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Golden Seal

AKA: Hydrastis Canadensis L. Family: Ranunculaceae - berberine, eye balm, eye root, goldenroot, ground raspberry, Hydrastis canadensis, Indian plant, jaundice root, orange root, and yellow root among numerous other names around the world.

Propagation/Description: Goldenseal is a slow growing perennial that is native to North America, particularly in the central and eastern hardwood forests of the US and southern Canada. Due to over harvesting because of the unproven claim that it cleans drugs out of urine and has been put on the endangered species list. So please do not forage for this plant in the wild. Instead cultivate it. It can be propagated from rhizome pieces, root cuttings, one year old seedlings, or seed. It takes 5 to 7 years to grow harvestable roots from seed and 3 to 5 years to grow harvestable roots from rhizome pieces. Root cuttings or seedlings usually take 4 to 6 years. Fall planting has been successful in all growing areas and needs a fairly shady spot to grow and thrives in well drained soils and rich in humus (dark, organic material that forms in soil when plant and animal matter decays). Their growth can create large dense populations with up to 100 stems recorded growing in a three-by-three-foot plot. They spread via underground roots, and mature plants can reach six to 14 inches tall.

Folklore/History: Historically, Native Americans used goldenseal for skin disorders, ulcers, fevers, and other conditions. Many of the alternate names were derived from the plants’ numerous uses. Its many medicinal uses rose in popularity in the early to mid-1800’s. It has sometimes been referred to as the poor man’s ginseng. Native American tribes valued this natural antiseptic herb for many medicinal uses and as a clothing dye. Early colonists soon came to appreciate its infection-fighting action. The Native American use of goldenseal as a cancer treatment was first mentioned in the herbal, Essays Toward a Materia Medica of the United States first published by Benjamin Smith Barton in 1798.

Medicinal: Currently, goldenseal is promoted as a dietary supplement for colds and other respiratory tract infections, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), ulcers, and digestive upsets such as diarrhea and constipation. It is also used as a mouthwash for sore gums and as an eyewash for eye inflammation, and it is applied to the skin for rashes and other skin problems. Very little research has been done on Goldenseal, but they did study Berberine, a substance found in goldenseal, for heart failure, diarrhea, infections, and other health conditions. However, when people take goldenseal orally (by mouth), very little berberine may be absorbed by the body or enter the bloodstream, so study results on berberine may not apply to goldenseal. The rhizome is rich in alkaloids: hydrastine, berberine, and canadine, in addition to other phytochemicals, oils, and resin. It is an antiseptic, diuretic, and acts as a mild laxative and internal body cleanser. Goldenseal is used in the treatment of peptic ulcers and stimulates the flow of bile. Applied externally as rhizome bark powder or tincture, the herbal preparations can help treat gum disease , vaginal infection, eczema, impetigo, conjunctivitis , inflammations of the ear, and possibly ringworm. It is high in iron, manganese, silicon, and other minerals.

Spiritual: This plant is used in all facets of religions and practices but more widely thought of as a guardian and healer that provides strength and protection by warding off evil and bringing luck in health matters. It has been used in healing rituals, money and success spells or as a magnifier in any other spells and rituals.

Summary: I think we all already knew or had heard of Goldenseal for whatever reason in our lives. Some as an alternative antibiotic (not super effective) or as a cleanser to clear the kidneys of evidence of drugs to pass a drug screen (also not effective). Whatever the reason you’ve heard of this cute little ground cover, I can say I am surprised by the actual uses and applications. It is a very versatile plant medicinally. While it is still considered endangered in the wild, we are seeing a resurgence by crop farming it in the mountain ranges of the eastern United States and Southern Canada. We as lovers of plants and the earth should take care to try to help conservation efforts by growing our own. It is the only way to make sure we are getting the authentic benefits and we are not contributing to its demise. Propagate it as a lovely addition to your fairy garden or creekside gardens and beneficial to have on hand in a pinch. Take some time to learn more about this misunderstood plant and find out all the things this plant brings to the Universes table for us!

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