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Goldenseal is a member of the buttercup or Ranunculaceae family. It is native to rich, moist soils of the Ohio River Valley, West Virginia, the mountains of North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and north to New England and Upstate New York and parts of Quebec, Canada. It was harvested almost to extinction in the mid to late 1800’s in the Ohio River Valley where it was sold heavily in Cincinnati in amounts upwards of 200,000 pounds. Eclectic physicians learned about the plant from Native Americans who revered the plant for its medicinal, cultural, and practical uses. The deforestation of the North Eastern United states, along with demand and over harvesting, led to this plant’s status as endangered its natural range. The Eclectics used purified forms of the crude herb known in the commercial market as Hydrastine, Neutral Hydrastine, or Muriate of Hydrastin- preparations which were actually hydrochlorates of the alkaloid berberine. These preparations did not yield the same results as the concentrated whole plant extract and were soon abandoned.


The known actions of Goldenseal’s constituents are vast, affecting the immune system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, nervous system and mucosal membranes in general. There have been numerous studies validating the immune potentiating effects of these chemicals.

Uses of Goldenseal


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

The root and rhizomes are highly concentrated in isoquinoline alkaloids or protoberberines, namely Hydrastine (3.2- 4.), Bereberine (2-4.5), and Canadine (0.5-1%).

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

Additional Resources

Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Simon Mills and Kerry Bone. p.286-96 Churchill Livingstone 2000.

Ecologically Harvested is a term that describes all herbs sold by Gaia Herbs that are not Certified Organic. Ecologically Harvested herbs include herbs that are harvested in their natural habitat, (i.e., wild harvested) according to specific guidelines for harvesting these herbs (i.e., away from roads and industry, as well as guidelines to avoid overharvesting). Our term, Ecologically Harvested, also includes herbs that are grown in managed woodland areas, fields designated for specific herbs, and herbs that are grown by indigenous growers, such as Kava Kava. All Ecologically Harvested herbs pass pesticide and heavy metal testing as well as microbial testing, prior to release.