Goldenseal Root: Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects, & More

Written by Krista Bugden
Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, RD

November 30, 2023

Goldenseal root, derived from the plant Hydrastis canadensis, is a perennial herb native to the woodlands of Eastern North America. Above ground, it can be recognized by its small, greenish-white flowers and raspberry-like red berries. Below ground, it lives up to its name: its rhizomes—which are thick, knotted underground stems—feature a bright golden yellow interior  (1). 

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Traditionally, goldenseal has been used for its medicinal properties by various Native American tribes, including the Cherokee and Iroquois. It was often used for treating ulcers, skin disorders, fevers, digestive issues, and more. Beyond medical uses, these tribes also used it as clothing dye and even to make weapons.

When the first settlers arrived, they, too, began adopting goldenseal as a home remedy. And this is exactly the route goldenseal took into the modern era and why it’s currently making waves in the supplement market. In fact, at NativePath, we even include goldenseal in our Native Berberine capsules.

That said, is there any scientific evidence to back up goldenseal’s impressive list of health benefits? We pored over the limited research that exists—here’s what we found…

7 Promising Health Benefits of Goldenseal Root

The magic of goldenseal resides in its bioactive compounds, including berberine, hydrastine, and canadine (2). While berberine is associated with various health benefits, such as potentially lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, enhancing blood sugar control, and aiding in weight loss, goldenseal itself has yet to have much evidence supporting its health benefits (3).

However, goldenseal benefits are thought to include the following:

1. Treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Various evidence links berberine with helping fight infections caused by viruses and bacteria (4). Yet, the evidence around this and goldenseal still remains fairly scarce, indicating a need for further scientific studies. 

As Blanca Garcia, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Health Canal, states, “The active ingredient that helps with all of these conditions is berberine, but there is still research lacking to support its positive effects on these conditions.”

2. May Aid in Detoxification

There’s another common belief that goldenseal root can aid the body in detoxifying harmful substances. While goldenseal can help certain drugs pass through urine more quickly, it might actually reduce detoxification processes in the liver by inhibiting specific liver enzymes (5, 6).

In other words, the use of goldenseal for detoxification needs further studies, where the focus is geared toward what specifically goldenseal helps detoxify.

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3. Treatment for UTIs

Small cellular studies indicate that berberine found in goldenseal may protect against bacteria and fungi (7). In turn, it’s thought to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and even yeast infections. But, again, more evidence would be beneficial for solidifying these claims.

4. May Improve Digestion

Due to its antibacterial properties, goldenseal may further help enhance the delicate balance of bacteria along the digestive tract. In fact, research shows how goldenseal extracts can effectively combat the main bacteria causing gastroenteritis—also known as the stomach flu (8).

5. May Enhance Blood Sugar Regulation

Berberine, one of the active compounds in goldenseal root, is shown to reduce sugar absorption in the gut, promote insulin secretion, and reduce insulin resistance (9). Perhaps one of the strongest scientifically-backed benefits, some research even indicates that berberine may be just as effective as the commonly prescribed diabetes medication metformin (10).

6. Supports Immunity

Goldenseal is often promoted as an immune system booster. Although the exact mechanism is not well understood, it’s thought that the alkaloids, specifically berberine and hydrastine, may activate immune responses (11).

7. Maintains Skin Health

Berberine has further been associated with fighting one of the main bacteria that contribute to the development of acne (12). However, again, more research would help substantiate these claims, especially when it comes to goldenseal root or extract.

Dosage recommendations for goldenseal root vary significantly. Depending on the product, recommended doses may be anywhere from 250 milligrams to 10 grams three times a day.

Garcia elaborates further, “Goldenseal root can be found in lotions, drops, sprays, eyewashes, feminine hygiene products, and capsules. Because of the limited research, it’s hard to tell if the active ingredients are absorbed well or if they work. It’s recommended to follow the dietary supplement dosage instructions on the label since there isn’t an established recommended dosage.”

Are There Any Side Effects?

Goldenseal root is generally considered safe. However, overdosing on this herb may lead to some pretty severe effects, such as cardiac damage, nausea, vomiting, paralysis, respiratory failure, shortness of breath, and more (12). This may be an argument for sticking to conservative doses over high doses of goldenseal. 

In terms of contraindications, Garcia also adds, “Because goldenseal root is limited in research, people who shouldn’t take goldenseal root are infants, children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, the elderly, or people on medications.” 

If you’re taking any medication, discuss your options with your doctor; it’s always wise to get their input before implementing any new supplement into your routine.

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Krista Bugden
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Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden is a freelance writer with a BS in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She spent 5 years working as a kinesiologist, giving her the first-hand experience she needed to write well-researched, scientific, and informative blogs.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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