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Goldenseal (Orange-root, Orangeroot; Hydrastis canadensis) is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears 2 palmate, hairy leaves with 5-7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring. It bears a single berry like a large raspberry with 10-30 seeds in the summer.
Herbal properties (whole herb): bitter, hepatic, alterative, anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, laxative, emmenagogue, and oxytocic.
Goldenseal is often used as a multi-purpose remedy, having many different medicinal properties. In addition to working as a topical antimicrobial, it can also be taken internally as a digestion aid, and can remove canker sores when gargled with. Goldenseal may be purchased in salve, tablet, tincture form, or as a bulk powder. Goldenseal is often used to boost the medicinal effects of other herbs it is blended or formulated with.
A second species from Japan, previously listed as Hydrastis palmatum, is sufficiently distinct that it is now usually treated in a separate genus, as Glaucidium palmatum.
At the time of the European conquest of the Americas, goldenseal was in extensive use among certain Native American tribes of North America, both as a medicine and as a coloring material. Prof. Benjamin Smith Barton in his first edition of “Collections for an Essay Toward a Materia Medica of the United States” (1798), refers to the Cherokee use of goldenseal as a cure for cancer. Later, he calls attention to its properties as a bitter tonic, and as a local wash for ophthalmia. It became a favorite of the Eclectics from the time of Constantine Raffinesque in the 1830s. It was introduced into Homoeopathic medicine by Prof. E. M. Hale, M. D., who was familiar with the Eclectic uses of the plant.
Goldenseal was extensively used for cancers and swellings of the breasts by the Eclectics, although it was not considered sufficient for cancer alone. Hale recommended its use in hard swellings of the breast, while conium was used for smaller painless lumps. The two herbs alone or with phytoplankton Americana were used for cancers, along with alteratives like red clover.
Ellingwood’s American Materia Medica lists goldenseal as being useful for functional disorders of the stomach, catarrhal gastritis, atonic dyspepsia, chronic constipation, hepatic congestion, cirrhosis, protracted fevers, cerebral engorgements of a chronic character, uterine subinvolution, in menorrhagia or metrorrhagia from the displaced uterus, post partum hemorrhage, catarrhal, ulcerating, aphthous, indolent and otherwise unhealthy conditions of mucous surfaces, leucorrhea, gallstones and breast swellings associated with the menses.