Goldenseal: uses, dosage & background

Siski Green / 29 July 2020

Goldenseal has antibiotic qualities, and is often used in the treatment of fungal infections, minor wounds, ulcers and diarrhoea.



With antibacterial and antifungal properties, this low-growing plant has a bright red berry that grows seemingly in the centre of its leaves. It’s a perrenial in the buttercup family, native to southeastern and eastern parts of North America.

What is goldenseal used for?

Goldenseal has been proposed for easing cold symptoms, preventing cancer, indigestion, respiratory disorders, eczema, eye and bladder infections.

What’s the history of goldenseal?

Goldenseal was historically used by the native Americans, specifically the Cherokees and Irioquios, for a huge variety of conditions. They used the plant as an insect repellent, diuretic, stimulant and to treat arrow wounds and other health problems. It grows wild in rich native deciduous forest in dense shade, and was named for the golden streaks it shows on when the stem is broken or damaged.

Goldenseal also has a reputation for holding the power of altering a urine sample given to check for drug use. A novel by pharmacist John Uri Lloyd where a urine sample’s outcome was altered by taking goldenseal led to the plant being used for that purpose… but it doesn’t appear to be effective.

What’s the best way to take goldenseal?

Berberine seems to be the substance within goldenseal that brings the health benefits but it’s not known how much is active when it is ingested in the form of goldenseal and as many supplements may contain very different amounts it makes it very difficult to say what will or will not be effective.

The root of goldenseal is sold dried and powdered in capsules, as well as other forms such as creams to apply to skin and also tinctures. Take around 4-6 grams per day in powdered form (within a tablet or capsule). If you are taking other forms of goldenseal, aim for 250-500mg three times a day.

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Does goldenseal really work?

There isn’t a huge amount of research on all the varying ailments goldenseal is puported to alleviate but there have been some positive results. Research on rats shows that berberine, the substance in goldenseal, may help lower cholesterol as all as help alleviate digestive problems. It’s also been shown to lower blood sugar levels in diabetes patients.

Goldenseal is an antibacterial as well as anti-fungal and as such may be effective in treating bladder infections, as well as helping to treat infections from bacteria in the digestive system. For skin, goldenseal may also be beneficial because of those antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Where can I get goldenseal?

As with other natural products this is available at healthfood stores or online.

How long does goldenseal take to work?

There is insufficient research to say how long it might take to work for each of the ailments it is suggested for.

What are the side effects of taking goldenseal?

Very high doses may cause nausea or anxiety, so stick to 250-500mg three times a day.

Are there any contraindications when taking goldenseal?

If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, or you could be pregnant, do not take goldenseal. If you are unsure see your GP before taking any supplements.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.