Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Goldenseal is a low-lying, herbaceous plant native to Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern U.S in the Ranunculacea family. It’s stem is hairy and purplish-green above ground, but yellow below ground where it connects to a knotted, thick yellow rhizome. It has two leaves, both hairy and palmately shaped, with between 5 and 7 lobes. In the spring, it has small frilly white flowers that grow from a small stem at the center of the leaf. In the summer these develop into a small fruit resembling a raspberry. Although it will grow from seed, rhizome, or cuttings, goldenseal is a more difficult herb to propagate and grow in a garden, as it requires woodland conditions – shady, moist conditions with loose, well draining, heavily mulched soil, and takes about 3-5 years to mature for harvest. It does best when the soils are amended with bone meal and sand. The roots can be harvested in the fall on a 3 year old plant after it has produced mature seeds and gone dormant. The root should then be clean carefully, air dried, and cut or ground into powder. Conscious wild-crafting is crucial for this slow growing plant which is becoming hard to find in the wild.

Medicinal Uses
Goldenseal root was traditionally used as a yellow dye by the Native Americans of the Northeastern United States. It was used medicinally as an eyewash, sore throat, digestive issues, skin wounds, and to aid recovery after childbirth. Goldenseal was also mixed with bear grease as an insect repellant. Goldenseal is an alterative, anti-inflammatory, anti-catarrhal, antiseptic, astringent, bitter, oxytocic, muscular stimulant and laxative. Because it is a strong tonic for the mucus membranes of the body, it is a really useful herb for the whole body. It is especially helpful for the digestive system, easing gastritis, colitis, and septic ulcers. The constituent berberine is found in goldenseal root, which kills many of the bacteria that cause diarrhea, e. coli, salmonella, cholera, dysentery, giardia, thrichomoniasis, and the fungus that causes candida infections. Its bitter properties also stimulate bile production and help with appetite problems. For digestive issues, goldenseal combines best with meadowsweet and chamomile. It is also extremely helpful for upper respiratory conditions and uterine conditions, such as excessive menstruation or hemorrhaging. Externally, it can be used in combination with witch hazel to treat eczema, ringworm, conjunctivitis, itching, and with mullein for ear aches. Because it stimulates the involuntary uterine muscles, it should be avoided during pregnancy, but is useful during and after childbirth.

Goldenseal is a great immune system boost and can be prepared as a tincture or as an infusion, both of which are very bitter. If you plant to take goldenseal as a tea, you should plan to sweeten it with raw honey. However, it is good to note not to take goldenseal as a tonic without a condition present, as it can destroy the good bacteria as well as the bad in the system, much the same way as antibiotics do.

Folk Uses
Native Americans of the Eastern United States used goldenseal roots to make a strong yellow dye. They also used goldenseal as an eyewash and as a treatment for wounds, sore throats, and and digestive complaints, as well as a recovery herb for after childbirth. The Cherokees mixed goldenseal with bear grease to make an insect repellant. It gained popularity in the early 19th century through eclectic herbalists as a remedy for eczema, hemorrhoids, boils, wounds, tonsillitis, uterine problems, digestive ailments, and postpartum hemorrhaging. It was touted briefly as “poor mans ginseng”, with lofty claims as a panacea cure and for longevity and vitality. Like ginseng, it was wild harvested to the point of near extinction.

An 10-15 minute infusion of 1/2-1 teaspoon of the powdered herb or dried root per cup of water, drunk three times daily. As a tincture, 2-4ml three times daily.

A great gargle for sore or infected throat is:

-1 dropper full of goldenseal tincture
-10-15 drops of grapefruit seed extract
-3-4 drops of oregano oil

1. Place all ingredients in a shot glass, and fill with warm water and stir to blend thoroughly.
2. Gargle 2-3 times a day and swallow. Follow with a gargle of warm salt water and spit.

This has worked wonders in a matter of a day or two for me and multiple friends who’ve had red, swollen tonsils with puss/infected spots. Clears them right up! Goldenseal can also be taken with ginger and black pepper for deep-seated fevers.

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