goldenseal (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
BBR, berberine bisulfate, curcuma, eye balm, eye root, golden root, goldensiegel, goldsiegel, ground raspberry, guldsegl, hydrastidis rhizoma, hydrophyllum, Indian dye, Indian paint, Indian plant, Indian turmeric, jaundice root, kanadische gelbwurzel, kurkuma, Ohio curcuma, orange root, tumeric root, warnera, wild curcuma, wild turmeric, yellow eye, yellow Indian plant, yellow paint, yellow paint root, yellow puccoon, yellow root, yellow seal, yellow wort.
Note: Goldenseal is sometimes referred to as "Indian turmeric" or "curcuma," but should not be confused with turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.).
Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States. However, there is little scientific evidence about its safety or effectiveness. Goldenseal can be found in dietary supplements, eardrops, feminine cleansing products, cold/flu remedies, allergy remedies, laxatives, and digestive aids.
Goldenseal is often found in combination with echinacea in treatments for upper respiratory infections and is suggested to enhance the effects of echinacea. However, the effects when these agents are combined are not scientifically proven.
Goldenseal has been used by some people due to the popular notion that detection of illegal drugs in urine may be hidden by use of the herb, although scientific information is limited in this area.
The popularity of goldenseal has led to a higher demand for the herb than growers can supply. This high demand has led to the substitution of other herbs such as Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis Fransch.) and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium [Pursh] Nutt.), that do not contain exactly the same isoquinoline alkaloids and may not affect the body in the same way as goldenseal.
Studies of the effectiveness of goldenseal are limited to one of its main chemical ingredients, berberine salts (there are few published human studies of goldenseal itself). Due to the small amount of berberine actually present in most goldenseal preparations (0.5-6%), it is difficult to extend the research of berberine salts to the use of goldenseal. Therefore, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of goldenseal in humans for any medical condition.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
A small amount of research reports that berberine, a chemical found in goldenseal, may be beneficial in the treatment of chloroquine-resistant malaria when used in combination with pyrimethamine. Due to the very small amount of berberine found in most goldenseal preparations, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have these effects. More research is needed before a recommendation can be made.
Common cold / upper respiratory tract infection:
Goldenseal has become a popular treatment for the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections, and is often added to echinacea in commercial herbal cold remedies. Animal and laboratory research suggests that the goldenseal component berberine has effects against bacteria and inflammation. However, due to the very small amount of berberine in most goldenseal preparations, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have the same effects.
One study suggests that berberine in addition to a standard prescription drug regimen for chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) may improve quality of life and decrease ventricular premature complexes (VPCs) and mortality. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Immune system stimulation:
Goldenseal is sometimes suggested to be an immune system stimulant. However, there is little human or laboratory evidence in this area. More research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Berberine has been used as a treatment for diarrhea caused by bacterial infections (including diarrhea from cholera). Due to the very small amount of berberine in most goldenseal products, it is unclear whether goldenseal contains enough berberine to have the same effects. Therefore, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to make a firm recommendation in this area.
Narcotic concealment (urine analysis):
It has been suggested that taking goldenseal can hide the presence of illegal drugs from urine tests. However, there is limited research to support this idea. One study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, looked at marijuana and cocaine use and suggested that goldenseal probably does not have this effect.
Trachoma (Chlamydia trachomatosis eye infection):
The goldenseal component berberine has effects against bacteria and inflammation. Several poorly designed human studies report benefits of berberine used in the eye to treat trachoma. Better research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.