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Little research has been done on whole goldenseal root or rhizome, but many studies have evaluated the properties of its two primary alkaloids, berberine and hydrastine. Berberine, the more extensively researched of the two, accounts for 0.5–6.0% of the alkaloids present in goldenseal root and rhizome. However, the effect of goldenseal in the gastrointestinal tract is most likely localized as its alkaloids (particularly berberine) are poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, limiting any systemic antibiotic effects.25 Goldenseal also has strong astringent properties which may partially explain its historical use for sore throats and diarrhea. In test tube studies, it has shown a wide spectrum of antibiotic activity against disease-causing organisms, such as Chlamydia, E. coli, Salmonella typhi, and Entamoeba histolytica.26 Human trials have used isolated berberine to treat diarrhea and gastroenteritis with good results.27 The whole root has not been clinically studied.
Powdered goldenseal root and rhizome, 4–6 grams per day in tablet or capsule form, is sometimes recommended.28 For liquid herbal extracts, use 2–4 ml three times per day. Alternatively, 250–500 mg three times per day of standardized extracts supplying 8–12% alkaloids, are suggested. Continuous use should not exceed three weeks, with a break of at least two weeks between each use.
Due to environmental concerns of overharvesting,29 many herbalists recommend alternatives to goldenseal, such as Oregon grape or goldthread.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.