What Is Goldenseal?

Can this traditional Native American remedy treat infections?

Goldenseal dried herb, extract, capsules, and powder

 Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a perennial herb that's native to the North American continent. One of the most popular herbs on the market today, it has a long history of use by Native Americans as a treatment for skin disorders, digestive problems, liver conditions, diarrhea, and eye irritation.

Goldenseal became part of early colonial medical care as the European settlers learned of it from the Iroquois and other tribes. It gained widespread popularity in the early 1800s due to its promotion by a herbalist named Samuel Thompson.

Thompson believed goldenseal to be a magical cure for many conditions. Demand for this herb dramatically increased until Thompson's system of medicine fell out of popularity. Over the years, goldenseal has gone through periods of popularity.

Goldenseal is available in nutritional supplement form and as a cream or ointment. Other names include yellow root, orange root, puccoon, ground raspberry, and wild Curcuma.

Goldenseal herbal tinctures can be used as a mouthwash or gargle for mouth sores and sore throats.

What Is Goldenseal Used For?

According to some alternative medicine practitioners, goldenseal is ​a bitter herb that stimulates the secretion and flow of bile, and can also be used as an expectorant. In alternative medicine, goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, including the mouth, sinuses, throat, intestines, stomach, urinary tract, and vagina.

Additional purported uses include:

  • Minor wound healing
  • Bladder infections
  • Fungal infections of the skin
  • Colds and flu
  • Sinus and chest congestion

Goldenseal became the center of a myth that it could mask a positive drug screen. This false idea was part of a novel written by pharmacist and author John Uri Lloyd.

Scientific support for the claim that goldenseal can treat infections (or any other condition) is lacking.

Possible Side Effects

Side effects of goldenseal include irritation of the mouth and throat, nausea, increased nervousness, and digestive problems. However, side effects are rare. The liquid forms of goldenseal are yellow-orange and can stain.


According to recommendations published in the journal American Family Physician, goldenseal should not be taken in combination with most over-the-counter and prescription medications.

One of goldenseal's chief constituents, berberine, has been reported to cause uterine contractions and increase levels of bilirubin, so this herb should not be used during pregnancy unless directed by a health professional.

The use of goldenseal has been associated with higher blood pressure. Those with heart conditions should only use goldenseal under the supervision of a health professional.

Goldenseal dried herb
 Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Dosage and Preparations

Goldenseal is sold in capsules, powder, tincture, and tea. There is no recommended daily allowance for goldenseal. There is not enough scientific evidence to support any standard dose of goldenseal, and product manufacturers vary widely in their labeling recommendations.

What to Look For

When selecting a brand of supplements, look for products that have been certified by Consumer Labs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much goldenseal do I need to take to pass a drug test?

    Despite its reputation as an agent that can mask illegal drugs in urine, there is no evidence that taking goldenseal prior to a drug test can result in a false negative.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Goldenseal.

  2. Wallace ED, Oberlies NH, Cech NB, Kellogg JJ. Detection of adulteration in Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal) dietary supplements via untargeted mass spectrometry-based metabolomics. Food Chem Toxicol. 2018;120:439-447. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2018.07.033

  3. Schwarcz J. Goldenseal. McGill University.

  4. Asher GN, Corbett AH, Hawke RL. Common herbal dietary supplement-drug interactions. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(2):101-107.

  5. McCarty, C.A., Berg, R.L., Rottscheit, C.M. The use of dietary supplements and their association with blood pressure in a large Midwestern cohortBMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:339. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-339

Additional Reading

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.