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Goldenseal

By

Laura Shane-McWhorter

, PharmD, University of Utah College of Pharmacy

Last full review/revision Jan 2022| Content last modified Jan 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION

What is goldenseal?

Goldenseal, an endangered plant, is related to the buttercup. Its active components are hydrastine and berberine, which have antiseptic activity. Berberine is also active against diarrhea. It is available in liquid, tablet, and capsule forms.

What claims are made about goldenseal?

Goldenseal is used as an antiseptic wash for mouth sores, inflamed and sore eyes, wounds, and irritated skin and as a douche for vaginal infections. It has been combined with echinacea as a cold remedy. Goldenseal is also used as a remedy for indigestion and diarrhea.

Because berberine is claimed to lower blood sugar, some people take goldenseal to regulate their blood-glucose levels.

Does goldenseal work?

The effectiveness of goldenseal as a cold remedy has not been proved. In some relatively well-designed studies, berberine isolated from goldenseal reduced diarrhea, including diarrhea in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Emerging evidence shows that in people with diabetes, berberine can decrease fasting and postprandial glucose and hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C).

Berberine has also been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and body weight.

What are the possible side effects of goldenseal?

Goldenseal can cause many side effects, including digestive irritation and upset, contractions of the uterus, jaundice in newborns, and worsening of high blood pressure (hypertension). If taken in large amounts, goldenseal can cause seizures and respiratory failure and may affect contraction of the heart.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, newborns, and people who have a seizure disorder or problems with blood clotting should not take goldenseal.

Berberine may damage DNA in some cells. What effect this has in people is not yet known.

What drug interactions occur with goldenseal?

Goldenseal may increase the effectiveness of drugs that prevent blood clots (such as warfarin), increasing bleeding.

Goldenseal affects how the liver processes some drugs, which may result in other important drug interactions. Thus, goldenseal may increase levels of antihypertensive (blood pressure–lowering) drugs and thus result in blood pressure that is too low. Goldenseal may also increase levels of cyclosporine, a drug used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.

The berberine in goldenseal may increase the hypoglycemic effects of antihyperglycemic drugs.

Recommendations

Goldenseal may cause many serious side effects and drug interactions, and the health benefits of goldenseal, if any, are likely small and generally achievable with the use of other drugs; therefore, goldenseal is not recommended. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should be advised not to take goldenseal.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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