Native to North America, goldenseal is a flowering perennial that gets its name from its bulbous yellow and brown roots. The plant has long been used as a natural remedy for treating wounds, digestive issues, eye infections, fevers, and other ailments. While further research on the efficacy and long-term safety of goldenseal is needed, science has uncovered some intriguing possible benefits
Goldenseal, tested in laboratory cell cultures, has been found to inhibit the growth of certain harmful bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Fusobacterium nucleatum. The plant’s antimicrobial activity is largely attributed to its flavonoids and alkaloids, including berberine and hydrastinine. Goldenseal has been particularly investigated for use in battling certain oral bacteria, including those that cause periodontitis—a severe gum infection that can cause tooth loss.
Goldenseal’s berberine content has been linked to the plant’s anti-inflammatory properties. Berberine has been shown to decrease the body’s inflammatory responses that can cause chronic inflammation and lead to a wide range of diseases. As such, goldenseal is being investigated for use in fighting a range of conditions linked to ongoing inflammation, including chronic respiratory diseases. In animal studies, berberine’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to improve the lung tissue in rats to help battle chronic lung conditions.
Berberine, contained in goldenseal, has antioxidant effects that scavenge and neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative stress in the body and lead to cellular damage. Oxidative stress has been linked to the chronic inflammation that can lead to diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and macular degeneration.
Goldenseal extract has been shown to provide effects that lower blood sugar levels to help prevent insulin resistance and diabetes, largely thanks to the plant’s berberine content. Berberine’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities may also help to battle the development of diabetes and insulin resistance. Still, more scientific studies are needed to fully understand berberine’s potential to help treat and prevent diabetes.
Goldenseal extract and the berberine it contains have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, with berberine having been found to lower lipid levels in several randomized clinical trials. One way berberine is believed to help lower blood cholesterol is by impeding the absorption in the intestine. Evidence suggests that berberine could even be used in the future as an alternative for patients who are intolerant to statins.
Goldenseal extract containing berberine has shown the potential to provide protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. Berberine’s anti-inflammatory effects are believed to be largely responsible for its demonstrated neuroprotective characteristics, though further investigation is still needed to determine its efficacy and safety for therapeutic use.
Goldenseal extract may be able to protect the health of your heart with its anti-inflammatory properties. Early clinical evidence suggests that the berberine contained in goldenseal can work to improve vascular health by reducing inflammation in the thin membrane that lines your heart and blood vessels, known as the endothelium.
The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of goldenseal—particularly the berberine it contains—could be useful in treating some gastrointestinal issues caused by microbes, such as bacterial diarrhea and gastritis, as well as some gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders One recent meta-study found that patients with infectious diarrhea who received berberine in addition to antibiotics had better outcomes and shorter hospitalization periods than those who received antibiotics alone.
In laboratory cell cultures, goldenseal has been found to help prevent some cancer cells from multiplying. Studies have also shown berberine’s ability to inhibit intestinal tumors in mice. Still, far more research is needed to prove goldenseal’s efficacy in preventing or treating cancer in humans.
Goldenseal may be a useful tool in combating liver damage in certain scenarios. One study on rats showed that goldenseal supplementation was effective in helping to repair liver damage resulting from high doses of acetaminophen. The study showed that 300 mg/kg (equivalent to a 50mg/kg dose in humans) yielded the most effective results. Further, the study showed goldenseal to be more effective at protecting the liver than silymarin—the active ingredient in milk thistle.