Goldenseal, an endangered US plant, is related to the buttercup. Its active components are hydrastine and berberine, which have antiseptic activity. Berberine also has antidiarrheal properties.
Goldenseal is used as an antiseptic wash for mouth sores, inflamed and sore eyes, and irritated skin and as a douche for vaginal infections. It has been combined with echinacea as a cold remedy, but the efficacy of goldenseal as a cold remedy has not been proved. Goldenseal is also used as a remedy for indigestion and diarrhea. In 2 relatively well-designed studies, berberine isolated from goldenseal reduced diarrhea.
Goldenseal can have many adverse effects, including nausea, anxiety, dyspepsia, uterine contractions, jaundice in neonates, and worsening of hypertension. If taken in large amounts, goldenseal can cause seizures and respiratory failure and may affect contraction of the heart. Goldenseal may interact with warfarin. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, neonates, and people who have seizure disorders or problems with blood clotting should not take goldenseal. Berberine may reduce the anticoagulant effect of heparin.
Last full review/revision May 2009 by Ara DerMarderosian, PhD
Content last modified August 2013