Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When the settlers arrived to what would become America, they brought along European herbal medicines they knew and trusted. But soon, out of necessity, they had to learn about native medicinal plants. One of those herbs, already known by the native American Indians, was a woodland plant called goldenseal (Hydrastic Canadensis L.)

Goldenseal (public doman)
Many Indian tribes used goldenseal. The Iroquois decocted the root to use for sour stomach, flatulence, pneumonia, fever, liver disease, and diarrhea. They combined it with whiskey for heart trouble. The Cherokee mixed the root powder with bear grease as insect repellent. They also used it as a wash for local inflammation. In decoctions, they used it for syspepsia and general debility. The Kickapoo Indians also used a cold water infusion of goldenseal for irritated eyes caused by autumn prairie fires. The Catawbas boiled the roots for stomach problems, colds and jaundice. Dye made from the bright yellow rhizome was used a dye for clothing and weapons.

Goldenseal was considered by doctors to be an official drug plant in the United State from 1830 to 1955. The plant contains the alkaloids berberin, canadine and hydrastine. Those are believed to be responsible for the plant’s medicinal properties.

Modern herbalists consider goldenseal an alterative (something to restore normal health), anti-catarrhal (preventing the formation of mucus and inflammation of mucus membranes), antiseptic, astringent, laxative, and a bitter tonic. It’s recommended for gastritis, duodenal ulcers, liver disease, colitis, and loss of appetite. It’s also used for upper respiratory infections, GI disorders, liver disease, cancer, urinary tract infections, menorrhagia (heavy bleeding during a period) and dysmenorrhea (painful periods). In addition, goldenseal is an ingredient in many topical herbal products, including those for sore gums, skin rashes, ulcers, wounds, and infections, itching, acne, dandruff, ringworm, and herpes. It is a component of herbal products for eye infections and inflammations (remember the Indians used it for that?). Goldenseal is very bitter, and bitters in herbal medicine stimulate the appetite, aid digestion, and stimulate bile secretion.

It seems that goldenseal is a miracle herb although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not it is truly effective. But the fact that it was used medicinally for so many years probably indicates it does have some value. 

1 comment :

  1. Fascinating article! Goldenseal is one of my favorite go-to herbs for stubborn things that won't respond to anything else! From one mother's practical standpoint, it's a great natural antibiotic, especially for wounds and infections. The only problem with modern-day applications is that it has been over-harvested in the wild, doesn't grow well cultivated, and so has become really expensive and difficult to find.


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