Goldenseal is a perennial North American native plant known for its ability to "enhance seasonal resistance."* Due to its popularity and the loss of habitat, goldenseal is listed in various states as threatened or endangered.
Botanical name: Hydrastis canadensis L.
The Plant: Goldenseal is a North American perennial plant that grows in rich, open shady woods where it is often found in patches on hillsides. The stems of goldenseal bear only one large, lobed leaf, growing up to a foot high. Those stems that are fertile produce a single, white flower above the leaf in the spring that ripens in the late summer into a bright red raspberry-like fruit. Goldenseal root was used extensively by Native Americans who lived in the areas where goldenseal grew prolifically, such as the Cherokee, both as a dye plant for clothing and skin and as a traditional remedy. Its uses were adopted by early pioneers, and in 1760 it was introduced to England. It made its way into the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1860. Demand for the yellow-colored roots was fueled by the enthusiastic acclaim given it by the Eclectics.
The roots and rhizomes are the parts of the goldenseal plant most often used, although the leaves are occasionally used. The rhizomes are horizontal and knotted with rootlets coming off from the sides and underneath of the root. The plant spreads slowly by means of these underground stems. The name goldenseal comes from the seal-like stem scars on the top of the goldenseal rhizome and the yellow color of the roots and rhizomes.
Constituents of Note: Hydrasine (1.5 to 4%) and berberine (1 to 6%), are the most significant alkaloids present in the root with lesser amounts of canadine, berberastine, candaline and hydrastinine present.
Goldenseal root has an earthy, bitter flavor and a bright yellow color.
Goldenseal is historically most associated with the mucous membranes with which it has an affinity. It was valued as a cooling, bitter tonic and used in small amounts to promote overall strengthening of tissues. It was also combined with other herbs in various bitters recipes. Today, goldenseal is best known for its ability to enhance seasonal resistance.* It can be used as an infusion (not very tasty), tincture or encapsulated.