye, Ground raspberry, Jaundice root

Goldenseal Herb Use and Medicinal Properties  

Goldenseal has a long history of use as an alternative medicine. It is used internally only for short periods of time (3 months or less) as an antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, laxative, and astringent. Used as an infusion or weak tea for upset stomach and disorders of the digestive system, also makes a great mouthwash for sore gums, pyorrhea, mouth ulcers, and as gargle for sore throat. Douching with the tea can help relieve itching and vaginal infections. The powdered root may be snuffed or sniffed in the nose for infected sinuses. Use a few drops warm for ear ache and eye wash for sore eyes and sties. Used externally as a wash or rub in paste form, for ringworm, athletes foot, infected sores, and skin diseases. Also used to stop bleeding (homeostatic). A yellow dye is obtained from the root and the smashed root smeared on the body is said to repel insects.The plants constituents confirm these uses and further studies indicate the presents of hydrastine, berberine and canadine which are showing promise in fighting cancer and other diseases.

CAUTION: Large doses are poisonous and extended internal use or use during pregnancy is not recommended.

Goldenseal Description and Habitat 

Goldenseal is a native North American perennial plant found growing from Vermont to Minnesota and southward. It is rare in some places due to over harvesting.

Goldenseal is found mostly in shady deep woods and damp meadows, prefers humus, rich, well drained soil, shade, and can be cultivated by using seeds or transplanting seedlings. Goldenseal grows to about 18 inches high, the stem and leaves are hairy and deep green. The large palmate leaves are serrate, with five to seven lobes, growing near the stem top in nearly alternate pairs. Blooming occurs from march to May, atop the stem appears a solitary, small, greenish-white flower which appears to be furry. The fruit is red and resembles a raspberry. The root is thick and knotted, bright yellow, and has long thin root hairs. Gather the roots in mid summer and early fall.

Goldenseal History and Folklore  

Goldenseal refers to the root scars from old growth which looks like the old seal or stamp used to seal envelopes. Some Native American tribes considered goldenseal a sacred herb, and used it extensively, not only for its healing powers and to stop bleeding, but as a paint or bright yellow dye and applied it to their faces, horses and weapons during ceremonial dances before going to war. It was believed by the early settlers that if they destroyed all the yellowroot the Indians would not attack because they could not paint themselves.


Stomach tea: To 1 pint of boiling water add 1 tsp. powdered root, let stand till cool. Take 1 to 2 tsp. up to six times a day. Also used as mouthwash, douche, and ear drops. For eye wash add 1 tsp. boric acid to mixture while hot.

Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron   

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