Golden Seal

Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculaceae. It is also known as yellow root, orange root, Indian turmeric and eye root.

The parts used are the root and rhizome.

Functions of golden seal

Golden seal is a North American Indian remedy that was used for treating arrow wounds and ulcers. It acts on the mucus membranes throughout the body, resolving inflammation and clearing phlegm.

  • In the respiratory system it is useful for tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, sinusitis, colds, flu and catarrhal coughs.
  • In the digestive system it reduces catarrh, colitis, gastritis, ulceration and inflammation. It also seems to work in conditions such as amebic dysentery, cholera and giardiasis.
  • Its bitter stimulation enhances liver function and gives it a role in the stimulation of appetite and improvement of digestion.
  • In the reproductive system it is useful for the treatment of heavy periods and hemorrhage and as it stimulates the uterine muscle it has a role in childbirth.
  • Locally it can be used as a lotion or douche for vaginal infections such as thrush. it can also be used externally for the treatment of eczema, ringworm, pruritis (itching) and ear ache
  • In the bladder it soothes inflammation and assists in resolving infections.
  • For the nervous system it acts as a tonic and a sedative.
  • It has the ability to lower blood pressure and enhances circulation. It is useful therefore in varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
  • It has powerful antibiotic and antiviral properties, making it useful in a wide range of infections. This includes externally for gum infections, mouth ulcers and sore throats.
  • It can be used in eye ointments with rosewater or chamomile for inflammation of the eye.
  • As a lotion it can be used to sooth irritated skin and infected skin conditions.

Notes on golden seal

  • Avoid during pregnancy because of its effect on the involuntary muscle of the uterus.
  • Some research suggests that the antibiotic compound in golden seal (berberine sulfate) is effective against trichomoniasis.


Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of the powdered herb and leave to infuse for 10 - 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times per day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times per day.

For the gardener

After years of over harvesting golden seal has become an endangered species.

The plant can be grown from seed but it takes up to 5 years for the roots to be mature enough to gather.

Keep fresh seeds in moist but not water logged soil, so they can continue to develop (stratify) for 3 months. If you do this in seed trays you should have seedlings by spring. Allow them to grow until the autumn of the second year, then separate them and then plant them out 6 inches (15cm) apart.

You can purchase a two year old dormant root division. Plant these 12 inches (30 cm) apart.

They need a deep rich loamy soil and a mulch of well rotted leaves. Water occasionally to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Harvest the roots in the autumn, when the tops die back. Save the biggest roots for replanting.


Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.




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