Goldenseal, or Hydrastis canadensis, is a plant species in the buttercup family. They are found predominantly in the hardwood forests of Northern America. It is a perennial plant that grows into unbranched stems of 5 to 15 inches in height. At the time, it produces a single flower with no petals. Flowering occurs during spring. The flowers become red raspberry-like fruits. However, the plant is known for the medicinal effects of its roots. This is because the rhizomes in the root of the plant are rich in alkaloids. Due to its herbal properties, the plant has been overharvested to produce medicines. Overharvest, combined with its slow rate of growth, has caused a decline in its population. As a result, it is declared as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In addition, 17 of the 27 states in the United States have declared Goldenseal to be either ‘vulnerable,’ ‘threatened,’ or ‘uncommon.’ The decline in the Goldenseal population is forcing the need to limit the plant’s harvest to cultivated patches alone. The sought-after medically active compound present in Goldenseal is also present in the invasive species, the Japanese barberry. This plant could be used as an alternative to the threatened species of Goldenseal.
Physiological effects and traditional use
Berberine is the most important alkaloid present in the root of Goldenseal, among other alkaloids. Goldenseal exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. Berberine has been shown to help to fight against infectious bacteria and viruses. It can prevent the binding of bacteria on the urinary tract walls, thereby reducing the risk of urinary tract infections. Research also shows the effect of berberine in lowering sugar and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the blood. It lowers blood pressure and cures irregular heartbeat as well. The diuretic property of Goldenseal helps the body get rid of excess water weight by urinating or sweating. Traditionally, goldenseal was used extensively by Native American tribes in North America. The plant was used for its medicinal properties, as well as a coloring material. The tribes also used Goldenseal to treat cancers, digestive issues as a diuretic, and as an eyewash.
Goldenseal was a healing herb to the tribes in North America. When the Europeans arrived there, they got introduced to the herb. By the 19th century, the herb gained much popularity. Today, it is highly popular in the herbal product market. It is because of their various healing properties; they are being scientifically studied and understood. However, many of the effects attributed to Goldenseal do not yet have strong conclusive evidence. Goldenseal is used as a home remedy for the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections. In addition, it popularly treats urinary tract infections. Berberine present in Goldenseal is also known to fight off yeast infections. Certain over-the-counter herbal remedies use a combination of Goldenseal and another herb called Echinacea. Some believe that Goldenseal has detoxifying properties in the body even when there is no evidence to this claim. However, some studies show that the consumption of Goldenseal for a long period reduces the absorption of the vitamin B complex. Thus, it is cautioned to avoid Goldenseal during pregnancy, lactation, and gastrointestinal inflammation.
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