The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Medicinal Herb Monographs


Botanical Name 
Hydrastis canadensis

Hydrastis canadensis
(Golden Seal)

The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
(click on the keywords)


Hydrastis has been traditionally used by Native Americans to treat conditions of the mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts and also disorders of the skin and eyes. Because the root has a bright yellow color, it was also widely used as a dye.
The Eclectic physicians of the 19th century used Hydrastis extensively, for a side variety of problems including as an appetite and digestive stimulant, for mouth sores, chronic gastritis and gastric ulcer, liver and gallbladder complaints, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, fissured anus, pharyngitis, nasal catarrh, conjunctivitis, otitis media and externa, muscle soreness, uterine hemorrhage, acne and eczema. Kingís Dispensatory states it is specifically indicated in any chronic catarrhal state of the mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive systems.
Naturopathic physicians have long used it as a part of Robertís Formula (also contains echinacea, slippery elm and other herbs) in the treatment of ulcerative conditions of the digestive tract. The success of Robertís formula in the treatment of duodenal ulcer may be due to the antimicrobial effects of berberine in the Hydrastis which may act against Helicobacter pylori.
Modern studies with berberine show it to be very effective in the treatment of diarrheal illness, especially those caused by bowel toxin producing bacteria. Topical use of berberine has also been shown to be effective in treating eye infections caused by Chlamydia trachomatis.

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  • Hydrastis is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, indigenous to the eastern US and Canada. It prefers undisturbed woodlands. It is a perennial herb with a knotty, creeping bright yellow root or rhizome. It has two alternate, palmate, large and lobed leaves with small white flowers. The official part is the root or rhizome.

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  • Isoquinoline alkaloids-hydrastine, berberine, canadine, hydrastinine
  • Resins
  • Fatty acids
  • Volatile oils

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  • Berberine-
  • Antibiotic- broad spectrum, antimicrobial against bacteria, protozoa & fungi (1)
  • Antiinfective- inhibits the adhesion of Streptococci to host cells (1)
  • Immune modulation (7)
  • Cholerectic- stimulates the secretion of bile
  • Tonic & astringent
  • Bitter digestive stimulant
  • Hydrastine-
  • Hemostatic
  • Oxytocic- stimulates the contraction of uterine smooth muscle
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Conditions used for

  • Inflamed mucous membranes with excessive mucous production
  • Gastrointestinal infections with diarrhea (2,3,4)
  • Respiratory tract infections (1,8)
  • Urinary Tract Infections (5)
  • Infections of the eyes (6)
  • Enhances immune function (7)

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  • Because of goldensealís very bitter taste, many people find encapsulated or glycerin preparations easiest to take. The exception would be if taking Hydrastis as bitter digestive stimulant, then it would be preferable to use the liquid extract form.
  • Dried root- 500mg to 2 grams three times a day
  • Liquid extract- 1/2-1 teaspoon three times a day
  • Glycerin- 1/2-1 teaspoon three times a day
  • Childrenís dosage- Multiply adult dosage times the childís weight, then divide by 150.

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Side Effects

  • Depletes B vitamins- if using Hydrastis in high doses or long term, supplement B vitamins
  • Possible disruption of normal bowel flora if used long term- supplement with Lactobacillus

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  • Pregnancy
  • Infants with G6PD deficiency
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Interactions with medications

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Use in pregnancy & lactation

  • Should not be used in pregnancy until after 37 weeks due to uterine stimulant effects.
  • Nursing mothers with infants who have G6PD deficiency should not use Hydrastis
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1. Sun D et al, Berberine sulfate blocks adherence of Streptococcus pyogenes to epithelial cells, fibronectin and hexadecane, Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32(9):1370-4
2. Rabbani GH, Mechanism & treatment of diarrhea due to Vibrio cholerae and E. coli: roles of drugs and prostaglandins, Dan Med Bull 1996;43(2):173-85
3. Zhang MF et al, Antidiarrheal and anti-inflammatory effects of berberine, Chung Kuo Yao Li Hsueh Pao 1989;10(2):174-6
4. Rabbani GH et al, Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic E. coli and Vibrio cholerae, J Infect Dis 1987;155(5):979-84
5. Sun D et al, Influence of berberine sulfate on synthesis and expression of Pap fimbrial adhesin in uropathogenic E. coli, Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1988;32(8):1274-7
6. Khosla PK et al, Berberine, a potential drug for trachoma, Rev Int Trach Pathol Ocul Trop Subtrop Sante Publique 1992;69:147-65
7. Rehman J, et al, Increased production of antigen-specific immunoglobulins G & M following in vivo treatment with the medicinal plants Echinacea angustifolia and Hydrastis canadensis, Immunol Lett, 1999;68(2-3):391-5
8. Gentry EJ et al, Antitubercular natural products: berberine from the roots of commercial Hydrastis canadensis powder, J Nat Prod 1998;61(10):1187-93
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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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