Herbal Monograph – Golden Seal


Few other herbs can boast the impressive anti-microbial, anti-allergic activity and mucus reducing effects of Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis).

The generic name of the plant, Hydrastis, is derived from two Greek words signifying water and to accomplish. It is probable this name was derived because of the beneficial effects of the mucus membranes and their ability to reduce allergies.



Traditional uses of Golden Seal
Traditionally, Golden Seal has been used to reduce mucus. It is thought that Golden Seal has a special ability to kill the microbes that cause mucus. The North American Indians also found it to be a valuable remedy for digestive disorders. It is also used as a gastric tonic, and is of extreme value in cases of habitual constipation, because of it’s capability to increase bile flow. Other traditional uses for Golden Seal include dyspepsia (indigestion), gastric catarrh, loss of appetite, and liver problems. It is also an efficient remedy for sickness and vomiting.



  • In research investigating the effects of Golden Seal on common urinary tract infections (E-coli.), it was found that Golden Seal effectively inhibited E-coli, thus reducing urinary tract infections (cystitis).

  • Microbes have a powerful ability to cause diarrhoea. Golden Seal has been found to be effective for the treatment of diarrhoea because it kills the microbes that cause diarrhoea, such as cholera.

  • Ulcers have been found to be caused by a microbe called H.pylori. Eradication of H.pylori using powerful antibiotics has been associated with significant improvements, even total resolution of ulcers. Recent research suggests that Golden Seal also kills H.pylori.

  • The active ingredients of Berberine and hydrastine in Golden Seal exert antibiotic effects on Chlamydia pneumoniae, by relieving the irritation and inflammation of the mucus membranes that line the throat and respiratory tract. This in turn helps to alleviate the symptoms of bronchitis.

Anti Allergic
Allergic conditions plague Australians and can be very disruptive in their lives. There are many known causes of allergies such as animals, foods, pollens and chemicals. While preventing or limiting exposure to these potentially harmful agents is desirable, another way allergies can be reduced is by teaching our immune systems the correct way to respond to these agents.

Golden Seal is a herb that helps to ‘teach’ the immune system how it should respond to these agents. Allergic individuals have imbalances in their immune system causing symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, mucus production and skin rashes. Golden Seal is able to stimulate the immune system to secrete the anti-allergy chemical Interleukin 12. Interleukin 12 reduces the allergic component of the immune system, while also boosting the anti-microbial section of the immune system. This is one reason why Golden Seal is commonly prescribed by herbalists to reduce mucus production caused by an infection. Thus if you feel a cold coming on, combining Golden Seal with other immune boosting herbs such as Echinacea will provide excellent immune stimulation and mucus control.

Boosting Immunity
Not only does Golden Seal kill microbes, it also boosts the immune system so that it has an improved ability to kill unwanted bacteria.

In 1999, researchers found that Echinacea or Golden Seal enhance the immune function by increasing immunoglobulin production in the immune system.

Golden Seal has also been found to be anti-carcinogenic, particularly for skin cancers. This anti-carcinogenic effect is due to Golden Seal’s ability to improve the functionality of the immune system which then better enables it to kill cancer cells.

Inflammation is involved in most disease processes. Reducing inflammation is often a wise treatment strategy to combat pain and reduce it’s damaging effects. A recent study has found that one of the active ingredients in Golden Seal, Berberine, is able to inhibit the potent inflammatory chemical, Cyclooxegenase 2 (COX-2) . A reduction in COX-2 results in a reduction in inflammation, swelling and pain in certain conditions such as sinusitis and bronchitis.

Contraindications of Golden Seal
Golden Seal can induce miscarriage in some women and should therefore not be used during pregnancy, unless under strict instruction from your medical practitioner or qualified herbalist. Some minor side effects have also been noted in sensitive individuals such as nausea and mucus membrane irritation, so if you present with these symptoms, see your health care practitioner.

Drug Interaction with Golden Seal
Golden Seal, like any herbal medicine, can conflict with medications. Therefore, before using this herb, (or any other herbal preparation) please consult your health care professional about possible interactions.

Therapeutic/safe dosages of Golden Seal
Golden Seal has been shown to be beneficial in certain conditions such as allergies and infections at dosages of 6,000 - 12,000 mg per day. The daily therapeutic dosage of Golden Seal root or rhizomes 4:1 capsules/tablets or capsules/tablets standardized to contain 5% - 12% Alkaloids is 2,000 - 4,000 mg per day. The daily therapeutic dosage of 1:2 Golden Seal fluid extract/tincture is 12 - 24 ml per day.

What to look for in a Golden Seal supplement
Hydrastine is the main active ingredient in Golden Seal supplements. Some Golden Seal supplements are standardized to contain 5% Hydrastine, which is desirable. Other active components include Berberine. A good quality Golden Seal should contain 10% Berberine.

Golden Seal is a highly prized herb and has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of conditions including allergies, indigestion, infections and digestive/liver complaints. There is now weighty scientific data supporting the medicinal uses of this herb for these conditions. While Golden Seal is generally regarded as safe, interactions between this herb and medical drugs are always possible, so it is advisable to contact your health care practitioner before embarking on a program with its use.

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