The plant called the goldenseal, or the orangeroot as it is commonly known is characterized by having a thick and yellow colored rootstock that bears an erect and hairy stem, which can reach a foot in height and with branching stems at the top. The herb bears a small leaf and a flower on one branch, while the other branch is characterized by the presence of a large leaf. Fully grown goldenseal leaves are about six to eight inches in diameter, while each leaf tends to have from five to nine lobes when mature. During April or May, the plant gives out a peculiar greenish-white and unattractive flower, the flower has a very characteristic form and is followed by the growth of a large and fleshy, berrylike head. This will ripen to a very bright red during the autumn months, and tends to look like a rather large raspberry. This fruiting body is composed of ten to twenty small, shining and very hard seeds, which are black in color. The characteristic rootstock of the fresh goldenseal is also bright yellow on the outside and inside, it bears many fibrous rootless from the sides. When the rootstock is dry, these roots can become very brittle and can be very easily break off when the root stocks are moved around.
The orangeroot is a small herb and is a perennial, it is found growing in the wild on rich and shady woods as well as on damp meadows in many states in the US, from Connecticut to Minnesota and farther to the south - the herb is commercially cultivated to produce all kinds of herbal products in the US. The presence of berberine, a plant alkaloid, is the agent responsible for the yellow color of the root.
A goldenseal root based compound called berberine, an alkaloid, is very effective in the treatment of inflammations affecting the cornea and the iris arising as a result of infection from the herpes simplex virus.
The goldenseal is also used in the dilute infusion form as eyewash; this same solution is used as a mouthwash for treating infected gums in patients. The disorder called psoriasis in the skin is also treated using this infusion.
Digestive secretions in the stomach are increased by taking the remedies made from the goldenseal. The remedy also has an astringent action on the mucous membranes lining the gut; this checks the spread of inflammation in the area at the same time. The goldenseal remedy must not be used for very long or extended periods of time at any one time as the remedy can drastically lower the nutrient absorption capacity of the gut - particularly the absorption of B vitamins in the stomach.
Heavy menstrual bleeding in women is also actively reduced by remedies made from goldenseal. Indeed, this remedy is extensively used by many herbal practitioners and traditional midwives to aid the continuous bleeding following the birth of a child - called postpartum hemorrhage. Pregnant women must avoid taking the goldenseal herbal remedy.
Vaginal yeast infection is treated using a douche made from the goldenseal. This can be prepared by using an electric blender to mix one and a half tsps. of the powdered root in about three cups of water. This herbal infusion can be used as a douche to wash the vaginal infection several times daily, till the infection disappears. Any type of sores in the mouth, gums or the tongue can be healed by using a simple herbal mouthwash by mixing pinches of goldenseal powder with baking soda in a little water. Skin irritation caused by contact with poison ivy can be topically treated using the herbal goldenseal remedies. For this remedy, prepare an herbal skin wash by mixing a tsp. of powdered root in a pint of hot water and then dab this solution on the afflicted parts of the skin for topical relief from the irritation. Topical irritations can also be treated by taking two to three capsules - these will increase the rate of healing in the skin.
The goldenseal's ability as a "natural antibiotic" has given this herb a great reputation in the herbal lore. Inflammation in the body of all kinds was traditionally treated by the Native American peoples by using the goldenseal herb as a topical ointment. The native folk medicine of many American cultures used goldenseal as an herbal eyewash and as a rinse or mouth gargle to gain relief from problems like soreness in the mouth, to gain relief from sore throat, from canker sores, as well as from thrush and related infections. The relative effectiveness and healing property of the goldenseal herb in these regard is not confirmed by any clinical studies as yet. Digestive disorders of all kinds were also traditionally treated using the goldenseal herb by several Indian tribes. The alkaloid called berberine present in the goldenseal has been proven to be quite effective in the treatment of diarrhea induced by the presence of toxic pathogens such as the bacterium causing cholera in the body. In the treatment of giardia infections in children, the goldenseal remedy proved more effective than a placebo during another long term trial. The alkaloids hydrastine and berberine in the herb also lower the blood pressure in laboratory animals subjected to tests. The secretion of bile is stimulated by the berberine, while another fraction called canadine is believed to be responsible for triggering uterine contractions in women. Blood flow to the spleen of laboratory mice, is increased by the compounds found in goldenseal, this chemical fraction also stimulated the activity of blood macrophages, which are white blood cells performing an important role in the immune system of man. In certain kinds of strep or sinus infections, the herb is often used as an alternative medication in addition to the conventional medicines. Even the possible treatment of certain types of cancers has been sought to be accomplished using the goldenseal, though such uses of the herb are in the experimental realm.
North Americans traditionally used the herbal goldenseal remedy for the treatment of arrow wounds and ulcers on the skin. One of the main actions of the goldenseal herb is as an effective tonic on the mucous membranes anywhere in the human body, this ability of the herbal remedy enables it to control inflammation and aids the body rid excessive phlegm. Goldenseal based remedies are also used for disorders of the respiratory system including catarrh, disorders like sinusitis, all kinds of colds and flu, problems like tonsillitis, and conditions such as pharyngitis, laryngitis, as well as catarrhal coughs of all kinds. The herbal remedy also effectively acts on the digestive tract by reducing the symptoms of catarrh, gastritis, ulceration, and inflammation of all kinds. At the same time, the bitters within the goldenseal promote the functioning of the liver, and actively aid in stimulating the appetite and this results in an improved digestion in the body. Goldenseal also aids in removing disorders affecting the reproductive tract due to its tonic and astringent action, this aid's in the effective treatment of heavy periods, and also in the treatment of hemorrhage, the herb also aids in stimulating the functioning of the uterine muscles, and is useful during childbirth in women. Topical and external applications of the herbal goldenseal remedy include its use as a skin lotion as well as a douche for the treatment of vaginal infections like thrush and those caused by trichomonas infections. Inflammation and infection in the bladder is also reduced and soothed by the goldenseal remedy, the tonic and sedative action on the nervous system is also very helpful in the long term. Powerful bactericidal as well as anti-viral activities have been discovered in the goldenseal during clinical research, the herb is also known to have an ability to lower the blood pressure in the human body, and these properties make the herbal remedy a useful treatment for a wide range of infections in the human body. Many congested conditions in the human body can be treated using the goldenseal remedy, these include sluggish venous conditions, problems such as varicose veins and disorders such as hemorrhoids - the ability of the herb to improve and promote the circulation is helpful in the treatment of all these conditions. The goldenseal herbal remedies is also excellent in the treatment of infected gums, problems such as mouth ulcers, as well as sore throats, it is also helpful as a mouthwash or gargle. Many herbal eye lotions contain mixtures of the goldenseal infusion with rosewater or with chamomile and these are used in the treatment of all sorts of inflammatory eye problems; these are also used as eardrops for the treatment of problems such as earache. Goldenseal can also be used in the form of an herbal lotion or decoction to soothe irritated and infected skin problems of all kinds.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Most of the moist mountainous woodland areas in the North American continent have wild populations of the goldenseal herb. The herb tends to prefer soil which has a good cover of dead leaves and humus. Cultivated goldenseal is now the norm as the plant is rare in its natural habitat due to over collection in the wild. Cultivation is hard as the herb prefers a growing environment near or quite similar to that found in its native habitat. The root division method is used to propagate populations of goldenseal during cultivation. Three years old plants are dug up for their rhizomes during the autumn of the third year and these are then dried in open air on cloth baskets for storage and processing.
Goldenseal has not been as subjected to extensive pharmacological investigations, despite it being an herb that possessed a great medicinal reputation. The traditional belief in goldenseal's healing prowess is supported by the fact that its medicinal actions have been observed to be largely a result of the presence of the isoqinoline alkaloids in the herb.
The value of goldenseal as an herbal medicine is supported by clinical research results from studies done in Canada during the late 1960s. In these studies it was shown that the hydrastine in the herb had an ability to constrict the blood vessels and was responsible for the stimulation of the autonomic nervous system in test subjects.
The bactericidal and anti-amoebic action of the berberine is also well known, this compound is a very bitter fraction in the herbal extract. The compound is also known to have sedative effects on the central nervous system of humans. Further research indicates that the alkaloid also stimulates the muscles of the uterus in women.
A daily dosage of 4 - 6 grams of the powdered goldenseal root or the rhizome supplements as tablets or capsules is the normal dose of most patients. Doses of 4 to 6 ml are often used when taking the liquid herbal extracts of the goldenseal herd. A break of at least two weeks is a must during the dosage regimen and a continuous dosage exceeding three weeks at a stretch must never be attempted. A sore throat may be soothed and treatable using goldenseal powder to make an herbal tea or tincture.
Side effects and cautions
The herbal medications made from the goldenseal are known to be safe when they are used in the recommended doses. Similar to many of the remedies made from other alkaloid-containing plants, taking very high amounts of the herbal remedy can produce unwanted and uncomfortable distress in the gastrointestinal track and possibly have bad effects on the nervous system. Pregnant and lactating women must not take the goldenseal remedies for any purpose due to possible side effects.
How it works in the body
The medicinal and healing properties possessed by the goldenseal herb is attributed to the presence of the isoquinoline alkaloids in the herb, while the compound hydrastine is believed to act as an astringent and as a haemostatic agent-stanching bleeding. Bactericidal as well as anti-amoebic actions are attributed to the berberine alkaloid present in the plant, while the compound canadine is believed to be responsible for the stimulation of the uterine muscles in patients. Disorders of the mucous membranes anywhere in the body are the primary targets of treatments based on goldenseal. Disorders in the respiratory system due to the presence of excessive mucus is treated using goldenseal, the herb is also used in the treatment of mucus problems affecting the eyes, the nose and the throat especially in cases of inflammation in the affected areas. The goldenseal is reputed for its strong bactericidal actions which make it very effective in the treatment of all kinds of infections, particularly those affecting the mouth or the eyes of the person. Goldenseal can also aid the appetite and stimulate the digestion if it is carefully used for short periods of time as a tonic. Heavy bleeding in the reproductive system is also alleviated by the remedies made from the goldenseal; the herb has an astringent action on the affected membranes in case of vaginal infection.