Benefits, risks and side effects of Goldenseal

Gold seal (a.k.a Hydrastis canadensis) is native to eastern North America and was first used by Native Americans as a medicinal remedy. The leaves and roots of the perennial plant are made into teas, capsules, and tinctures and are often used to treat colds, digestive problems, sore gums, and skin irritations.

Goldenseal is also used in traditional medicine. If you go through your local CVS, you will likely find the herb as an ingredient in ear drops, allergy relief products, laxatives, and menstrual products.

The plant has a ton of alkaloid compounds – specifically berberine – linked to antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Goldenseal might be a popular herbal remedy, but there’s actually not a ton of science supporting its health benefits.

Most of the research is actually focused on these antibacterial and anti-inflammatory berberines found in goldenseal. Here’s what the science has to say about the potential benefits of goldenseal.

1. It could help prevent respiratory infections

Sometimes saltines and ginger ale just aren’t enough when you’re sick. Some people use goldenseal as a natural treatment for colds and upper respiratory infections.

A Cell study 2018 on mice found that berberine, one of the main active compounds in goldenseal, had antiviral properties and helped reduce infections in lung cells exposed to H1N1.

Another animal study have shown that berberine has antibacterial effects on bacterial infections.

But while goldenseal is still added to several cold remedies, we need more research to find out if it actually has the same effect in humans. Additionally, the amount of berberine used in animal studies is often much greater than the amount used in goldenseal supplements.

2. It might (but probably not) help detoxify your body from drugs.

Some people believe that goldenseal can help your body detoxify itself from toxins and nasty substances. There’s little evidence to back this up, but it’s definitely not your average detox tea scam.

Your body is actually designed to detoxify itself naturally and release harmful substances from your body through your pee and sweat. (It’s a good reminder to stay hydrated!)

But there is research this suggests that berberine in goldenseal may reduce the activity of specific liver enzymes responsible for drug degradation. It * might * help get a drug test, but supplements can also slow down the detox process. Some drug tests can also detect goldenseal in urine.

So don’t rely on the Gold Seals to help you remove cannabis from your system.

3. It could help treat or prevent UTIs and yeast infections

Goldenseal is a popular remedy for treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections. But again, the studies are only looking at how berberine, not goldenseal itself, can protect your body from bacteria and fungi.

A 2018 study People with recurrent UTIs were less likely to get another UTI when given herbal extracts containing berberine.

A 2016 review has also found that berberine has an antifungal effect against Candida albicans – a fungus naturally present in the body which is responsible for yeast infections and urinary tract infections when it gets out of control.

Although promising, we still need more studies to prove that goldenseal has the same effects.

4. It could help treat skin problems

We all love a new skin care product, but the berberine in goldenseal can help your skin as well. Older laboratory studies suggest berberine can help fight P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.

Animal research from 2017 also found that the anti-inflammatory effects of berberine can help treat inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis.

Still, we need more research on how goldenseal can help acnes and psoriasis.

5. It might help sore gums

The Gold Seal is unlikely to help prevent a gnarly tooth infection (it’s best to stick with a stellar brushing and flossing routine). But there is a slight chance that it could relieve the pain in the gums.

A 2011 review notes using goldenseal as a toothpaste or mouthwash may relieve gum pain, but the claim was purely anecdotal and no legitimate study supports this theory.

So don’t think goldenseal is your dental solution. We still need studies to prove it’s good for your smile.

6. It could relieve digestion problems

Goldenseal probably won’t help Flaming Hot Cheetos indigestion, but it could help digestive system infections.

Older Test Tube Studies suggest goldenseal extracts may combat H. pylori, a bacteria that can infect the lining of your stomach and cause stomach ulcers.

2010 research also shows that goldenseal extracts can kill C. jejuni, a bacteria that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines (aka gastroenteritis) that causes diarrhea and vomiting.

But TBH, this research is quite old and limited. We need more studies on real humans to be sure.

7. It could lower cholesterol levels

Studies in humans and animals have shown that the berberine in goldenseal may help lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A 2018 review of animal studies and one 2017 journal including human studies discovered that berberine could help lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

But there is no information on the Gold Seal itself, so these results are uncertain when it comes to real life.

8. It could help lower blood sugar

If you have type 2 diabetes, studies suggest berberine can help your blood sugar control and insulin resistance.

A review of 2015 also notes that research suggests that berberine has hypoglycemic effects similar to those of metformin, a diabetes drug.

But since there aren’t a ton of studies on goldenseal and diabetes, be sure to talk to your doctor first before supplementing. Taking goldenseal and diabetes medications together could be dangerous.


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Richard V. Johnson