Hydrastis canadensis L.

Last updated: 16 December 2016

Scientific Name

Hydrastis canadensis L.


No documentation.

Vernacular Name

English Goldenseal, yellow root, jaundice root, turmeric, [1] yellow puccoon, ground raspberry, turmeric root, orange root [2]
North America Goldenseal, orangeroot, sceau d’or, yellow-puccoon [3].

Geographical Distributions

Hydrastis canadensis is a perennial plant native to the moist wood and damp meadows of eastern North America. [2]

Botanical Description

H. canadensis sends up a simple hairy stem 8-20 in. tall with three to five lobed, dark green leaves that in the summer may become 4-10 in. broad. The May and June flower is a solitary one, small, white or rose coloured, appearing in early spring proceeded by a crimson head or small berries resembling raspberry, and consists of many two-seeded drupes. [2]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

H. canadensis has been reported to contain alkaloids including hydrastine, berberine, canadine, and berberastine. [4][5]

Plant Part Used

Root. [1]

Traditional Use

H. canadensis was used for circulation, ulcers, wound and act as an anti-inflammatory agent [2][6]. It can be made into a lotion for topical ailments and eye conditions. It was also used to repel insects by combining H. canadensis with bear fat to be applied on skin [7]. The tea infusion was used to for fever and pneumonia [7]. H. canadensis and whiskey infusion was taken to invigorate a rundown system and heart ailments. The root was used as infusion for tuberculosis, earaches, sour stomach and liver and gall bladder illnesses [6]. Also, berberine extracted from H. canadensis may have stimulated some functions in the digestive system [8].

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

Berberine at the concentration of 20 and 50 mg/kg via subcutaneously markedly inhibited the increased vascular permeability induced by histamine 100 micrograms/0.1 mL ic in rats. Berberine at the concentration of 4 and 8 mg/kg via subcutaneously inhibited xylene-induced swelling of mouse ear. The anti-inflammatory effects were dose-dependent. [9]

Anti-cancer activity

Recent literature has reported that berberine may decrease the responsiveness of certain cancer cell lines to the chemotherapeutic drug paclitaxel. Pretreatment of cells with berberine prior to paclitaxel blocked the paclitaxel-induced cell cycle responses and morphological changes. These results together suggest that berberine may modulate the expression and function of pgp-170 that leads to reduced response to paclitaxel in digestive track cancer cells. [10]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Antisecretory activity

A randomised controlled trial with 165 adult patients with acute diarrheal due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) were given with berberine sulfate. In patients with ETEC diarrheal who received 400 mg of berberine sulfate in a single oral dose, the mean stool volumes were significantly less than those of the controls during three consecutive 8-hr periods after treatment (p < 0.05). [11]


The berberine contained in H. canadensis possesses inotropic, chronotropic, antiarrhythmic, and vasodilator properties. Patients with various cardiovascular conditions including congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, and hypertension should not use berberine containing products unless closely monitored by a health care professional. [12]

Berberine also has the ability to displace bilirubin therefore use berberine with caution in jaundice individuals, especially neonates. [13][14]

Side effects

Dosages of 2-3 g may lower heart rate and at higher doses may cause central nervous system paralysis. [15]

A published review of berberine literature mentioned the side effects of H. Canadensis included decrease in blood pressure, dyspnea, flu-like symptoms, and gastrointestinal upset and possible cardiac damage. [16]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Avoid use in pregnancy. [17]

Age limitation

Due to berberine's ability to displace bilirubin, berberine and berberine containing products should not be used in newborns, especially jaundiced newborns.[13][14]

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

A study reported that goldenseal may decrease the absorption of certain supplements. Use goldenseal either 1/2 hour before or 1 hour after taking other dietary supplements. [4][18]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 26.
  2. Hutchens AR. Indian herbalogy of North America. Boston MA: Shambhala Publications, 1991; p. 143.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 516.
  4. Kowalewski Z, Mrozikiewicz A, Bobkiewicz T, Drost K, Hladoń B. Toxicity of berberine sulphate. Acta Pol Pharm. 1975;32(1):113-120. Polish.
  5. Chignell CF, Sik RH, Watson MA, Wielgus AR. Photochemistry and photocytotoxicity of alkaloids from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) 3: Effect on human lens retinal pigment epithelial cells. Photochem Photobiol. 2007;83(4):938–943.
  6. Moerman DE.  Native American ethnobotany. Portland Oregon: Timber Press, 2009; p. 270.
  7. Cickoke AJ. Secrets of Native American herbal remedies. New York: Avery, 2001; p. 47-48.
  8. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal medicines: A guide for health-care professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996; p. 151-152.
  9. Zhang MF, Shen YQ. Antidiarrheal and Anti-inflammatory effects of berberine. Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao. 1989;10(2):174-176. Chinese.
  10. Lin HL, Liu TY, Wu CW, Chi CW. Berberine modulates expression of mdr1 gene product and the responses of digestive track cancer cells to paclitaxel. Br J Cancer. 1999;81(3):416-422.
  11. Rabbani GH, Butler T, Knight J, Sanyal SC, Alam K. Randomized controlled trial of berberine sulfate therapy for diarrhea due to enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. J Infect Dis. 1987;155(5):979-984.
  12. Lau CW, Yao XQ, Chen ZY, Ko WH, Huang Y. Cardiovascular actions of berberine. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. 2001;19(3):234-244.
  13. Chan E. Displacement of bilirubin from albumin by berberine. Biol Neonate. 1993;63(4):201-208.
  14. Chan MY. The effect of berberine on bilirubin excretion in the rat. Comp Med East West. 1977;5(2):161-168.
  15. Hardin JW. Human poisoning from native and cultivated plants. 2nd ed. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1974; p. 56-57.
  16. Birdsall TC, Kelly GS. Berberine: Therapeutic potential of an alkaloid in several medicinal plants. Altern Med Review. 1997;2(2):94-103.
  17. De Smet P. Adverse effects of herbal drugs I. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1992; p. 97-104.
  18. Noguchi M, Kubo M, Hayashi T, Ono M. Studies on the pharmaceutical quality evaluation of crude drug preparations used in orient medicine "Kampoo". III. Precipitation reaction of glycyrrhizin with alkaloids or alkaloidal crude drugs in aqueous solution. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1978;26(12):3652-3657.