Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb golden seal are Goldenseal, yellow paint root, orange root, yellow puccoon, ground raspberry, eye root, yellow Indian plant, turmeric root, Ohio curcuma, eye balm, yellow eye and jaundice root.
Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States. Goldenseal can be found in dietary supplements, eardrops, feminine cleansing products, cold/flu remedies, allergy remedies, laxatives and digestive aids. Goldenseal is a folk medicine staple whose uses as an antibiotic and antiseptic were imparted to settlers from Native Americans. Goldenseal once grew wild in the shady forests of eastern from Minnesota and Vermont south into Georgia, but the population has declined in the wild due to over harvesting and loss of habitat. The generic name of the plant, Hydrastis, is derived from two Greek words, signifying water and to accomplish, probably given it from its effect on the mucous membrane.Hydrastis Canadensis was first introduced into England by Miller in 1760, under the name of Warnera, after Richard Warner of Woodford, and later was grown at Kew, Edinburgh and Dublin. In 1905 the United States Department of Agriculture called attention to the increasing demand for Golden Seal for medicinal purposes in a Bulletin. There it is stated that the early settlers learnt of the virtues of Golden Seal from the American Indians, who used the root as a medicine and its yellow juice as a stain for their faces and a dye for their clothing.
Goldenseal has a thick, yellow rootstock which sends up an erect hairy stem about 1 foot in height which branches near the top, one branch bearing a large leaf and another a smaller leaf and a flower. The rhizome is thick, sarcous, oblong, irregular, and knotted, having a yellowish-brown, thin bark, and a bright-yellow interior; rootlets numerous, scattered, coriaceous fibres.This low perennial herb grows from 6 to 10 inches high, its leaves and fruit much resembling those of the raspberry. The flowering stem, which is pushed up early in the spring, is from 6 to 12 inches high, erect, cylindrical, hairy, with downward-pointing hairs, especially above, surrounded at the base with a few short, brown scales. It bears two prominently-veined and wrinkled, dark green, hairy leaves, placed high up, the lower one stalked, the upper stalkless, roundish in outline, but palmately cut into 5 to 7 lobes, the margins irregularly and finely toothed. The flower, which is produced in April, is solitary, terminal, erect, and small, with three small greenish-white sepals, falling away immediately after expansion, no petals and numerous stamens. The fruit ripens in July and has the superficial appearance of a raspberry, with small, fleshy, red berries, tipped with the persistent styles and containing 1 or 2 black, shiny seeds. However, it is not edible.
Goldenseal is native to North America, and can be found growing wild from Ontario to Arkansas, across the southeastern U.S. to Georgia and cultivated in Oregon and Washington. The main growing region used to be Ohio valley, before it became the area fell victim to deforestation and development.
This native forest plant occurs in patches in high, open woods, and usually on hillsides or bluffs affording natural drainage, from western New England to Minnesota and western Ontario, and south to Georgia and Missouri. It is found in the rich soil of shady woods and moist places at the edge of wooded lands. Goldenseal prefers open hardwood forests, with rich humic soils, and a slight slope around 5% to facilitate drainage. Plants are found to be most vigorous in stands with 60-65% shade, and pH values between 5.5 and 6.5.
Goldenseal can be grown both from seed and from the rhizome. It requires a partially shaded situation (60 - 70%), in a well draining, rich humus soil. Rootstocks can be divided into small pieces and set at least 8” apart. Planting should be undertaken in the autumn. The plants should be allowed to grow for 2 - 3 years before harvesting, though by the 4th year the roots are said to become too fibrous for medicinal use. Transplanting may be undertaken at any time. According to an American grower 32 healthy plants set per square yard will produce 2 lb of dry root after three years of growth. The fresh rhizome is juicy and loses much of its weight in drying. When fresh, it has a well-marked, narcotic odour, which is lost in a great measure by age, when it acquires a peculiar sweetish smell, somewhat resembling liquorice root. It has a very bitter, feebly opiate taste, more especially when freshly dried. The rhizome is irregular and tortuous, much knotted, with a yellowish-brown, thin bark and bright yellow interior, 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inch long, and from 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. The upper surface bears short ascending branches, which are usually terminated by cup-like scars, left by the aerial stems of previous years. From the lower surface and sides, numerous thin, wiry, brittle roots are given off, many of them breaking off, leaving small protuberances on the root. The colour of the rhizome, though yellow in the fresh root, becomes a dark, yellowish brown by age; that of the rootlets and the interior of the root are yellow and that of the powder still more so. When dry, the rhizome is hard and breaks with a clean, resinous fracture, the smooth, fractured surface is of a brownish-yellow, or greenish-yellow colour, and exhibits a ring of bright yellow, somewhat distant narrow wood bundles surrounding large pith.
The flower of the herb is generally said to be in bloom in the month of april which is solitary, terminal, erect, small, with three small greenish-white sepals, falling away immediately after expansion, no petals and numerous stamens.
Pests and Diseases
In a natural setting H. canadensis is not typically affected by pests or diseases. In wild populations, deer herbivory is the most common problem, as well as predation by slugs. Slugs can be controlled by hand, commercial poisons, or with diatomaceous earth. There is little that can be done to control deer predation in wild populations, but in cultivated settings, constructing a fence is the best option for control. Under cultivation, Goldenseal is much more likely to encounter problems with pests and disease. Several cases of Botrytis (leaf blight) have been documented, as well as root knot nematodes, alternaria, rhizoctonia, and fusarium .
The most commonly used part of the herb goldenseal is the dried roots and the rhizome.
Medicinal and Commercial Applications
- The American aborigines valued the root highly as a tonic, tomachic and application for sore eyes and general ulceration.
- It is a valuable remedy in the disordered conditions of the digestion and has a special action on the mucous membrane, making it of value as a local remedyin various forms of catarrh.
- The action is tonic, laxative, alterative and detergent. The powder has proved useful as a snuff for nasal catarrh.
- It is employed in dyspepsia, gastric catarrh, and loss of appetite and liver troubles.
- Goldenseal was used by the American Indians as a treatment for irritations and inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts.
- Its traditional uses include treatment of peptic ulcers, gastritis, dyspepsia and colitis.
- It is said to stimulate appetite and generally have a toning effect on the whole body.
- Its astringent properties have also been employed in cases of excessive menstruation and internal bleeding. It has a stimulating effect on the uterine muscles for which it is sometimes used as an aid in childbirth.
- The decoction is also said to be effective as a douche to treat trichomonas and thrush. As a gargle it can be employed in cases of gum infections and sore throats.
- It was commonly used topically for skin and eye infections.
- It is used for infectious diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infections, and vaginal infections.
- It is used as aremedy for laxative, tonic, alterative, detergent, opthalmicum, antiperiodic, aperient, diuretic, antiseptic, deobstruent.
- Excels for open sores, inflammations, eczema, ringworm, erysipelas, skin diseases, and nausea during pregnancy.
- In combination with skullcap and red pepper it will relieve and strengthen the heart.
- The Iroquois made a decoction of roots for treatment of whooping cough and diarrhea, liver trouble, fever, sour stomach and gas and as an emetic for biliousness. They also prepared a compound infusion with other roots for use as drops in the treatment of earache and as a wash for sore eyes.
- Mixed with bear’s grease it is said to have been used as an insect repellent.
- Native people also valued the yellow roots as a stain and dye.
Folklore and Myths
GOLDEN SEAL ROOT is a very rare and expensive botanical Curio widely thought to be a powerful Guardian and Healer and to provide Strength and Protection to those who possess it. We believe that GOLDEN SEAL ROOT is used by many people for the purpose of Warding off Evil and bringing Good Luck in Health Matters. Some folks tell us that they place GOLDEN SEAL ROOT in a white flannel bag along with Angelica Root and other Healing Herbs, anoint this conjure hand with 7-11 Holy Type Oil or Blessing Oil and sew it into the mattress of any loved one who suffers chronic pain, serious disease, or acute illness, for Protection and Healing.