Gut Health & Healthy Weight

Goldenseal for Gut Health, Immunity, and More

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Do you have gut health problems and a weak immune system?

Then goldenseal may be the perfect addition to your medicine cabinet.

Goldenseal is a native North American herb that may heal the gut and reduce the spread of disease-causing inflammation.

Here are just a few of the potential health benefits of goldenseal:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Treats leaky gut
  • Balances gut bacteria
  • Relieves diarrhea
  • Boosts Immunity
  • Supports cardiovascular health

Many of goldenseal’s benefits can be attributed to the alkaloid berberine, which is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial effects.

Continue reading to learn more about how goldenseal can heal the gut and protect your body.

What Is Goldenseal?

Goldenseal, or Hydrastis canadensis, is a perennial herb with bitter-tasting roots that grows in the forests of North America.

Its name comes from the golden-yellow scars that form at the base of the stem when it’s broken.

A large percentage of goldenseal root products come from commercial grows in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the United States.

History of Goldenseal

By the time European settlers landed in North America, the local Native American tribes had already been using goldenseal as a medicinal plant for hundreds of years.

The Cherokee, for example, used the rhizomes (stems) and roots of goldenseal to reduce inflammation and heal wounds. Other tribes used it as an eyewash, diuretic, and treatment for digestive issues.

Goldenseal Benefits

Scientific evidence tells us that goldenseal may help with a wide range of health problems, and it all starts with the gut. 

A permeable gut lining can allow disease-causing inflammation to enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.

Fortunately, the isoquinoline alkaloids hydrastine and berberine in goldenseal can stop the spread of inflammation before it starts.

From leaky gut to arthritic pain, here are the top health benefits of goldenseal:

1. Reduce Inflammation

Berberine, the primary active alkaloid in goldenseal, can exert anti-inflammatory effects on a variety of body systems.

For example, several animal studies show that berberine may reduce inflammation in rodents with various types of arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that can cause widespread joint pain and inflammation

In a 2011 rodent study, berberine killed inflammation-causing cells, indicating that it may be a potential treatment for RA.

A separate rodent study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research arrived at similar results, this time in rats with osteoarthritis (the type caused by normal wear and tear).

Berberine injections successfully reduced inflammation and increased nitrous oxide (NO), indicating that, “Berberine may play a protective role in the development of OA and may be useful in the treatment of OA.”

Studies have also shown that berberine can reduce lung inflammation caused by cigarette smoke and dust mite allergens.

Plus, a 2016 animal study found that berberine can reduce inflammation in the livers of mice with fatty liver disease. 

What’s most exciting, however, is that berberine may be able to reduce the damaging effects of intestinal inflammation.

A 2013 study published in the journal PLoS One found that berberine can reduce inflammation and intestinal permeability by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines.  

2. Treat Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is a condition where the gut allows inflammatory agents to enter the bloodstream.

The gut lining is the body’s first line of defense against processed sugar, carbs, food additives, toxins, and other harmful compounds that enter the digestive system.

However, when the gut lining is compromised due to inflammation and illness, it can lead to poor nutrient absorption and worse inflammation throughout the body. 

Luckily, several studies show that the berberine in goldenseal can reduce inflammation caused by a permeable gut lining and prevent further damage. 

Here’s what the research has to say about berberine’s effects on leaky gut:

  • A 2011 rodent study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases found that oral berberine can reduce the permeability of the gut barrier in mice with endotoxinemia.
  • A 2013 study found that berberine can help restore a damaged gut lining and improve nutrient absorption in rats with diabetes. 
  • According to a gut tissue study published in the journal Infection and Immunity, researchers found that berberine blocked 70% of the toxins E. coli and Vibrio cholerae from breaching the gut lining.

3. Balance Gut Bacteria

Goldenseal may also protect the body from inflammation by balancing the gut microbiome.

Because the gut lining is only a single-cell thick, it relies heavily on healthy colonies of bacteria to reinforce it.

However, the Western diet is full of foods (like sugar) that promote inflammation and feed bad bacteria.

Luckily, goldenseal may be able to restore a healthy balance.

Here’s what the research has to say about berberine and gut bacteria:

  • According to a 2014 clinical trial, an herbal treatment that included berberine can be equally effective at treating small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) symptoms as the oral antibiotic rifaximin. Scientists believe that berberine may work by inhibiting lipid peroxidation and slowing intestinal bacterial growth.
  • A 2016 study found that berberine can have a normalizing effect on the gut bacteria of mice with fatty liver disease. 
  • In a 2010 in vivo study, researchers found that oral goldenseal extract can inhibit the growth of H. pylori, which is prevalent in stomach cancer, ulcers, and gastritis.

4. Relieve Diarrhea

Native American tribes used goldenseal for a variety of digestive issues, and berberine-containing plants have been used in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to treat constipation, diarrhea, and dysentery.

Today, studies show that berberine can act as an effective anti-diarrheal.

For example, in a clinical trial involving 165 people with diarrhea caused by E. coli and V. cholerae, oral berberine was able to stop symptoms in 42% of participants within one day of treatment.

In a similar 2015 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, 132 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) received oral berberine twice daily for eight weeks.

Berberine significantly reduced the frequency of stomach pain and diarrhea.

5. Boost Immunity

Goldenseal is commonly marketed as an immune-booster.

This is because it fortifies the body’s defenses by strengthening the gut lining and balancing the microbiome.

However, goldenseal is also a natural antibiotic that increases antigen-specific antibody protection. 

A 2012 study found that topical goldenseal leaf extract can treat the skin infection methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

According to researchers, goldenseal accomplishes this through its antimicrobial activity and several other unique pathways, due in part to the alkaloid berberine.

A 2008 laboratory study published in The Journal of Medicinal Food found that goldenseal can optimize white blood cell activity and reduce the inflammatory response, indicating that goldenseal may be taken as an immune stimulant at the first sign of infection.

6. Support Cardiovascular Health

The berberine found in goldenseal may also exert protective cardiovascular effects.

According to a report published in the journal Cardiovascular Drug Reviews, berberine appears to have vasodilator properties that may lower blood pressure. It may also help normalize heart arrhythmias by influencing electrolyte activity.

Researchers concluded that, “The cardiovascular effects of berberine suggest its possible clinical usefulness in the treatment of arrhythmias and/or heart failure.”

According to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Lipid Research, berberine may help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol by regulating receptors in the liver.

Most impressively, however, a clinical trial published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that berberine can improve that quality of life of patients with chronic congestive heart failure as well as reduce the occurence of heart abnormalities.

156 patients took part in the study. 79 were treated with berberine, and the remaining 77 were given a placebo. After eight weeks of treatment, patients in the berberine group had a significantly greater decrease in dyspnea, fatigue, arrhythmias, and mortality compared to the placebo group.

Can You Take Goldenseal Daily?

Generally speaking, goldenseal is safe to take as a daily supplement as long as it’s administered with the proper dosage.

Today, goldenseal is commonly sold as a tea, and it’s often combined with echinacea and marketed as an immune booster.

However, you can also find water-based extracts, alcohol tinctures, and dietary supplements.

There can be a big difference in potency depending on the manufacturer, so always follow the recommended dosage to avoid side effects like nausea.

For oral administration, most companies recommend taking it on an empty stomach between meals.

As a general guideline, don’t take goldenseal for more than 21 consecutive days, and always take at least a two-week break between treatments.

Side Effects of Goldenseal

Goldenseal side effects are rare and typically only occur in large doses or with long-term use greater than three consecutive weeks.

Taking at least a two-week break between consecutive treatments is advised. 

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Distension

Discontinue use immediately upon the first sign of adverse effects.

Although goldenseal is a natural product that’s considered safe for adults, it is not recommended for children, infants, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

People with a history of heart issues, diabetes, liver disease, or autoimmune disorders should check with their doctor before beginning treatment.

However, for the vast majority of individuals, goldenseal can be a safe and effective way to heal the gut and boost immunity.

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