Golden Seal Root Extract

Goldenseal, also known as Hydrastis Canadensis, is a herb native to eastern North America. Goldenseal preparations are well known in the international market and are one of the bestselling botanical dietary supplements.1 2

The roots and leaves of Goldenseal have been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, especially those involving infections or inflammation such as gastrointestinal disturbances, urinary disorders, hemorrhage, inflammation, and various infections. Goldenseal is often combined with Echinacea (flowering plants in the daisy family) to treat common cold or upper respiratory tract infections.3-6

The main components of Goldenseal include the alkaloids hydrastine, berberine, and canadine. These alkaloids are responsible for the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are responsible for the numerous health benefits.7

One of the main applications of Goldenseal is for the prevention and treatment of skin disorders. Goldenseal is applied to the skin to treat rashes, ulcers, wound infections, itching, eczema, acne, dandruff, ringworm, herpes blisters, and cold sores. It is also used as a mouthwash for sore gums and mouth.8


Berberine, a key constituent of Goldenseal, possesses a unique mechanism of antiviral action and may serve as a potential antiherpetic agent. Berberine shows antiviral activity against Herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 and 2 by modulating host cell activation of the signaling pathways such as NF-kB and MAPK pathway.9

A study by Song et al. investigated the antiviral effect of berberine against HSV infection. The effect of berberine on the various steps of the viral replication cycle was investigated by using a time-of-drug addition assay. The study found that berberine significantly inhibited HSV-induced JNK and NF-κB activation, which, in turn, may inhibit HSV replication. Berberine acted at the early stage of the HSV replication cycle, between viral attachment/entry and genomic DNA replication.10

Goldenseal has healing properties that can be used for minor skin wounds. When applied topically, it is thought to possess slight antiseptic, astringent, and hemostatic qualities. Goldenseal’s skin healing properties are due to the presence of berberine, canadine, and hydrastine.14

Studies have confirmed the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of berberine. The mechanism of such activities is complex involving multiple cellular kinases and signaling pathways such as amp-activated protein kinases (AMPK), mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor-2 pathway, and the NF-κB pathway. Berberine is also known to stimulate the immune system.14

In a mouse model, berberine was capable of stimulating the production of interleukin-12 (IL-12), indicating that it may be useful in treating allergic diseases.15

Goldenseal is well known for its antiseptic qualities. Crude extracts and isolated compounds from Goldenseal have demonstrated antibacterial activity in-vitro and in clinical trials. The antibacterial activity of Goldenseal is due to the presence of alkaloids, such as beta-hydrastine and berberine.9

Berberine has shown activity against various gram-positive bacteria. Other compounds that have demonstrated biological activity include 6-desmethyl sideroxylon, sideroxylon, and 8-desmethyl sideroxylon. These compounds, known as flavonoids, were shown to enhance the antimicrobial activity of alkaloids like berberine. Flavonoids work by inhibiting bacterial efflux pumps, which allow berberine to accumulate in bacterial cells and show its action.11,12

Leaf extracts of Goldenseal were found to have antimicrobial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics. Goldenseal reduces the synthesis of alpha-toxin production from Staphylococcus aureus preventing damage to human skin keratinocytes.13

  1. Ettefagh KA, Burns JT, Junio HA, et al. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) extracts synergistically enhance the antibacterial activity of berberine via efflux pump inhibition. Planta Med. 2011;77(8):835-840.
  2. Sinclair A, Catling PM. Cultivating the increasingly popular medicinal plant, Goldenseal: review and update. Am J Alternative Agr. 2001;16:131–140.
  3. Budzinski JW, Foster BC, Vandenhoek S, et al. An in vitro evaluation of human cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibition by selected commercial herbal extracts and tinctures. Phytomedicine. 2000;7:273–82.
  4. Foster BC, Vandenhoek S, Hana J, et al. In vitro inhibition of human cytochrome P450-mediated metabolism of marker substrates by natural products. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:334–42.
  5. Chatterjee P, Franklin MR. Human cytochrome p450 inhibition and metabolic-intermediate complex formation by goldenseal extract and its methylenedioxyphenyl components. Drug Metab Dispos. 2003;31:1391–7.
  6. Gurley BJ, Swain A, Hubbard MA, et al. Clinical assessment of CYP2D6-mediated herb-drug interactions in humans: Effects of milk thistle, black cohosh, goldenseal, kava kava, St.John’s wort, and Echinacea. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008;52:755–63.
  7. Raner GM, Cornelious S, Moulick K, et al. Effects of herbal products and their constituents on human cytochrome P450(2E1) activity. Food Chem Toxicol.2007;45:2359–65.
  8. University of Rochester Medical Center. Available at: Accessed on: 08Jan2021.
  9. Furhad S, Bokhari AA. Herbal Supplements. [Updated 2020 Apr 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available at: Accessed on: 08Jan2021.
  10. Song S, Qiu M, Chu Y, et al. Downregulation of cellular c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase and NF-κB activation by berberine may result in inhibition of herpes simplex virus replication. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2014;58(9):5068-5078.
  11. Gupta PK, Barone G, Gurley BJ, et al. Hydrastine pharmacokinetics and metabolism after a single oral dose of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) to humans. Drug Metab Dispos.2015 Apr;43(4):534-52. 
  12. Leyte-Lugo M, Britton ER, Foil DH, et al. Secondary Metabolites from the Leaves of the Medicinal Plant Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Phytochem Lett. 2017;20:54-60.
  13. Cech NB, Junio HA, Ackermann LW, et al. Quorum quenching and antimicrobial activity of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Planta Med. 2012;78(14):1556-1561.
  14. Dasgupta A. Antiinflammatory Herbal Supplements. Available at: Accessed on: 08Jan2021.
  15. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Some Drugs and Herbal Products. Lyon (FR): International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2016. (IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, No. 108.) 1, Exposure Data. Available from:

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