Report on Goldenseal Side Effects and Usage


Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of cautions that you should be aware of before using Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions.

Warning 1 – Contraindications: Pregnancy and lactation. Some studies show that this herb can stimulate uterine contractions. This herb may pass into breast milk and could have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. Brain damage (kernicterus) has developed in newborn infants exposed to goldenseal.

Warning 2 – Antiarrhythmics: Goldenseal may increase the effects of antiarrhythmics.

Warning 3 – Anticoagulants: Using goldenseal may decrease the effects of anticoagulants.

Warning 4 – Antifungals, azole: Goldenseal may reduce the effectiveness of azole antifungals because it slows the metabolism of this type of medication.

Warning 5 – Antihypertensives: Goldenseal may increase the effects of antihypertensives.

Warning 6 – Benzodiazepines: Using goldenseal may slow the metabolism of benzodiazepines.

Warning 7 – Beta-blockers: Goldenseal may increase the effects of beta-blockers.

Warning 8 – Calcium-channel blockers: Goldenseal may slow the metabolism of calcium-channel blockers.

Warning 9 – Cardiac glycosides: Goldenseal may decrease the effects of cardiac glycosides.

Warning 10 – Central Nervous System Depressants: Goldenseal may increase the effects of central nervous system depressants.

Warning 11 – Statins: Goldenseal may slow the metabolism of statins.

Warning 12 – Vitamin B: Goldenseal may decrease the body’s absorption of vitamin B.

Warning 13 – Blood sugar: This herb contains a substance called berberine, which can lower your blood sugar. If you have symptoms of low blood sugar, which may include fast heartbeat, cold sweat, dizziness, blurred vision, shaking, tingling hands/feet, tell your doctor immediately.

Used as a natural health remedy: goldenseal is used internally for the following benefits and conditions:

  • Anorexia
  • Bleeding after childbirth
  • Boost the immune system: Research finds that goldenseal may enhance the body’s immune system by increasing antigen-specific immunoglobulin production.
  • Cancer: Preliminary research suggests that goldenseal may help stimulate white blood cells to kill cancerous tumor cells.
  • Canker sores and periodontal disease: Goldenseal tea is said to be an effective mouthwash because it helps destroy harmful bacteria.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • Cold and flu: Goldenseal is commonly combined with Echinacea to treat the symptoms of cold and flu, especially coughs and sore throats. Lozenges containing goldenseal, echinacea and zinc are also popular.
  • Colitis
  • Common cold
  • Constipation
  • Detox or cleanse the system of marijuana (THC)
  • Diarrhea: Studies have shown that the berberine in goldenseal helps stimulate the white blood cells to kill bacteria that can cause diarrhea, including E. coli, salmonella, and Vibrio cholerae (cholera).
  • Digestive disorders
  • Eye diseases, including conjunctivitis (pink eye), staph, and trachoma: In some studies goldenseal was shown to be more effective than either chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin) or sulfacetamide (Sultrin), two prescription drugs that are commonly used to treat eye infections.
  • Fever
  • Gonorrhea
  • Hay fever
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Internal bleeding
  • Intestinal gas
  • Jaundice
  • Liver disorders, improve liver function: New research shows that goldenseal stimulates bile secretion in humans, which supports liver function and helps the body digest fats. One possible application may be the treatment of liver damage in alcoholics.
  • Malaria
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Pneumonia
  • Relieve nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Stuffy nose
  • Upper respiratory tract infections
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Vaginal pain, swelling, and other menstrual problems
  • Whooping cough
  • Yeast infections: helps prevent the proliferation of Candida albicans and Chlamydia trachomatis in the vagina.

Goldenseal is used externally for

  • Acne
  • Dandruff
  • Deafness
  • Earache
  • Eczema
  • Herpes blisters
  • Itching
  • Mouthwash: Research has shown an antimicrobial effect against the oral pathogens Streptococcus mutans and Fusobacterium nucleatum, and S. mutans.
  • Rashes
  • Ringworm
  • Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
  • Ulcers
  • Wound healing of minor wounds
  • Wound infections

When attempting to verify the above benefits we found that many of the important chemicals in goldenseal are poorly absorbed when taken by mouth. This raises some doubt about whether or not the concentrations of these chemicals would reach the level needed in order to have significant effects in the body.

Goldenseal contains berberine, a strong stringent alkaloid. Berberine has demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against a variety of organisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, helminths (intestinal worms), and chlamydia. Currently, the predominant clinical uses of berberine include intestinal parasite infections, bacterial diarrhea, and ocular trachoma infections.

Side Effects of Goldenseal

Side effects from using this herb are rare. In the unlikely event that they do occur they may include:

  1. Headache
  2. Easy bruising/bleeding

Any side effects should be reported to your doctor immediately. Other side effects may also occur when using goldenseal. (See form below)

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

Goldenseal is also known as yellow root, eye balm, Indian tumeric, and poor man’s ginseng. This herb is available as a tincture and in powdered form. Either of these forms can be used to make a tea, which can be taken orally or stored for topical use as an antiseptic. Goldenseal is also available in an ointment for topical use.

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