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  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Upper Respiratory Infections
0 (Effectiveness Unclear)
Viral Infections
0 (Effectiveness Unclear)
0 (Effectiveness Unclear)


  • Goldenseal, a perennial plant in the buttercup family, is known for its yellow rhizome and red fruit. The active ingredient in goldenseal is berberine, an isoquinolone alkaloid. Its use as a medicinal herb dates back at least to the early 1800s.
  • Goldenseal may have benefit for various kinds of infections including some bacterial infections, upper respiratory infections (common cold), and parasitic infections.
  • Goldenseal may decrease the severity and duration of certain diarrheal infections, including cholera.
  • Goldenseal is being evaluated for possible benefits to blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels.


  • A major problem with goldenseal is that the demand is greater than the supply. This has led some unscrupulous manufacturers to substitute other berberine-containing herbs, which may increase toxicity and the risk of adverse side effects.
  • Goldenseal should be used with caution in patients with cardiovascular disease. In animal studies, its use lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and caused blood vessel constriction.
  • In one study, berberine (the active component in goldenseal) caused nausea and vomiting. It may also cause convulsions and irritate the gastrointestinal tract. The toxic dose range is not well defined.
  • Pregnant women and infants, in whom goldenseal may cause jaundice, should not use this product.

Goldenseal is not recommended for pregnant women and infants, nor in patients who take the blood-thinner medication coumadin. All women who might be pregnant should avoid goldenseal. Goldenseal should be used with caution in patients with diabetes, whether controlled with medication or diet.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that while goldenseal shows promise for treating upper respiratory, viral, and diarrhea infections, there is insufficient evidence to support its use for these indications. It is not recommended for potentially pregnant women or infants or diabetics and patients on blood thinner medications. If you do elect to try it, discuss your decision with your doctor, and observe carefully for any changes to your health.

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