Goldenseal is a plant native to North America. Overharvesting and loss of habitat have decreased the availability of wild goldenseal, but the plant is now grown commercially in the United States, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Historically, Native Americans used goldenseal for skin disorders, ulcers, fevers, and other conditions. European settlers adopted it as a medicinal plant, using it for a variety of conditions.
Currently, goldenseal is used as a dietary supplement for colds and other respiratory tract infections, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), ulcers, and digestive upsets such as diarrhea and constipation. It is also used as a mouthwash for sore gums and as an eyewash for eye inflammation, and it is applied to the skin for rashes and other skin problems.
The roots of goldenseal are dried and used to make teas, extracts, tablets, or capsules. Goldenseal is often combined with echinacea in commercial products.
The scientific evidence does not support the use of goldenseal for any health-related purpose.
Berberine, a substance found in goldenseal, has been studied for heart failure, diarrhea, infections, and other health conditions. However, when people take goldenseal orally (by mouth), very little berberine may be absorbed by the body or enter the bloodstream, so study results on berberine may not apply to goldenseal.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is funding research to study how goldenseal may act against bacteria and to develop research-grade goldenseal for use in human studies.
There isn’t much reliable information on the safety of goldenseal.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use goldenseal, and it should not be given to infants. Berberine can cause or worsen jaundice in newborn infants and could lead to a life-threatening problem called kernicterus.
Goldenseal contains substances that may change the way your body processes many medications. If you’re taking medication, consult your health care provider before using goldenseal.