Family: Ranunculaceae, Hydrastis canadensis L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis L., a small perennial
herb native to the northern and eastern forested regions of the
northern America, is also known as eyebalm, eyeroot, hydrastis,
orangeroot, tumeric root, and yellowroot. The plant, which is
collected mainly from the wild, reaches a height of about 0.3
meters and is characterized by an erect, hairy stem, small, greenish-white
flowers that bloom in early spring and subsequently become clusters
of red berries, and a thick yellow rhizome.
The ecological zone of goldenseal appears to be in moist forest
soils and damp meadows. The plant is often found in high, open
woodlands or hillsides with natural drainage (14.1-28). Cultivated
goldenseal does best in well-drained, rich, moist soils that
are covered with plenty of leaf mold or forest litter and shaded
by natural woodland or constructed lath and net coverings. Collection
of the plant is becoming more difficult because of overpicking
and commercial development of natural habitats.
Cultivated goldenseal is generally seeded and grows in outdoor
propagation beds before transplanting to a permanent location.
Optimun plant development requires approximately five years from
seed, and from three to four years from root bulbs (14.1-29).
After the seeds ripen in the autumn, roots are harvested, washed,
and dried in partial shade. Dried leaves and stems of goldenseal,
known as seal herb, are collected in the late summer (14.1-28).
The roots and rhizomes of goldenseal contain many isoquinoline
alkaloids, including hydrastine, berberine, canadine, canadaline,
and l--hydrastine (7.2-24, 7.2-25, 11.1-50,
11.1-136). The plant also contains a volatile oil (11.1-136).
American Indians used goldenseal as a dye and medicinal plant.
The juice can be used to stain skin and clothing yellow or, mixed
with indigo, to produce green-colored dyes (11.1-50,
11.1-67). The rhizomes of the plants were used to treat sore
and inflamed gums, eyes, ulcers, and wounds. Traditionally, the
rhizome material is used as an antiseptic, astringent, diuretic,
laxative, hemostatic, stomachic, tonic, and vermifuge agent, and
as a remedy against dyspepsia, diphtheria, gastric catarrh, skin
rashes, scarlet fever, smallpox, venereal disease, vomiting, internal
inflammations, spinal meningitis, and poor blood circulation in
mucous membranes. Goldenseal has also been used as an anticancer
agent (7.7-19). The folk medicine use against sores and inflammations
may be explained by the antibiotic effect of the berberine constituent
against bacteria and protozoa and by berberine's antimalarial
and antipyretic properties (11.1-96, 14.1-35). Hydrastine
and hydrastine hydrochloride are reported to act as uterine hemostatics
and antiseptics, while canadine acts as a sedative and muscle
relaxant (14.1-35). Extracts of goldenseal are used in eye
washes and have shown hypoglycemic activity (7.1-21). Goldenseal,
if ingested, can produce convulsions and should be considered
poisonous as it irritates the mouth and throat and can lead to
paresthesia, paralysis, respiratory failure, and death (11.1-136).
For further information:
Goldenseal - Fact Sheet
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997