This herb, commonly found in North American woods, was favored by Native Americans for treating ulcers, fevers, skin disorders, and more. Today, goldenseal root is dried and used to make teas, extracts, and supplements that are thought to help treat colds, hay fever, ulcers, and an upset stomach. Some people also believe that taking it can help you get a false-negative if you have to take a drug test.
Considering how widely used it is, goldenseal is woefully understudied. We do know that it’s totally ineffective for helping you pass that drug test (sorry!). We also know that it's a natural source of berberine, a compound that acts like an antibiotic and an antiparasitic in test tubes. Berberine also seems to activate white blood cells, shoring up the immune system and making your body better at battling infections. Problem is, some experts suspect goldenseal’s berberine isn’t absorbed well when taken by mouth. And no good research links goldenseal supplementation with a stronger immune system.
That said, some integrative physicians have a lot of trust in the purported natural antibiotic. “I prescribe goldenseal for its antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties,” says Janelle Louis, a functional medicine practitioner at Focus Integrative Healthcare in Overland Park, Kansas. “I typically recommend it for colds, gastroenteritis, and any other concerns where I need to eliminate pathogens and boost the immune system.”
How to Use It
Since goldenseal isn’t extremely well-absorbed when taken orally, Louis recommends taking smaller doses multiple times a day, rather than a larger amount once daily. “A few people experience nausea, cramping, diarrhea, or other mild gastrointestinal disturbances when taking goldenseal,” she adds. “To minimize this risk, I have my patients increase their dosage to the desired dose over a few days.”
She also suggests avoid making it a long-term solution. “I typically recommend a two-week break after taking the herb continuously for two to three weeks.”