Get to Know Goldenseal

 In Herbal Medicine

Goldenseal is an herb in the buttercup family, known for its thick yellow root stalk. Its most popular use is to prevent colds. It can also help you fight colds off faster. Recently, I was in my local health food store and was browsing for goldenseal, of which I only found one type – whereas I found nearly twenty different types of echinacea, an herb with some similar uses. I understand that supply and demand can cause a fluctuation of available products, but it’s a shame that goldenseal isn’t more popular.


The active ingredient in goldenseal is Berberine, which is especially useful for fighting infections such as colds. It can also be used to fight pneumonia, digestive ails (like diarrhea, constipation, and peptic ulcers) and it has even been shown to successfully combat Urinary Tract Infections and internal bleeding! One more recently researched use is to take it for balancing blood sugar, and it’s very effective in doing so! One of my diabetic patients began using it along with her medication to help lower her blood sugar closer to normal levels, which is something she hadn’t been able to do with medication alone.


One of my favorite things about Chinese medicine is that rather than label something specific, it usually relates to the condition the body is in when you have a problem. One way this is done is through the conditions of “hot” or “cold”. Hot conditions include things like inflammation, swelling, redness, and fever.

A more serious example of a “hot” condition, besides something like a cold, would be Shingles. I use a combination of coptis – which is an herb very similar to goldenseal that also contains Berberine – and acupuncture to treat Shingles. This helps to ease the “heat” from the body.


Dosing for goldenseal varies for the ailment you’re treating. For a cold, you should start by taking it the day the cold begins. Make sure to take it multiple times a day for three to four days. Herbs, unlike most other modern medicines like antibiotics, require more frequent intake for the effects to take hold.


As wonderful as goldenseal is, there are a few caveats.

You should not take Berberine if you’re pregnant, also do not use on a newborn or a child without checking with a professional.

I advise not using it for too long a period at a time, as it does affect your bacterial microbiome. A good rule of thumb is to use it for a month and then check in with your integrative medicine practitioner before continuing use. It may be okay to take on an ongoing basis, but it may not. Remember, everyone is different so not all treatments work for all people. Listen to your body to make sure that you’re not having negative reactions, and let your practitioner know if there is any trace of a problem.


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