Herbal medicine is growing in popularity as more people seek natural solutions to their health problems. One herb that’s recently grown in demand and popularity is goldenseal. Also known as Orangeroot, this herb is a member of the buttercup family and is used to treat a variety of conditions such as colds, canker sores, sinus infections, eye infections, infections of the vaginal tract, and diarrhea. Are goldenseal’s medicinal effects real? More importantly, what are the side effects of goldenseal use?
Goldenseal Medicinal Effects
The active ingredients thought to be responsible for goldenseal’s effects are a group of alkaloid compounds, the most important of which is berberine. Studies have shown that berberine has weak antibiotic activity and can inhibit the growth of a variety of bacteria and fungi, at least in a laboratory setting. It’s this effect of goldenseal that has made it a popular treatment for diarrhea, respiratory, and sinus infections. Unfortunately, few studies have been carried out to demonstrate the effectiveness of the whole goldenseal herb in treating these conditions. The limiting factor may be the low levels of berberine present in the goldenseal plant. One study did demonstrate that isolated berberine was an effective treatment for diarrhea, although it’s still unclear whether goldenseal itself has the same effect.
Side Effects of Goldenseal
One area of concern regarding goldenseal’s effects is its action on liver enzymes known as the cytochrome P450 system. These enzymes are important for metabolizing drugs and medications. Goldenseal appears to inhibit this important group of enzymes which could cause elevations in drug and medication levels, resulting in toxicity. For this reason, goldenseal shouldn’t be used by anyone taking medications without consulting a doctor. There’s also concern about goldenseal’s effects in pregnant women. It’s thought that the berberine component of goldenseal may increase the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery by causing contractions of the uterus. It hasn’t been established whether goldenseal is safe to use in children. Other side effects of goldenseal include mild digestive upset and the potential for allergic reactions.
Other Goldenseal Effects
One popular myth about goldenseal is that it can make illicit drugs undetectable when a drug urine test is performed. This has subsequently been shown to be false.
Goldenseal Effects: The Bottom Line?
There is some evidence that the alkaloid berberine found in goldenseal may be effective for treatment of diarrhea and, possibly, other types of mild bacterial infections, but it appears unlikely that the levels of berberine in goldenseal are high enough to treat most common bacterial infections.