Goldenseal is a perennial herb of the family, Ranunculaceae, which is also known as the buttercup family. This herb is native to the regions of Southeastern Canada and Northeastern United States. It is a small plant with a purplish-colored hairy stem, and thick and bright yellow-colored rootstock. Much of its popularity can be attributed to the rumor that it can help mask a positive drug test. However, no concrete evidence has been found in this regard.
In fact, a few studies have refuted this supposition by pointing out that this herb is not effective for altering the results of a drug test. However, it cannot be ruled out that goldenseal has several important medicinal properties, and is widely used for making herbal supplements. It is often combined with another herb, known as 'Echinacea', to treat the symptoms of cold and flu. However, the prolonged and overuse of this herb can cause a few side effects. But before dwelling on the side effects, let's take a brief look at the health benefits of this herb.
The Health Benefits
It is one of the most popular and effective herbs for alleviating a number of health problems. Earlier, it was used by the native Americans to treat digestive problems, diarrhea, irritation of the eye, liver problems, and skin disorders. The most noteworthy health benefits of this herb are enlisted below:
- One of the main active compounds found in goldenseal is 'berberine', and this compound has been found to be effective in destroying a large number of germs, parasites, and bacteria in laboratory studies.
- It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, for which it can help treat wounds and various types of skin disorders, including fungal infections of the skin, acne, skin rash, ringworm, eczema, and cold sores.
- It can aid digestion and thereby, help alleviate some common digestive ailments like stomach pain, gastritis, colitis, peptic ulcers, constipation, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, and dysentery.
- This herb can also be used for relieving the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, common cold and flu, congestion, sore throat, and hay fever.
- It is a natural antibiotic, and it can boost the immune system. The compound, 'berberine' may activate certain white blood cells in the body, and thus enhance the ability of the immune system to fight infectious agents.
- It is commonly used to alleviate eye irritation caused by conjunctivitis. It may help treat infections of the urinary tract as well.
The Side Effects
The side effects of goldenseal are usually not very serious in nature. Nevertheless, one can experience a few uncomfortable side effects, if this herb is used in large amounts, and for a prolonged period of time. When it is taken in large amounts, and also when the fresh plant is taken, one can experience the irritation and inflammation of the mucous membrane. If taken in a larger quantity, it can worsen the ulcers of the stomach, and irritate the mouth, throat, vagina, and the skin. In addition to these, some other possible side effects of this herb are, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, vomiting, drowsiness, headache, and breathing problems.
Some individuals can be allergic to this herb, and can experience an allergic reaction after ingesting goldenseal and its supplements. An allergic reaction to this herb can produce skin rash or hives, itching, tightness in the chest, unusual swelling of the mouth, tongue, throat, and the lips, and shortness of breath. The prolonged use of this herb has been found to adversely affect the absorption of vitamin B. In addition to these, the compound 'berberine' has been found to lower the level of blood sugar in clinical studies. So, diabetic patients taking blood sugar lowering medications need to use it with caution. They should better talk to their physicians before taking this herb.
People with high blood pressure should avoid this herb and its supplements, as goldenseal may raise the level of blood pressure in such individuals. Even people with heart disease, and those with anxiety and depression should not use this herb and its supplements without consulting their health care provider. It has been observed that the intravenous administration of 'berberine' can cause abnormal heart rhythm. Pregnant and nursing women are also advised to avoid this herb, as the compound, 'berberine' can cause uterine contractions. Another chemical, 'hydrastine' found in this herb may also induce labor in pregnant women.
So, it can be concluded that this herb needs to be taken with adequate care and caution. Its continuous use for a prolonged time period is usually not advisable. To sum up, it is always better and safe to consult a herbalist and your health care provider before taking any kind of herbs and herbal supplements, including goldenseal. This can help avoid the serious side effects associated with them.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.