Hydrastis canadensis

Origin - Northern America

Part of the plant used - Rhizome (root-stock)

Description - Goldenseal root has been used by Native American healers for a wide range of ailments. They used goldenseal for local inflammations and infections. The plant was also utilized to improve digestion as a bitter tonic and to treat ulcers. An infusion of the root was used as a soothing rinse for eye and skin infections.

Pharmacology - The active ingredients of goldenseal include a group of alkaloids, hydrastine and berberine. These alkaloids are strongly astringent and help reduce inflammation of mucous membranes. These alkaloids also have antiseptic properties. Hydrastine has been reported to lower blood pressure and stimulate peristalsis. Hydrastine is also antitussive. Berberine induces the secretion of bile and helps stop bleeding. A great deal of research has shown that berberine has antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic activity. Goldenseal stimulates involuntary muscles through an oxytocic effect in the intestinal tract and uterus. The plant has been used during childbirth when the labor is protracted.

Historical Uses:

Medicinal Uses - Goldenseal root has been recommended for a variety of inflamed mucous membranes, including stomach, intestinal, vaginal, and rectal. It has been reported that the plant relieves pains and helps heal wounds and stop bleeding. In addition the antibacterial action helps reduce or prevent infection of open sores. The Cherokee and Iroquiois used the plant for diarrhea, dyspepsia, liver problems, flatulence, pneumonia, cancer, and rattlesnake bites. Modern uses have included as a laxative, for hemorrhoids, mouth sores, diuretic, eye infections, acne, sore throats, to ward off infections and as an antiseptic.

Toxicity, Cautions & Contra-indications - At doses of two to three grams, goldenseal can lower heart beat and at higher doses it can be paralyzing to the central nervous system (CNS). Do not use during pregnancy since berberine stimulates the uterus. May induce abortion at high doses.

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