Goldenseal Makes A Comeback

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Have you ever heard of goldenseal?

It’s a perennial plant found exclusively in the hardwood forests of eastern North America and is part of the buttercup family. It has a long and varied history of medicinal use.

Unfortunately, the future of this wonder plant is in trouble. What happened to goldenseal? Let’s find out! 

Goldenseal: A Miracle Plant

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has many uses and is prepared in many forms. Treatment methods include capsules, teas, and herbal extracts. The roots and leaves are used to treat viruses and swelling.

Goldenseal is also used in ear drops, allergy medicines, and eyewash formulas. 

Berberine, an active compound found in Goldenseal, is particularly effective for many ailments. It is used for oral and gum infections by rinsing with homemade mouthwash or adding it to toothpaste.

It’s effective as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin secretion, lowering the gut’s rate of sugar absorption, and lessening insulin resistance. Some scientists also believe that berberine in Goldenseal is just as effective as metformin, a prescription diabetic medicine!

Yet another use for Goldenseal is treating skin disorders - more specifically acne and psoriasis, because it is a powerful anti-inflammatory. There are myriad other uses for this plant and scientists are still discovering its potential uses. 

Why Is It Endangered? 

For generations, Goldenseal grew abundantly and was used by the First Nations as a medicine.

But during the 1800s colonists discovered its benefits and began to trade it commercially, causing demand for the plant to skyrocket. Gross overharvesting and the destruction of natural habitats for development led to its current “endangered” classification. 

By 1884, Goldenseal’s habitat destruction was so severe that it was documented in several editions of the news bulletin Drugs and Medicines of North America, published by John and Curtis Lloyd. In 1908 it was estimated that 300,000+ pounds of Goldenseal was being harvested annually…that’s millions of plants!

It is still harvested primarily from the wild for commercial use and is found only in small, scattered pockets across its original habitat. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), lists Goldenseal as “critically imperiled, imperiled, or uncommon” in 17 of the 27 states it is native to.

Making A Comeback 

Though Goldenseal has been decimated throughout the years, simply planting Goldenseal back in its natural habitat is a way to alleviate the problem. However, it is difficult to produce reliable crops to meet market demand.

Farmers at Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) have persisted and found a way to continue growing Goldenseal sustainably to help this wonder herb make a comeback. ASD collaborated with Clemson University and invented a way to grow Goldenseal in a more protected environment. They also figured out how to preserve the “chemical marker content and bioactivity”, which makes Goldenseal an effective remedy.

The strengths of this method are that it can be grown around the globe, regardless of climate, and crop sizes can be scaled up or down based on the farmer’s needs. Thankfully, 25 farms have already started growing Goldenseal, helping to rejuvenate a once bountiful plant.

Hopefully, we can continue to replenish America’s native plants and keep our natural remedies! 

Sources: Mountain Rose Herbs, Smith-Gilbert Gardens, Healthline, Sustainable Herbs Program