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Hydrastis canadensis - L.

Common Name Goldenseal
Family Ranunculaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards The whole plant is poisonous[4, 19]. Do not use by pregnant or lactating women, babies or patients with cardiovascular disease, epilepsy or coagulation problems. Goldenseal poisoning symptoms include stomach upset, nervousness, depression [301].
Habitats Rich shady woods[4, 43] and moist areas on woodland edges[19, 31]. Mesic, deciduous forests, often on clay soils at elevations of 50 - 1200 metres[270].
Range Eastern N. America - Connecticut to Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade
Hydrastis canadensis Goldenseal

Hydrastis canadensis Goldenseal


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Hydrastis canadensis is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Hydrastis trifolia. Warnera canadensis. Warnera diphylla. Warnera tinctoria

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade;

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antibacterial  Antiperiodic  Antiseptic  Antispasmodic  Astringent  Cholagogue  Diuretic  Laxative  
Sedative  Stomachic  Tonic

Goldenseal is a traditional medicine of the North American Indians and is still widely used in Western herbal medicine[4, 254]. In the Nineteenth century it acquired a reputation as a heal-all and was grossly over-collected from the wild and has become rare in the east of its range[213, 222]. It is now being cultivated on a small scale[4]. It is especially valued in treating disorders of the digestive system and mucous membranes and is also extremely useful in the treatment of habitual constipation[4, 254]. See also the notes above on cultivation needs[K]. The root is the active part of the plant, it is harvested in the autumn after the plant has died down and is dried for later use[4, 213]. It is said to be antiperiodic, antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, stomachic, tonic[4, 21, 46, 165, 222, 238]. It is used mainly in the treatment of disorders affecting the ears, eyes, throat, nose, stomach, intestines and vagina[254]. The root contains the alkaloids hydrastine, berberine and canadine[213]. Berberine is antibacterial (effective against broad-spectrum bacteria and protozoa[207]), it increases bile secretions, acts as an anticonvulsant, a mild sedative and lowers blood pressure[222]. Use of this plant destroys beneficial intestinal organisms as well as pathogens, so it should only be prescribed for limited periods (a maximum of three months)[238]. The plant should be used with caution, and not at all during pregnancy or by people with high blood pressure[222, 238]. An infusion of the root is used externally as a wash for skin diseases, vaginal infections, gum diseases etc[213, 238].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Repellent

A yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant[4, 46, 61]. It is obtained from the root[95]. The pounded root is smeared on the body to act as an insect repellent[213].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Goldenseal is somewhat difficult of cultivation, it prefers a good rich moist loamy leafy soil in shade or partial shade[4, 31, 187]. Prefers a sandy, acid to neutral humus-rich soil[200]. Grows best in a pH range from 6 to 7[238]. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c[187]. Goldenseal is grown commercially as a medicinal plant[57], but it is not easy to establish the plants[4, 200]. Another report says that all goldenseal root that is used medicinally comes from wild plants[238]. Since the plant is becoming increasingly rare in many parts of its range, it is probably wise to try and find alternatives to this species for medicinal use unless you can be sure that your supply comes from cultivated plants[K].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow autumn or early spring in a moist sandy loam in a shady part of the cold frame or greenhouse[1]. The seed is slow to germinate[238]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for the first year or two. Plant out into their permanent positions when the plants are dormant. Division of the roots in autumn[4]. The roots can be divided into quite small pieces and can also be transplanted at almost any time of the year[4]. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Dr S.K.Vashisht   Wed Feb 13 2008

Its used by Homoepaths for preparing tincture and is used widely in chronic cases especially cancer its a tonic and improves digestion by reliving constipation.

PAUL NORTON   Sun Feb 22 2009


frann leach   Tue Nov 3 2009

This plant is a protected species, and may not be collected from the wild.

   Jul 21 2011 12:00AM

I've purchased my goldenseal plants from Richters in Goodwood, Ontario, Canada. All 3 plants are doing very well. I grow them in full to partial shade under my evergreen trees. Richters cannot ship goldenseal plants to the U.S.

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