Goldenseal root health benefits

Contents

Goldenseal

Background

  • Goldenseal is a plant native to North America. Overharvesting and loss of habitat have decreased the availability of wild goldenseal, but the plant is now grown commercially in the United States, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Historically, Native Americans used goldenseal for skin disorders, ulcers, fevers, and other conditions. European settlers adopted it as a medicinal plant, using it for a variety of conditions.
  • Currently, goldenseal is used as a dietary supplement for colds and other respiratory tract infections, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), ulcers, and digestive upsets such as diarrhea and constipation. It is also used as a mouthwash for sore gums and as an eyewash for eye inflammation, and it is applied to the skin for rashes and other skin problems.
  • The roots of goldenseal are dried and used to make teas, extracts, tablets, or capsules. Goldenseal is often combined with echinacea in commercial products.

How Much Do We Know?

  • Very little research has been done on the health effects of goldenseal.

What Have We Learned?

  • The scientific evidence does not support the use of goldenseal for any health-related purpose.
  • Berberine, a substance found in goldenseal, has been studied for heart failure, diarrhea, infections, and other health conditions. However, when people take goldenseal orally (by mouth), very little berberine may be absorbed by the body or enter the bloodstream, so study results on berberine may not apply to goldenseal.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is funding research to study how goldenseal may act against bacteria and to develop research-grade goldenseal for use in human studies.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • There isn’t much reliable information on the safety of goldenseal.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use goldenseal, and it should not be given to infants. Berberine can cause or worsen jaundice in newborn infants and could lead to a life-threatening problem called kernicterus.
  • Goldenseal contains substances that may change the way your body processes many medications. If you’re taking medication, consult your health care provider before using goldenseal.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States. Native Americans historically used goldenseal for various health concerns including skin diseases, ulcer symptoms and gonorrhea. Today’s traditional uses of goldenseal have broadened to include the natural treatment and prevention of colds, respiratory tract infections, allergies, eye infections, digestive issues, canker sores, vaginitis, urinary tract infections and even cancer. (1)

Goldenseal contains berberine, which has been been proven to be antimicrobial, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory and blood glucose–lowering. (2, 3, 4, 5) It has also gained popularity after a rumor spread that taking the herb can help block a positive test for illegal drugs. However, there is no scientific evidence that has proven this rumor to be correct. Yet, fortunately there is research to support the medicinal use of it.

What Is Goldenseal?

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also known as orange root, yellow root or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb belonging to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. It is a low, sprawling plant native to the rich, shady soil of the deciduous forests of North America growing from southern Quebec to northern Georgia and west to Missouri.

Due to over-harvesting, it is now mostly commercially grown on farms in the U.S. Goldenseal plants have hairy stems with five to seven jagged, lobed leaves and small white flowers that turn into raspberry-like red berries. The bitter tasting roots of the plant are bright yellow or brown, twisted and wrinkled.

The dried underground stems (rhizomes) and roots of the plant are used to make teas, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules as well as natural skin care products. Goldenseal’s potent properties are primarily due to the alkaloids berberine, canadine and hydrastine. These phytochemical alkaloids produce a powerful astringent effect on mucous membranes, reduce disease-causing inflammation and have antiseptic effects.

5 Health Benefits of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is an impressive herbal remedy with many health benefits:

1. Improves Digestive Issues

Goldenseal is an excellent digestive aid since it is very bitter, which stimulates the appetite, aids digestion and encourages bile secretion. It contains berberine, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat dysentery and infectious diarrhea. This is not surprising since berberine has shown antimicrobial activity against certain pathogens that cause bacterial diarrhea, including E. coli and V. cholera as shown by a randomized controlled clinical trial back in 1987 involving 165 adults with acute diarrhea due to those two bacterial offenders. (6)

Goldenseal can also be helpful to people experiencing small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) symptoms. Current conventional treatment of SIBO is limited to oral antibiotics with inconsistent success. The objective of a study published by Global Advances in Health and Medicine was to determine the remission rate of SIBO using an antibiotic versus an herbal remedy. Researchers found that the herbal treatment, which included berberine, worked just as well as antibiotic treatment and was equally safe. (7)

Some people also use it for stomach swelling (gastritis), peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids and intestinal gas. Another impressive study found that among several herbs tested in vitro, goldenseal extract was the most active in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori, a type of bacteria which can lead to gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer. (8)

As you can see, goldenseal may be able to help a wide range of problems when it comes to the gastrointestinal system.

2. Natural Antibiotic & Immune System Booster

Goldenseal is often found in herbal remedies for allergies, colds, and the flu because of its natural antibiotic and immune-boosting capabilities. Scientific research suggests that medicinal plants like goldenseal and echinacea may enhance immune function by increasing antigen-specific antibody production. A product containing goldenseal and echinacea is an awesome natural bronchitis remedy.

Additionally, research at the University of Texas-Houston Medical School has shown goldenseal’s medicinal effectiveness as an immune stimulant may be due to its ability to reduce the pro-inflammatory response, which indirectly leads to the limiting of clinical symptoms during infection. (9)

There haven’t been any clinical (human) studies to date, but goldenseal is also sometimes recommended to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are caused by bacterial overgrowth in the bladder’s interior walls. The berberine may actually prevent infection-causing bacteria from binding to urinary tract walls. (10)

3. Fights Cancer

According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the berberine in goldenseal has been found to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells in multiple studies. (11) For example, one in vitro study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that berberine inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells to a greater extent than doxorubicin (a chemotherapy drug). (12)

Berberine alkaloids have also been shown during in vivo studies to have potent cancer cell killing activity against tumor cells. In vivo research has also been performed on a series of human malignant brain tumor cells and rat brain tumor cells in which berberine was used alone at a dose of 150 mcg/ml and had an average cancer cell kill rate of 91 percent. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug carmustine had a cell kill rate of only 43 percent. The rats treated with berberine at 10 mg/kg had an 81 percent kill rate. (13)

Research will continue, but so far goldenseal showing some noteworthy anticancer abilities.

4. Aids Eye & Mouth Problems

Goldenseal is also commonly used as a mouthwash for sore throats, gum complaints, and canker sores (small ulcers in the mouth). For any of these concerns, a goldenseal mouth rinse can help by reducing inflammation and getting rid of any nasty bacteria.

You can purchase a mouthwash that already contains goldenseal or you can easily make some mouthwash at home. Simply make a cup of goldenseal tea and let it cool down before using it to rinse your mouth. Or you can add five drops of liquid goldenseal extract to eight ounces of warm water with a teaspoon of salt and mix well.

Goldenseal has been utilized as an eyewash for eye inflammation and eye infections like conjunctivitis or “pink eye.” Since the use of it in the eyes is somewhat controversial, consult a health care practitioner before using it in this way.

5. Boosts Heart Health

The cardiovascular effects of the berberine found in goldenseal suggest its possible clinical usefulness in the treatment of arrhythmias and/or heart failure. For this reason, goldenseal is believed to possibly be helpful for chronic congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart function in general. (14)

An animal model study published in the Journal of Lipid Research also demonstrates that the root extract is highly effective in regulation of the liver’s LDL (“bad” cholesterol) receptors and in reducing plasma cholesterol. Overall, the findings identified goldenseal as a natural LDL-lowering agent. (15)

In combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, goldenseal may help to lower cholesterol naturally and boost heart health.

Goldenseal History & Interesting Facts

Goldenseal gets its name from the golden-yellow scars that form on the base of the stem when it is broken. The scars resemble a gold wax letter seal, hence the name.

It has been said that the powers of goldenseal were first introduced to European settlers by Native Americans, who harvested its rhizomes and roots to treat a variety of health complaints including eye, skin and digestive issues. Native Americans also mixed the plant with bear grease for use as an insect repellent and they used the color-rich roots to dye clothing.

Goldenseal has become one of the top selling herbs of North America. It can be found as an active ingredient in many commercial or over-the-counter drugs in the form of elixirs, tablets, capsules, or suppositories. (16) Health products combining it with echinacea are very common and are created with immune system enhancement in mind.

Despite rumors, goldenseal will not cause a false-negative result for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or any other illegal drugs. The idea of using it to alter drug test results came from the novel “Stringtown on the Pike,” by the pharmacist John Uri Lloyd. However, in this book, goldenseal caused a false-positive for strychnine (a poison), not illegal drugs, in a murder case.

Possible Side Effects of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is considered safe for short-term use in adults at recommended dosages. Rare side effects may include nausea and/or vomiting. Discontinue use if any negative reactions like these occur. It is not meant for long-term use.

If you are currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications or have any health issues, check with your doctor before taking goldenseal. People with high blood pressure, liver disease, or heart disease should consult their health care provider before taking it.

Goldenseal is not suggested for use in children or infants. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also avoid using it.

Recommended Use of Goldenseal

Goldenseal can easily be found in tea or supplement form at your local health store or online. Depending on which product you purchase, make sure to read the label for each brand’s recommended dosage.

For the powdered root and rhizome, four to six grams per day in tablet or capsule form is sometimes recommended. For liquid herbal extracts, a typical recommended dosage is two milliliters (40 drops) in two ounces of water or juice three to five times per day.

Continuous use of this herbal remedy should not exceed three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use. You can also talk to your health care practitioner about what amount would be best for you and your particular health concern(s). It is best taken internally between meals.

For external use, there is no standard recommended dosage, but read the label of the topical product for instructions. Most likely, it will recommend that you use the product on the area of concern at least once a day.

Goldenseal Key Points

  • Goldenseal is one of the five top-selling herbal products in the United States.
  • The dried underground stems (rhizomes) and roots of the plant are used to make teas, liquid extracts, tablets, and capsules as well as natural skin care products
  • This herbal remedy inherently contains an active component called berberine, which research has shown can have numerous health benefits including: calming inflammation; boosting heart, digestive and immune health; and even fighting cancer.
  • Continuous use should not exceed 21 days or three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use.

Read Next: Use Antiviral Herbs to Boost Immune System & Fight Infection

11 Promising Benefits of Goldenseal

This little herb may not look powerful, but there are many health benefits of goldenseal, including the treatment and management of sinus conditions, bowel irregularity, nausea, sexually transmitted infections, inflammation, allergies, and fevers.

What is Goldenseal?

This perennial herb may commonly be called orangeroot or yellow puccoon in certain areas, but it is scientifically known as Hydrastis canadensis and belongs to the buttercup family. It is found in Canada and parts of the eastern United States but has also spread to some parts of Europe. Commonly identified by its knotty, yellow root, and purple stem, this plant has been an important part of traditional medicine in its native regions for thousands of years. The taste and smell of the herb are both considered very unpleasant or even acrid, yet it is considered a “super herb” by many, and the powdered rootstock is palatable. Native Americans used goldenseal root for different purposes, both culturally and medicinally, and also used its leaves and flowers. Modern research has supported the use of this herb for many ailments, given its rich chemical composition, including many alkaloids, which directly impact the body and its functions.

Did you know that goldenseal was used extensively by Native American tribes of North America, both as a medicine and as a coloring material at the time of the European colonization? Photo Credit:

As a multi-purpose remedy, you can get it in many different forms, including salves, tablets, tinctures, and bulk powder, as well as goldenseal root supplements. It is important that you follow all relevant instructions from your herbalist or natural medicine provider. Only small amounts of powdered or concentrated goldenseal rootstock are necessary for most treatments, and excessive use can negatively impact the nervous system, even resulting in convulsions or seizures.

Health Benefits of Goldenseal

Health benefits of goldenseal include:

Treats Bowel Irregularity

The most common remedies using goldenseal are for issues of the gut and gastrointestinal tract. If you suffer from ulcers or irregular bowel movements, the anti-inflammatory capacity of goldenseal can help you get your system back on track. Ulcers, constipation, bloating and cramping are not only annoying but can also hint at or lead to serious health conditions. Its rootstock can help keep your gut healthy and strong.

Reduces Sinus Conditions

The powdered rootstock of goldenseal was often used as a form of snuff, and it acted to reduce inflammation and infection in the sinus cavities. The strong antimicrobial properties of goldenseal rootstock helped people quickly relieve sinus conditions and prevent ongoing illness with the use of this remedy. Now, the snuff form of goldenseal rootstock isn’t as commonly used, but the powdered form can still be purchased in capsule form.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

If you suffer from topical inflammation or joint pain, then a salve or cream using goldenseal root powder can be a rapid and effective solution. A small amount of this powder is all you need and you can topically apply it on the skin. Capsules and supplements can also help with internal inflammation, including lowering blood pressure and soothing the gut.

Skin Care

The antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of goldenseal make it very effective for people suffering from skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne or dry skin. Skin infections come in many shapes and sizes, including bacterial, viral, and fungal, but topical salves and tinctures of goldenseal can quickly eliminate that inflammation and neutralize the infection.

Antiviral Activity

If you suffer from a weak immune system, adding goldenseal to your daily or weekly health regimen can boost your immunity and keep your respiratory and intestinal system clean. Prostate and vaginal infections can be particularly difficult and painful to treat, but it has long been used to treat sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea.

Eliminates Parasitic Issues

Parasitic worms are a major threat in places that don’t have access to clean water; the anthelmintic properties of goldenseal can help to starve the intestinal worms and cause them to die, where they will then be passed from the system via normal routes (it also acts as a laxative, making this elimination even easier).

Boosts Appetite

Increasing your appetite often means an increase in your metabolism, as your body is burning calories faster. Also, following an illness, injury or trauma, one’s appetite can often suffer, causing more physical and psychological repercussions. Goldenseal has been linked to boosting appetite for generations.

Prevents Allergy

Those who suffer from intense allergic reactions or are easily sent into a sneezing fit, as soon as spring comes around, may benefit from the anti-allergenic properties of goldenseal. The powder can reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes and prevent severe allergic reactions by calming the nervous system.

Reduces Fever

While a fever does signal that the body is fighting off an infection, ongoing fevers can exhaust the body, cause dehydration, and even damage the brain in extreme cases. Goldenseal can effectively lower fevers and reduce the strain on the body during prolonged illnesses.

Detoxifies the Body

Not only does goldenseal act as a laxative in many cases, but it is also a hepatic substance, meaning that it helps to clean out the blood and detoxify the body. The liver and kidneys do a whole lot of work for us and anything to make their jobs a bit easier is a good idea. The hepatic nature of goldenseal can help with circulation and reduce your risk of chronic blood-borne disease.

How Much Goldenseal To Take?

There is no definite answer to this question as all the doses depend on your health condition. Also, there is not enough research for pregnant or breastfeeding women to take it. The best way to find out is to consult with your doctor.

Word of Caution: Goldenseal powder in its pure form is very strong and only very small amounts are needed for effective remedies. Excess use can cause nervous system issues, convulsions, seizures, and mental distress. Always follow your doctor or herbalist’s instructions for use, and consult a medical professional before adding any new, powerful herbal remedies to your health regimen.

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by Dawn Combs June 4, 2014

At one time, the woods in my home state of Ohio were the most prolific growing grounds for goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). In 1905, the annual harvested supply was recorded at 200,000 to 300,000 pounds. Unfortunately, while goldenseal continues to be a popular herb, it’s now in danger of being harvested out of existence. This week, I visited the United Plant Savers Goldenseal Sanctuary in Rutland, Ohio, and sat in the midst of an amazing stand of wild goldenseal. What a treat!

Why We Love Goldenseal


Photo by Dawn Combs

Goldenseal has been an important herb in the Americas for as long as there have been people here. Its bright-yellow root was an important dye plant and medicine for the Native Americans. In our house, it’s our favorite infection fighter. It has a strong affinity for the mucus membranes, so we make sure to have a supply of tincture in stock during cold and flu season.

We grow a couple plants in the only spot of shade on our property. If it’s your goal like us to grow as much of your medicine as you can, you’ll know that a couple plants won’t do it. So how do you grow a shade loving, forest dweller on a property that is wide open to the sun?

Mimicking Forest Shade


Photo by Dawn Combs

Some folks are able to cultivate in existing woods—a great option if it’s available. Over time, large stands of forest-grown goldenseal needs to be thinned—just like your iris bed—or they eventually compete and choke themselves out. In this case, it can be helpful to partner with someone harvesting sustainably.

When these forested areas are not available to you, it is best to grow goldenseal beds under 47- to 63-percent shade. This year we’ll be putting in a goldenseal garden under shade cloth, like some of the big producers of goldenseal do. Shade cloth is readily available through any greenhouse or farming equipment supplier. We’ll be adding 6-foot posts to an existing area of our raised-bed garden. By keeping the shade cloth suspended just above head height, it will be easy to tend the ground.

Goldenseal needs to be kept weed-free as it does not compete well. Mulching is essential, though it should be done with bark mulch. Straw tends to trap too much moisture and inevitably the crowns of the plants rot or attract slugs.

In For the Long Haul
Planting goldenseal is a long-term proposition. The roots are the part you harvest, and they won’t be ready for four to six years. In the meantime, it’s possible to get some of the same benefits by using the leaves.

Take only one leaf from each plant so that it can still perform photosynthesis. When the plants are fully grown, think again about how you would maintain an iris bed. Select plants to harvest in a way that thins the bed and keeps it from becoming too congested. It’s important that we give sanctuary to these plants that are threatened, but it is equally important that we continue to partner with them to maintain our health. The extra work and commitment it takes to provide space for these threatened species and then harvest them sustainably is well worth it.

Our shade cloth beds will provide a home for a stand of goldenseal starting this year, but it will also be a place for many more of the woodland favorites that I would otherwise have to buy. As many of these plants are threatened, it is heartening to know that I can grow my own supply and not impact our wild populations as I draw on them to keep my family healthy.

Get more help growing and harvesting natural medicines:

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  • Attract Monarchs with These Medicinal Flowers
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” More of the Prescription Gardener”

What Is Goldenseal: How To Grow Your Goldenseal Plants

What is goldenseal and what are the health benefits of goldenseal? This native plant, which grows wild across much of the shady deciduous forestlands of the eastern half of the United States, has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is an endangered species, largely due to overharvesting. Removing the plant from the wild is illegal in many states, but growing goldenseal plants in your garden isn’t difficult. Read on to learn more.

What are the Health Benefits of Goldenseal?

Native Americans used goldenseal to treat a variety of conditions, including fevers, ulcers and skin disorders. Today, the herb is often used to treat colds, nasal congestion and respiratory ailments, frequently in combination with Echinacea.

Goldenseal is also taken to relieve tummy complaints such as ulcers, diarrhea and constipation, as well as a variety of skin conditions and rashes. An eyewash made of goldenseal is believed to help eye infections, and a mouthwash is used for painful gums.

Little research has been

done to prove any health claims and there is little evidence that goldenseal actually works; however, herbalists continue to stand by the health benefits of goldenseal.

How to Grow Goldenseal

Goldenseal is easy to propagate from pieces of rhizome, which you can dig from an established plant. You may also be able to purchase starts from a garden center or greenhouse that specializes in herbs or native plants.

You can also plant seeds or root cuttings, but the process takes longer and isn’t always dependable. Again, please avoid harvesting wild plants.

Goldenseal thrives in rich, well-drained soil. Add compost or other organic material if your soil doesn’t drain well, as goldenseal won’t tolerate wet feet. Avoid open areas. An ideal location is one that replicates the plant’s natural environment, such as a shady place under hardwood trees.

Plant rhizomes just under the surface of prepared soil, with 6 to 12 inches between each rhizome.

Goldenseal Plant Care

Water goldenseal as needed until the plant is well established, but don’t allow the soil to become soggy. Once established, goldenseal is relatively drought tolerant but benefits from weekly irrigation during warm, dry weather. Withhold water curing the winter months, unless the weather is abnormally dry.

Goldenseal plant care requires careful weed control until the plant is well established. Cover the planting area with a thick layer of mulch in autumn, then remove all but 1 or 2 inches in early spring. Although goldenseal tends to be drought tolerant, slugscan be a problem. If this is the case, limit mulch to 3 inches or less.

Harvest green goldenseal leaves in fall. Harvest the roots in autumn after the plant goes dormant.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

Goldenseal Herb Rare, But Can Be Cultivated for Profit and Health

Harvesting goldenseal

Planted as seeds or seedlings, most goldenseal must grow for 3 to 5 years (in the northern-most states) before yielding large, potent rootstock. The plant is perennial. This may seem extreme, but the older plants are also valuable as seed producers. The long growing time is not lost since the seeds can be collected and sold or used as a source of free planting stock to expand your enterprise or replant harvested beds. Mature plants produce seeds annually.

Fortunately for the grower, the harvest of goldenseal is a three-pronged (pun intended) endeavor since the entire plant – tops (stems and leaves), seeds and rootstock – is saleable.

The first items to be harvested are the non-seed-bearing stems about a month after emergence. They should be collected between July 1 and August 1. Buyers are looking for a lush, dark green color and product that has been dried properly. Yellow or brown stems and moldy leaves are not saleable. Don’t attempt to ship or sell this type of inferior merchandise.

Next, mature seed heads will begin to ripen, looking very much like a red raspberry, around mid-July. When scarlet, they should be collected and stratified or sown in a new planting bed. The most valuable part of the plant is the root. Roots should be dug from large, mature plants at age 3 to 5 years. If in doubt, sample digs may be made, and any small rooted plants put back in the ground for another season’s growth.

Digging the rootstock should start around September 1. Tops will begin to yellow as dormancy progresses. The dormancy process increases the weight of the roots since saponins are draining from the leaves into the roots and increasing their value and potency. After collection, the tops should be snipped from the roots and any seed heads removed and collected before washing the rootstock. A thorough washing of the roots to separate dirt and forest debris must be done prior to drying. Failure to do this will result in a lower price for your roots since buyers are averse to paying for unneeded weight.

Drying and packing

Before drying, make a final inspection for cleanliness. Both goldenseal tops and roots should be dried in the shade under low humidity conditions, if possible. For best results, 3-by-6-feet drying screens made of hardware cloth allow air circulation above and below the product and will help expedite drying time. Depending on conditions, tops will take from five to seven days to dry, and roots will take a week to 10 days. Shriveled, crackly tops indicate drying is complete. Roots will snap clean and crisp when dry. The crop may now be packed for storage or shipment.

It is important that your product be dry before packing. If not, mildew will ruin it. After all this work, now is not the time to rush things. If a few more days of drying time is needed, so be it.

After the product is dry, place it in cardboard boxes for weighing. Make sure you record the weight of the empty container first, however. Fill your containers with product and deduct the weight of the container. Record this amount. The value of goldenseal products is based on weight, cleanliness and quality. Roots should be packed tightly, while tops can be crammed for shipment. Cramming will not decrease the value of the tops. Shipping costs are high, and it is less expensive to ship larger containers than many small ones. The U.S. Postal Service provides excellent shipping services for your goldenseal products.

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Markets and prices

Goldenseal is an easily marketable product. Buyers are located throughout the Midwest. Some will actively compete to give growers the best price. Be sure to check several sources before selling. Don’t be afraid to submit a bid for your product that is above market price. Once committed to a price, don’t renege on your promises. If you treat buyers with fairness and supply a quality, clean product, you can develop a reputation that will command high prices and respect for your products. This should be your goal.

As an agricultural product, goldenseal prices are set by supply and demand (or anticipated supply and demand). During the last 10 years, prices for dried roots have ranged from a low of $10 per pound to a high of $45 per pound. Dried tops have fetched $4 per pound to $12 per pound during the same time period. The medicinal plant markets are cyclical and seem to experience low prices every three to five years. We are now emerging from such a time frame.

The largest buyers of goldenseal products are the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies. They deal in quantities of 1,000 pounds or more, so don’t look to be direct-selling to them any time soon. Large quantities of goldenseal are also exported to the Far East via Asian buyers and brokers. Again, all buyers are interested in potent, clean, quality products.

Growing goldenseal is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It can be grown as a hobby or as a commercial venture with high profit potential. Both methods help re-introduce these special plants to their native, natural habitat.

I enjoy the peace and tranquility of being in the forest and producing a renewable resource that helps others … harvesting the plant with roots of gold.

Steve and Debra Edwards own and operate Aspen Hill Farms in Boyne City, Michigan, producing meat rabbits, poultry, medicinal plants and vegetables. Products are processed and direct-marketed to area resorts and restaurants. In 2003, the farms’ rabbit meat was used in an award-winning recipe from Food and Wine magazine.

How to Make a Profit Selling Goldenseal

Goldenseal is worth considerably less than wild ginseng, but it’s much easier to harvest in quantity, making it a more dependable cash crop for the forager. It brings a steady, if not spectacular, price because of demand from herbal and medical markets for the root and, to a lesser degree, the leaves.

How much is Goldenseal Worth?

A half hour of digging may produce a couple of pounds, which sells for as much as $25 a pound after drying. Rule of thumb is that three pounds of wet root will drop to one pound when dried.

Where to Find Goldenseal

Goldenseal grows wild throughout the eastern United States, in shady wooded areas with loose, rich, moist soil. Hillsides provide the drainage the plants prefer.

Finding harvestable quantities pretty much comes down to simply finding the plant, because it tends to grow in significant patches. The roots are small, but I have dug root as big around as my thumb where several plants came off the same root system.

What Time of Year to Harvest Goldenseal

Goldenseal may be harvested at any time of year, and may be found above ground from spring though fall (perhaps even into November during a wet year). The plants are easily identified by the distinctive leaves and golden hue of the cut root. From April to May, a single white-green flower may appear on a short stalk above those distinctive leaves.

The main root is golden on the inside with fine hair roots on the outside. After digging, bits of hair root remain in the ground to propagate new growth. There is no conservation reason to wait for berries to ripen before harvest, as we do with ginseng. But I would wait until July for root that will dry at the fullest weight.

Goldenseal

How to Harvest Goldenseal

Harvesting Goldenseal does not require much equipment. I bring a spade or a smaller camp shovel and grocery bags to carry home what I dig.

Goldenseal does not grow deeply in the ground. However, you may find roots entwined with tree root. Do not waste too much time or energy digging these out. Other nearby roots will be easier to get.

Before digging a root, simply break off the stem, with the leaves attached, and toss it into a separate bag. The leaves weigh next to nothing, but there’s no reason to leave a sellable product on the ground.

Preparing Goldenseal for Sale

Buyers only want clean, dry goldenseal. To clean roots, I soak them in a five-gallon bucket of water for ten minutes. Then I spread them on a concrete drive and use a garden hose to spray off the mud. There’s no need to wash the leaves. Just shake the leaves to remove any dust.

To dry the root, I spread it on old window screens on top of sawhorses, and leave it out in the sunlight. In the heat of summer, root may dry in as little as 24 hours. Feel the thickest part of the root to see if it still squishes. If it does, leave it on the drying rack until it’s hard to the pinch. I just spread the leaves on the concrete and turn them once a day. They will be brittle when dry. Do not stack leaves or roots on top of one another. This can promote rot and mold.

Where to Sell Goldenseal

Unlike agricultural crops, there is not a set market price with buyers standing in line. To locate potential buyers, rural newspapers and even the yellow pages may be worth a look.

You may sell at any time of year, but I recommend waiting until October. My experience has been that the price goes up in the fall. I last sold dried root and leaves for $23 and $2, respectively.

Be Mindful of Local Regulations

While wild goldenseal is still plentiful many places, harvest from the wild is regulated by state law. Before harvesting goldenseal or any wild plant, check first with the state DNR to make sure what you plan to dig is legal, when and where you plan to do it. Also be sure to secure permission from the landowner.

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After 12 years of working the rich loam near Mount St. Helens, Roger Sego has found a golden key to organic farming success: a medicinal herb called

He’s succeeded in growing the medicinal herb while the rush to grow such herbs, especially ginseng, has faded nationally. Farmers glutted the market a few years ago, driving the price down. Where once there were 50 medicinal herb farms in Clark County, now there are three.

The biggest success is

organic goldenseal. It’s still worth $40 a pound or more, or several hundred thousand dollars a year to Sego.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is traditionally found in the wild and used to treat digestive problems, skin problems, diarrhea and liver conditions. It is marketed as a blood purifier and also used for colds and sore throats. Demand for the commercially and organically grown herb has grown substantially as less has been picked by wild crafters working in the forests.

Sego, 62, a former insurance executive, has joined his wife, Kathleen, to spend their retirement growing goldenseal along with organic

, echinacea angustifolia and

on a 55-acre former cattle ranch, five miles east of La Center.

is one of two organic goldenseal growers in North America; the other is in Ontario, Canada, Sego said. He sells his product to companies that make it into powder, capsules and tinctures. It’s sold in health food stores.

The Segos hit upon the notion of growing medicinal herbs in 1998. Like ginkgo, ginseng is an herb used to improve memory and fight stress and fatigue; it can be mixed into food such as casseroles. Echinacea is promoted as a remedy to shorten or lessen the symptoms of colds.

After Roger Sego picked up a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University and worked for a time selling organic farm products, the couple scouted for a place with rich soil and turned the La Center cattle ranch into an organic herb farm. In a few years, they found there wasn’t any profit to be made in echinacea and ginkgo, and they shifted their concentration to ginseng. When that market faltered, they switched mainly to goldenseal.

“It’s turned out as well, if not better than we had anticipated,” Sego said. “We’re adding a new facility.”

The new building will include a state-of-the-art 6-foot-by-40-foot stainless steel washer and dryer to treat harvested goldenseal and ginseng root, which six to eight workers now process entirely by hand.

“It’ll be like a little Jacuzzi, and that will enable us to do an acre in less than a week where it used to take us two months,” he said.

The Segos have 11 acres under cultivation, and each herb crop grows for four years before harvest. Workers harvest three acres a season, but the Segos hope to step that up to four acres soon. The farm’s other 44 acres are in pasture, where workers raise some of their own produce and chickens. Goats will be added in the near future.

With goldenseal bringing $40 to $50 a pound, and the yield is 1,500 to 2,000 pounds an acre — $60,000 to $100,000. Times three, that makes a solid profit. The overseas market that Sego is working to develop, from the Czech Republic to Great Britain, will bring $70 to $80 a pound, he said.

The other herbs are much less profitable. Gingko will bring no profit, he said. It goes for about $6 to $9 a pound.

Echinacea sells for about $14, and used to be $24, Sego said.

“The break-even is about $10 a pound.” So there is a little profit margin for that herb.

The ginseng market appears to be making a comeback, he said.

“I’m being told that people are desperate for organic ginseng and it will bring between $50 to $90 a pound, and if we get 500 pounds to the acre, then it will be a little bonus for the system.”

Charles Brun, horticulturist for Washington State University and Clark County, said the Segos are likely to remain one of the few financial success stories in the medicinal herb market.

Sego’s Herb Farm

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Roger Sego welcomes visitors to the farm by appointment only.

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360-263-7757 or

“It costs $20,000 an acre just to set up to grow ginseng,” he said. It’s simply too expensive for farmers wanting to get started now.

The Segos got into the market at the right time, and went organic, and now their front-end expenses are mostly paid, Sego said. Goldenseal seals the deal, he said.

Of course, he also plans to keep his full-time job buying and selling textbooks, and Kathleen Sego also works full time giving financial advice to startup companies. The paychecks add to their security.

“We don’t plan to retire,” he said. “The guys here run the farm,” he said. “I come out here on weekends, and this is fun for me.”

He admitted it also adds to the bottom line.

–Dean Baker, Special to The Oregonian

Overall At-Risk Score: 50

Latin Name:

Hydrastis canadensis (L.)¹

Common Name:

Goldenseal; Yellow Root, Orangeroot¹

Family:

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)¹

Geographic Region:

Found in most of the Easter Hardwood regions: AL, AR, CT, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV¹

Habitat:

Mid- to Late-Successional hardwood forests; requires full-part shade in moist, well drained soil with deep leaf litter²

Lifespan:

Perennial; long lived rootstock

Reproduction:

Each individual produces a solitary flower in late spring-early summer, ripening into fleshy red fruit through the summer months². Each fruit contains anywhere from 10-30 viable seeds³. Seeds are often spread by means of birds.

Ability to withstand disturbance and over harvest:

This long lived, but slow growing native herb has had a steady decline in population size and numbers. This is due to historic and continued loss of quality habitat, and a recent boom in its market demand⁴.

Status of Endangered/Threatened(by state):

Globally, the IUCN lists H. canadensis as “vulnerable”⁶ due to the unregulated wild harvest and poaching of this medicinal root⁴.
Endangered in CT, GA, MA, MN, NJ, NC,VT; Threatened or of Special Concern in MD, MI, NY, PA, TN¹.

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

The alkaloid-rich rhizomes of H. canadensis are the most sought after and harvested part of the plant. Berberine is the most active and abundant alkaloid in the bright-yellow rootstock of this plant⁷.

Vulnerability of habitat/changes of habitat quality and availability:

This plant is endemic to older stands of forest, relying on open understory and heavy leaf litter. This means the historic and continued loss of the Eastern Hardwood Forest is a leading cause of this species decline. Studies have shown increase in paths/trails have small impacts on the available growing space for populations, but increases in edge habitat has significant impact on H. canadensis populations⁵.

Demand and Relative Acreage Needed to Meet Demand:

Excluding the damage caused by soil disturbance and foot traffic of the harvesters: Removing Goldenseal from the wilderness removes their fruits from the seasonal forage cycles for insects and birds.

Recommendations for industrial and home use:

Due to the sharp decline in Goldenseal populations after the herbal medicine boom of the late 1990’s, it’s incredibly important for commercial and private harvest be restricted to cultivated patches of Goldenseal. Another alternative is using Japanese Barberry(Berberis thunbergii), a non native invasive species in North America, which is also rich in the sought-after berberine alkaloid. Moving away from Goldenseal collection to harvesting B. thunbergii will bring about two very positive outcomes: 1) preventing further depletion of our at-risk native Goldenseal, and 2) removing the virulent invasive Japanese Barberry from our North American understory.

Goldenseal

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is an herbaceous perennial woodland plant that is highly valued for its many herbal medicinal uses. The dried roots have been used for the treatment of eye, skin, and digestive disorders. Goldenseal has also been marketed as an immune system stimulant. Leaves and stems have commercial value when harvested while still green. Goldenseal’s natural range, which includes Kentucky, is similar to that of ginseng.

Marketing

Kentucky is a major harvester of wild goldenseal. Unfortunately, a decline in native populations has occurred as demand and harvesting pressure has increased. Like ginseng, goldenseal is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement. As such, international trade of goldenseal is closely controlled to prevent over-exploitation that could lead to further endangering the species. Unlike ginseng, the market does not distinguish between wild and cultivated goldenseal. Because roots bring the same price regardless of production method, goldenseal is a good candidate for cultivation.

Production

Goldenseal is often grown under the same natural conditions or shade structures as ginseng. In fact, because of the similarity of cultural requirements, goldenseal makes the ideal succession crop for ginseng growers.

Cultivated plants must be provided with growing conditions similar to those present in wild sites. This includes moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter. There have not been enough replicated studies to make definitive fertilizer recommendations; however, based on a few studies and grower experiences on a high organic matter soil, goldenseal may benefit from a light fertilization of a balanced fertilizer like 5-5-5 when growth begins in the spring. Whole and/or shredded leaves, bark chips, or a bark and sawdust mix may be used as mulch. Goldenseal is more tolerant of light than ginseng and prefers 60% to 75% shade. Plants grow best in a slightly acid soil (6.0 to 7.0) but will die out if the pH level drops below 5.5.

See the full crop profile and other resources below:

Goldenseal

Organic Root

DAYS TO GERMINATION: N/A.
SOWING: Transplant (recommended): Any piece with a bud or eye and a few strands of fibrous roots should produce a plant. Plant spacing depends on how long you intend to leave plants in the ground before harvesting. If you intend to harvest after three years of growth, space the plants 6″ apart in rows that are 8″ apart; after four years, plant 8″ apart in rows that are 8″ apart; or more than four years, plant 8″ apart in rows that are 10″ apart. Cover the rootstock with 2″ of soil. Keep well-weeded, but take care in weeding around young plants to avoid disturbing the roots. Once goldenseal is well established, apply mulch to prevent weed growth.
LIGHT PREFERENCE: Part Shade/Shade. Goldenseal grows best in its natural habitat under a hardwood canopy with at least 75% shade, comprised preferably of oak, maple, sycamore, or basswood trees.
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Goldenseal prefers a light loam soil that has high humus content and a pH of 5.5-6.5. Good drainage is critical to ensure healthy goldenseal plants.
PLANT HEIGHT: 12″.
PLANT SPACING: 6-8″.
HARDINESS ZONES: Zones 5-8.
HARVEST: Plants grown from root divisions may be harvested after three to five years of growth. Harvest roots in the fall (September or October) after the tops have died back. For full cultural information, see tech sheet on Goldenseal Production from Roots.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Hydrastis canadensis

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