More about Goldenseal
The herb goldenseal was originally cultivated by Native Americans as a medical "cleansing" and "healing" agent. It was primarily used for its antiseptic properties for cleansing the skin, treating eyesores, and fighting off various infections. At the turn of the century, goldenseal was used to remedy gastrointestinal diseases and stomach disorders. Since then, the root of this medicinal herb has been used to relieve these as well as a wide variety of additional complaints — from constipation to heartburn to urinary tract infections and even to colds and fevers.
Researchers have isolated the mechanism behind goldenseal's antiseptic properties in that it contains an alkaloid known as "berberine." Berberine is believed to inhibit (attack) harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, prevent infections, enhance the immune system, and even lower fevers. In addition, this herb contains some other potentially beneficial alkaloids, such as "berbamine," which has been shown in research to help reduce inflammation and fight off harmful free radicals.
Most notably, goldenseal has gained a reputation for its cold- and flu-fighting properties. It appears to soothe a sore throat and irritated mucous membranes in addition to its antibiotic and immune-stimulating effects.
Recognized for its potential blood-cleansing and detoxifying activities, goldenseal may help fight several liver ailments, such as jaundice, cirrhosis, and hepatitis, or help prevent the damaging effects of certain drugs that can be hard on the liver.
As well, goldenseal has a long history of being beneficial for the digestive system, helping the body digest food and absorb nutrients, which may lead to greater cellular synthesis and regeneration. And it's been shown to be quite effective for relieving diarrhea, including traveler's diarrhea, food poisoning, and giardia, as well as treating a number of common gastrointestinal infections.
Because of its acidic content, goldenseal is believed to be a mild diuretic of sorts. That is, it may help flush additional, unneeded water out of the body. And because of its potential antibacterial abilities, goldenseal has been used to help treat yeast infections and bronchitis.
Used in clinical settings, goldenseal has been shown to fight diarrhea, eye infections (such as pink eye), and even gonorrhea and syphilis.
Although many sources have suggested goldenseal's detoxifying properties may help "clear" the system before blood or urine drug tests (and "mask" the use of illegal drugs), it appears this is a myth and is not suggested as a tactic.
Although goldenseal does appear to have antibiotic properties, that doesn't mean it should be used as a substitute for antibiotics. Use common sense — if your doctor says you need penicillin or another potent antibiotic, don't think you'll fight it off with only goldenseal.
Because it has been so highly valued for its medicinal properties, goldenseal has been literally "picked dry" in some areas. In fact, it's considered an endangered plant in South Carolina. It should be noted that many herbalists recommend using an alternative to goldenseal, such as barberry, Oregon grape, or goldthread, because goldenseal is becoming increasingly harder to grow and get. These alternative herbs all appear to have similar "healing" properties and mechanisms of action within the body because they all contain the primary alkaloid berberine, which makes them virtually interchangeable.
While goldenseal may not help you win a gold medal in the Olympics, it may require a place in your supplement cupboard — to be used in times of need. You see, the immune system can become taxed during intense training phases, making our bodies less resistant to illness and more susceptible to infections, such as colds and flus. When those times strike, goldenseal might give us just a little extra fighting power to thwart off the cold or flu or be taken as a preventative measure during cold and flu season.