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  • Hydrastis canadensis L.
  • Ranunculaceae
  • Buttercup family

Common Names

herbsEye balm
herbsEye root
herbsGround raspberry
herbsJaundice root
herbsOhio curcuma
herbsOrange root
herbsTumeric root
herbsYellow eye
herbsYellow Indian plant
herbsYellow paint root
herbsYellow puccoon
herbsYellow root

Parts Usually Used

Roots and rhizomes

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A perennial hairy plant with a knotted yellow rhizome. It has one long-stalked basal leaf and a single stem, 6-12 inches long, with two leaves near the top; leaves are large, wrinkled and palmately cleft. Usually 2 leaves on a forked branch; one leaf larger than the other; each rounded, with 5-7 lobes; double toothed. Solitary terminal flower has three whitish sepals which soon fall and many greenish-white stamens in clusters. Fruit is head of small red raspberry-like fruit. Goldenseal is difficult to cultivate.

The bright yellow roots of goldenseal are one of the most widely consumed products sold through health and natural food stores. The plant grows in colonies. Individual plants have 1-2 leaves. The flowers lack petals but have numerous stamens. Flowers April-May.

The wild plant is scarce now and is cultivated for medicinal uses.

Where Found

Originally found in rich woods from Vermont to Minnesota and south to Georgia and Arkansas, as far west as Nebraska. Wild plants are now rare or extinct in many places due to over-correcting.

Medicinal Properties

Laxative, tonic, alterative, antipyretic, antibacterial, detergent (an agent that cleanses boils, ulcers, stops bleeding, wounds, etc.), ophthalmicum (remedy for diseases of the eye), antiperiodic (prevents the periodic recurrence of attacks of a disease; as in malaria), aperient (mild or gentle laxative), diuretic, antiseptic, and deobstruent (removes obstructions by opening the natural passages or pores of the body).

Biochemical Information

Albumin, alkaloid berberine, biotin, calcium, candine, chlorine, choline, chologenic acid, fats, hydrastine, inositol, iron, lignin, manganese, volatile and essential oils, PABA, phosphorus, potassium, resin, starch, sugar, B complex, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Legends, Myths and Stories

The aborigines of northern Australia were the first recorded as using goldenseal as far as can be determined.

Also used as an insect repellent.

The knowledge of goldenseal's value came from the Native Americans by early trappers, hunters, and adventurers. It grows in small colonies in rich woods. The leaves of the forest trees provide a leaf mulch which blend over winter to provide renewed fertilizer for goldenseal.

Goldenseal was highly regarded by the Cherokee Indians as a bitter tonic and also as an external remedy for various complaints. Early writers credited the Cherokees with introducing the plant to the settlers. Later, the medical profession took an interest in the herb and many reports of its use began to appear in medical writings. In reference to goldenseal, 1820 given as a strong tea for indigestion. 1833, review listed heartburn and morning sickness.


The Cherokee Indians used goldenseal to treat ulcers and arrow wounds.

A bitter, cure-all type of herb that strengthens the immune system, acts as an antibiotic, has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, potentiates insulin, and cleanses the body. Good for colds, flu, sinusitis, hay fever, bronchitis, earache, food allergies, laxative, fungal infections such as candida, canker sores, glandular swelling, gum diseases, morning sickness, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and ulcers. Promotes the functioning capacity of the heart, the lymphatic and respiratory system, the liver, the spleen, the pancreas, and the colon. Good for stomach, prostate, syphilis, gonorrhea, jaundice, hepatitis, inflammation of the bladder, and vaginal disorders. Cleanses mucous membranes, regulates menses, relieves painful menses, improves digestion, counters infections. Also decreases uterine bleeding and stimulates the central nervous system.

Externally, helps eczema, ringworm, impetigo, irritated gums and pyorrhea.

An infusion can be used as an eyewash, as a mouthwash, to treat skin irritations, and sores, as vaginal douche for vaginitis, and to treat piles.

Formulas or Dosages

For external use, add a tsp. of root to 1/2 pint of water and use as a skin lotion.
Eyewash: Add 1 tsp. rootstock and 1 tsp. boric acid to 1 pint boiling water; stir, let cool, and pour off the liquid. Add 1 tsp. of the liquid to 1/2 cup water to make an eyewash.
Douche: dissolve 1 tsp. of powder in warm water. Douche every 3 days for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrient Content

Calcium, fats, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, starch, sugar, B complex, and vitamins A, C, and E.

How Sold

The powdered root can be purchased from herbal suppliers.
Capsules: 1 to 2, up to 3 times daily
Extract: mix 5 to 10 drops in liquid, up to 3 times daily.
Powder: 1 tsp. dissolved in 1 pint of boiling water, let stand until cool. Take 1 to 2 tsp. for 3 to 6 times per day.


Caution: Do not use during pregnancy. (It is a uterine stimulant)

Caution: Eating the fresh plant produces ulcerations and inflammation of mucous tissue. Do not use as eardrops if there is a chance the ear drum is perforated.

This herb can raise blood pressure; do not use if there is a history of high blood pressure. Do not use this herb if there is a condition of emaciation, neurasthenia, vertigo, or chronic debility.

Goldenseal has a negative impact on the good intestinal flora and has many of the contraindications of antibiotic drugs

Scientists have disproved the rumor that goldenseal masks morphine in urine tests. Long-term use may weaken the bacterial flora of the colon. When combined with gotu kola, goldenseal acts as a brain tonic.

Used for many ailments by the Native Americans, goldenseal has been called "one of the most wonderful remedies in the entire herb kingdom"; this claim has not been proven, and the plant is considered unsafe for internal consumption by many experts.

In large doses Goldenseal is very poisonous. Do not use longer than 2 weeks at a time.

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