- Eye root
- yellow Indian plant
- turmeric root
- yellow paint root
- orange root
For Patients & Caregivers
Bottom Line: Goldenseal has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.
The two compounds in goldenseal, berberine and hydrastine, have been studied widely. In animal studies, berberine was found to lower fevers, kill bacteria, fungi and protozoa, and slow the growth of tumors. It also stimulated contractions of the uterus, increased blood flow to the heart, and blocked some molecules involved in inflammation. Hydrastine was found to constrict blood vessels in the arms and legs. Although an extract of goldenseal caused muscle relaxation in animal tissues, berberine and hydrastine are also known to simulate contraction of the smooth muscles of uterus.
- To control muscle spasms
Laboratory studies support this use, but human data are lacking.
- To treat cancer
Laboratory studies show that berberine, a compound in goldenseal, inhibits the growth of a variety of tumors in rats, but no clinical trials have been performed.
- To stimulate the heart and increase blood pressure
Laboratory studies show that berberine, a compound in goldenseal, stimulates the heart and increases blood flow to it, but results concerning blood pressure are mixed. Clinical trials that confirm this effect have not been conducted.
- To treat gastrointestinal disorders
Laboratory studies show that a goldenseal extract causes relaxation of smooth muscle like that found in the gastrointestinal tract, but it is not known if goldenseal helps treat gastrointestinal disorders.
- To treat conjunctivitis
Laboratory data shows that berberine, a compound in goldenseal, has antibacterial properties, but human data are lacking.
- To manage painful and heavy menstruation
Laboratory evidence regarding goldenseal’s ability to relax uterus muscle is mixed. Clinical trials have not yet been conducted.
- To treat infections topically
Laboratory studies show that berberine, a compound in goldenseal, has wide antibacterial and antifungal properties, but no clinical trials have been performed to confirm that this effect occurs in humans.
- To reduce swelling and edema
Laboratory studies show that berberine, a compound in goldenseal, blocks some of the molecules involved in inflammation.
For Healthcare Professionals
Derived from the root of the plant, goldenseal is used by patients to treat a variety of ailments including common cold, fever, infections, heart conditions, constipation, and muscle spasms. Primary active components are hydrastine, berberine, and canadine. Among several herbs tested in vitro, goldenseal extract was the most active in inhibiting the growth of H. pylori (1). Studies done on berberine indicate that it has antimicrobial property (3); and inhibits the growth and induces apoptosis in certain cancer cells (2) (4)(6). Clinical studies are lacking.
The pharmacological action of goldenseal is attributed to the compounds hydrastine and berberine. The majority of clinical studies were not performed with goldenseal, but rather on berberine and hydrastine. Berberine has anti-microbial activity against certain pathogens such enterotoxigenic E. coli and V. cholera. It also induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in a variety of cancer cell lines (2)(15)(16). One in vitro study found that berberine inhibited the growth of adherent and anoikis resistant MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells to a greater extent than doxorubicin (4). In one study, berberine alkaloids produced an average of 91% tumor inhibition against 6 malignant brain tumor cell lines both in vivo in mice and in vitro against human brain tumors (5). Berberine alkaloids were also shown to have potent macrophage-activating and cytostatic activity against tumor cells. Another study performed in vitro tests on a series of human malignant brain tumor cells and rat brain tumor cells (6). Berberine used alone at a dose of 150 mcg/ml had an average cancer cell kill rate of 91%. BCNU (carmustine) had a cell kill rate of 43%. Rats treated with berberine at 10 mg/kg had an 81% kill rate. The combination of both berberine and BCNU had additive effects in killing cancer cells. In an animal study, berberine has been shown to prolong QTc interval and to help prevent ventricular fibrillation after myocardial infarction (17). The hydrastine component induces constriction of peripheral blood vessels (13). While two small clinical trials reported that goldenseal affects CYP2D6 (18) and CYP3A (10), another could not confirm such effects (19).
Berberine may increase bilirubin levels due to displacement of bilirubin from albumin (21).
Goldenseal may cause a darkening in urine color in illicit drug testing (22).
Goldenseal may alter PT / PTT / INR anticoagulation test results (8).
May prolong QTc interval in electrocardiogram (17).
One case of hypernatremia was reported in a patient with diabetic ketoacidosis (13).