Is There Evidence Goldenseal is Medically Effective?

Compounds in goldenseal root may have health benefits.

Although goldenseal is popular as a natural herbal remedy for many conditions, there are no recent clinical studies on the effects of goldenseal extracts in humans. Goldenseal's common use with echinacea for upper respiratory infections is mainly based on animal studies. These studies suggest that the herbal combination strengthens the immune system.(3)

Health Effects of Goldenseal Compounds

Other research has focused on the alkaloid compounds of goldenseal (rather than the whole herb extract). The primary bioactive alkaloids in goldenseal are:(348)

All of these compounds show antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal activities.(348)

Goldenseal's alkaloids are poorly absorbed when taken orally, which means they may not stay in the body long enough to be effective. Berberine, however, does accumulate in the bladder. This suggests it may reach helpful levels for urinary tract conditions.(348)

Berberine Effects

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Table 10: Preclinical Antimicrobial Studies on Berberine from Goldenseal
Disease Causing Pathogen Berberine Active Against Associated Diseases

Staphylococcus aureus:(48144)

  • Also known as staph infections, MRSA
  • Gram positive bacteria

Streptococcus pyogenes:(48145)

  • Strep group A
  • Gram positive bacteria

Escherichia coli:(48146)

  • Active against disease-causing strains of E. coli
  • Gram negative bacteria
  • Intestinal diseases(146)
  • Neonatal meningitis (inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes, potentially fatal)(146)
  • Urinary tract infections(146)

Shigella boydii:(48147)

  • Related to E. coli
  • Gram negative bacteria

Vibrio cholera:(48148)

  • Gram negative bacteria
  • Intestinal disease with severe diarrhea(148)

Mycobacterium tuberculosis:(48149)

  • Bacteria
  • Not classified as gram positive or negative, but can appear weakly positive on tests
  • Tuberculosis (TB) — an often infectious, potentially fatal lung disease(149)

Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, Cryptococcus neoformans:(48150151)

  • Species of yeast
  • Common yeast infections(150)
  • Opportunistic yeast infections in immune-deficient people(151)

Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Microsporum gypseum:(48152)

  • Fungal species
  • Hair, skin, and nail fungal infections(152)

Sporotrichum schenckii:(48152)

  • Fungal species

Entamoeba histolytica:(48153)

  • A parasite

Giardia lamblia:(48154)

  • a parasite
  • Intestinal infection with diarrhea, cramps, & nausea(154)

Canadine and Canadaline Effects

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Table 11: Preclinical Antimicrobial Studies on Canadine & Canadaline from Goldenseal
Disease Causing Pathogen Canadine & Canadaline Active Against Associated Diseases

Pseudomonas aeruginosa:(48155)

  • Also known as staph infections, MRSA
  • Gram negative bacteria
  • Bone and joint infections(155)
  • Dermatitis(155)
  • Gastro-intestinal infections(155)
  • Respiratory system infections(155)
  • Systemic infections(155)
  • Urinary tract infections(155)

P. aeruginosa systemic infections mostly affect immune-compromised people (e.g., cancer, burn, and HIV patients). It can be up to 50% fatal.(155)

Escherichia coli:(48146)

  • Canadaline is active against disease-causing strains of E. coli
  • Gram negative bacteria
  • Intestinal diseases(146)
  • Neonatal meningitis (inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes, potentially fatal)(146)
  • Urinary tract infections(146)

Research suggests that berberine may offer other health benefits as well:(48)


Can Goldenseal Help Pass Drug Tests?

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Goldenseal is often used — unsuccessfully — to disguise urinary marijuana (THC) metabolism in humans and morphine in racehorses. This belief is derived from a fictional novel by a pharmacist (John Uri Lloyd).(46156)

Ironically, some experts report that goldenseal may produce false-positive drug test results. Others tests show no link between goldenseal and false positive drug screens for amphetamines, opiates, cocaine, and methadone.(4648)

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Osteomyelitis.(144)
Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of heart.(144)
A deep skin infection.(145)
Necrotizing fasciitis.(145)
Also known as puerperal fever.(145)
Potentially fatal inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes.(146)
Infectious intestinal disease with diarrhea, fever, cramps; possibly high fever and seizures).(147)
Endophthalmitis.(152)
Sporotrichosis.(152)
Severe form of amebiasis with bloody diarrhea and fever.(153)
Potentially fatal inflammation of brain and spinal cord membranes.(146)