Hydrastis Canadensis The Golden Seal Of Homeopathy


HABITAT: Used extensively by Native Americans for its medicinal and clothing dye value. It is native to North America and found within rich, well drained woodlands. The parts used are the rhizome and root. Harvesting this marvelous herb should only be with plants that are at least three years old in the autumn part of the year. This is to allow the ripening of the seeds. The plant in the wild has almost been made extinct due to overharvesting from the wildcrafters greed. This, along with the belief that golden seal masks the urine test for our drug population, is putting this herb soon on the endangered species list.

CONSTITUENTS: The root contains alkaloids of hydrastine, berberine and canadine along with traces of essential oil, resin and fatty oil. The medicinal value of goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, and goldthread is thought to be due to their high content of isoquinoline alkaloids, of which berberine has been the most widely studied. Berberine (highest content is found in goldenseal) has demonstrated antibiotic, immunostimulatory, anticonvulsant, sedative, hypotensive, uterotonic, choleretic, and carminative activity. Berberine's pharmacological activities support the historical use of the berberine containing herbs.

USES: Golden Seal has been a very popular remedy both internally and externally. Pioneers adopted goldenseal and it became a mainstay of American folk medicine. The root is an ingredient of many herbal remedies because in addition to possessing medicinal virtues of its own, it is said to enhance the potency of other herbs. Goldenseal has found its way into modern medicine as a treatment for inflamed eyes. Many drug manufacturers include an alkaloid extracted from the root in some eyedrops.

Externally, it has been used very successfully for open sores, inflammation, eczema, vaginal infection, ringworm, and itchy skin afflictions (erysipelas). Used with myrrh, Golden Seal has worked wonders for tonsillitis (gargling), mouth sores and bleeding gums. Specifics of some of its incredible properties will be listed below.

Antibiotic activity

Golden Seal's antiseptic and hemostatic (stops bleeding) qualities are being studied world wide at the present time along with its most noted attribute of being a major antibiotic. Its ability in fighting infections of all kinds is probably Golden Seal's most famous characteristic. After using Golden Seal internally, it is wise to replenish the gastro-intestinal tract with Lactobacillus acidophilus supplementation. The herb's antibiotic capability is assumed to kill large amounts of bacteria, even good ones.

Berberine exhibits a broad spectrum of antibiotic activity. Berberine has shown antibiotic activity against bacteria, protozoa, and fungi, including Staphylococcus species, Streptomyces species, Chlamydia species, Corynebacterium diphtheria, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Pseudomonas species, Shigella dysenteriae, Entamoeba histolytica, Trichomonas vaginalis, Neisseria gonorrhea and N. meningitides, Treponema palladium Giardia lamblia, Leishmania donovani, and Candida albicans.

Its action against some of these pathogens is actually stronger than that of antibiotics commonly used in the treatment of diseases these pathogens cause. Berberine-containing plants should be considered in infectious processes involving the above-mentioned organisms. Berberine's action inhibiting Candida, as well as pathogenic bacteria, prevents the overgrowth of yeast that is a common side effect of antibiotic use.

Antiinfective activity

Investigators decide to investigate berberine's ability to inhibit the adherence of group A streptococci to host cells, since the therapeutic effect of berberine appeared to be greater than its direct antibiotic effects. Recent studies have shown that certain antimicrobial agents can block the adherence of microorganisms to host cells at doses much lower than those needed to kill cells or to inhibit cell growth.

Berberine inhibits the adhesion of streptococci to host cells by several modes of action. First, berberine causes streptococci to lose lipoteichoic acid which is the major substance responsible for the adhesion of bacteria to host tissues. Second, berberine prevents the adhesion of fibronectin to streptococci, and elutes already-bound fibronectin.

The significance of the results of this study are quite profound. It raises many questions and forces researchers as well as practitioners to look at the treatment of bacterial infections in a new light. Is it better to utilize a substance with bactericidal or bacteriostatic actions rather than a substance that prevents the adherence of bacteria to host cells? Is the true value of botanicals with "antiinfective" actions a multifactorial effect on all aspects of infections, from immune stimulation to antimicrobial and antiadherence actions?

Simply stated, the results of the study indicated that berberine interferes with infections due to group A streptococci not only by inhibiting streptococcal growth, but also by blocking these organisms to host cells. The study implies berberine-containing plants may be ideal in the treatment of "strep throat," a condition historically treated with goldenseal.

Immunostimulatory activity

Berberine has been shown to increase the blood supply to the spleen. This improved blood supply may promote optimal activity of the spleen. The spleen is responsible for filtering the blood and for releasing compounds that potentiate immune function. Berberine also activates macrophages. These cells are responsible for engulfing and destroying bacteria, viruses, tumor cells, and other particulate matter.

The combined effect of improving blood supply to the spleen and increasing macrophage activity translates into improved filtration of the blood and is consistent with the historical use of berberine-containing plants as "blood purifiers".

Antipyretic action

Historically, berberine-containing plants, especially goldthread, have been used as febrifuges. Berberine has produced an antipyretic effect three times as potent as that of aspirin in rats. However, while aspirin suppresses fever through its action on prostaglandin's, berberine appears to lower fever by enhancing the immune system's ability to handle fever 'producing compounds produced by microorganisms.

Anticancer effects

Berberine and another alkaloid found in berberine-containing plants, berbamine, have been shown to exert beneficial effects in cancer therapy. In fact, beramine has been used in China since 1972 in the treatment of depressed white blood cell (WBC) counts due to chemotherapy and/or radiation.

In one study, 405 patients with WBC counts <4,000 were given 150 milligrams of berbamine daily (50 milligrams orally three times daily) for 1-4 weeks. Berberine was viewed as "significantly effective" if the WBC count rose to >4,000 after 1 week or rose by more than 1,000 after 2 weeks; "effective" if the WBC count rose to >4,000 after 2 weeks or by more than 1,000 after 4 weeks; and "ineffective" if there was no charge in the WBC count after 4 weeks of treatment. The overall results for the 405 patients: significantly effective in 163 cases (40.2 percent), effective in 125 cases (38.8 percent), and ineffective in 117 cases (29 percent). The total effective rate was 71 percent. However, when the WBC count before therapy was related to overall effectiveness, the effective rate was only 54.8 percent in thirty-one cases in which the WBC cell count was less than 1,000 and 82.7 percent in cases in which the WBC count was between 3,100 and 3,800.

Berberine exhibits potent anticancer activity directly by killing tumor cells and indirectly via stimulating white blood cells. The most impressive effect was noted in a study demonstrating antitumor activity against human and rat malignant brain tumors. Several experimental approaches were used in the study. In vitro studies were performed on a series of six human malignant brain tumor cell lines and rat 9L brain tumor cells. Berberine used alone at a dose of 150 micrograms per milliliter showed an average cell "kill rate" of 91 percent. This kill rate was over twice that of 1,3-bis(2-chloro-ethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU), the standard chemotherapeutic agent for brain tumors, which had a cell kill rate of 43 percent. Studies in rats harboring solid 9L brain tumors also showed berberine has antitumor effects. Rats treated with berberine, 10 milligrams per kilogram, had a 81 percent cell kill rate. However, the combination treatment, berberine and BCNU exhibited additive effects in killing cancer cells. These results indicate that goldenseal may prove to be more effective than BCNU or, at the very least, a valuable therapeutic addition in the treatment of difficult brain cancers.

Infectious diarrhea

Berberine has shown significant success in the treatment of acute diarrhea in several clinical studies. It has been found effective against diarrhea's caused by Escherichia coli (traveler's diarrhea), Shigella dysenteriae (shigellosis), Salmonella paratyphi (food poisoning), B., Klebsiella, Giardia lamblia (giardiasis), and Vibrio cholerae (cholera). Studies in hamsters and rats have shown that berberine also has significant activity against Entamoebe histolytica, the causative agent of amebiasis.

It appears that berberine is effective in treating the majority of common gastrointestinal infections. Clinical studies have produced results with berberine comparable to those of standard antibiotics in most cases. In fact, in several studies results were better.

Much of berberine's effectiveness is undoubtedly due to its direct antimicrobial activity; however, it also blocks the action of toxins produced by certain bacteria. This toxin-blocking effect is most evident in diarrhea's caused by enterotoxins (e.g., Vibrio cholerae and Escherichia coli), cholera, and traveler's diarrhea.

The dose should be based on berberine content. As goldenseal preparations vary widely in quality, standardized extracts are preferred. The following doses should be taken three times a day:

Dried root as infusion (tea): 2-4 grams

Tincture (1:5): 6-12 milliliters (11/2 to 3 teaspoons)

Fluid extract (1:1): 2-4 milliliters (1/2 to 1 teaspoon)

Solid (powdered dry) extract (4:1 or 8-12 percent alkaloid content): 250-500 milligrams.

Utilization of the liquid extract is preferred for internal use. Use 20 to 60 drops depending on the circumstance and also the person. Only use for acute circumstances. Long term use is not suggested. Avoid during pregnancy as the uterine muscles are stimulated. The external use is as a douche, poultice, fomentation, mouthwash and snuff.


Berberine and berberine-containing plants are generally nontoxic at the recommended dosages: however, berberine-containing plants are not recommended for use during pregnancy and higher dosages may interfere with vitamin B metabolism.

The oral LD (50 percent lethal dose) in rats for berberine was greater than 1,000 milligrams per kilogram body weight, indicating the toxicity is extremely low. If the lifestyle changes from that which produced the ability of the body to become toxic along with its ultimate germ infestation, then one can take care of the SYMPTOM mentioned with Golden Seal and also get rid of the CAUSE which was incorrect lifestyle.


Hydrastis has a wonderful homeopathic history. Clarke states that "it may be fairly stated that more cases of cancer have been cured with it than with any other single remedy." Murphy states that this is true, but that was before Grimer introduced the Cadmiums. In many precancerous patients, they have a prodrome of undefined ill health with out any discernible growths being found. This provides a clinical picture of cachexia, especially with complete failure of the stomach & appetite.

Hydrastis is principally used in serious disorders of the Autonomic Nervous System, in cancer and septic states, in protracted catarrhs, influenza with great secretion of mucous, coughs, epistaxis, great weakness, and also in gastro-intestinal ulceration, liver conditions with jaundice and in cystitis.

As will be detailed below, it is of service in roseola and eczematous skin eruptions, especially where there is a general physical weakness and exhaustion. It is a remedy that is also noted for rheumatic muscular and nervous pains (whether fixed or changing locations) and particularly in illnesses of the uterus with vaginal discharge, in breast lumps and in neuralgia's of the spermatic cord & testes. A consolidated materia medica picture of Hydrastis follows.

MENTALS::: Hydrastis has the single remedy rubr??? of cheerful; morning; rising on. There are 5 grade 2 symptoms, they are:

1. Cursing
2. Irritability
3. Irritability; dinner; after
4. Memory; weakness of
5. Sadness

Other symptoms found are "Depressed; sure of death and desires it." Forgetfulness, cannot remember what is being read or spoken about, gloomy, taciturn, disagreeable with disposition to be spiteful.

HEAD::: They have dull, pressing frontal headaches especially connected with constipation. Vertex headaches worse at 11 AM with nausea & vomiting or sharp pain in temples and over eyes - worse leftbetter pressure. Myalgic pains in the scalp and the cervical muscles. Eczema along the forehead at the hair line.

EARS::: Eustachian catarrh, chronic otorrhea, tinnitus.

EYES::: Profuse secretion of tears which smart and burn, thick mucous discharge, corneal opacities. Used in tincture form applied to the eyes for conjunctivitis.

NOSE::: Thick, tenacious secretion from the posterior nares to throat, discharge starts as thick & clear, transitioning to yellow, becoming more stringy and sticky (like Kali-bich) and may be tinged with blood.

MOUTH::: The tongue is swollen and flabby and shows the imprint of the teeth (compare Merc.), tongue feels scalded or burnt and there may be a "peppery" taste. Good for aphthae and stomatitis, there can be a yellow slimy coating on the tongue as well.

FACE::: Expression weary and dull with the skin white or yellow white. Erysipelatous eruptions when overheated.

THROAT::: Hawking of thick yellow tenacious mucous (like Kali-bich), the post nasal drip will wake the sufferer from sleep. The throat can be dry, raw and sore with soreness of the uvula (pharyngitis). Goiter in puberty and at pregnancy.

STOMACH::: Constant soreness of stomach, weak digestion, bitter tastes, indigestion from atony of the stomach, especially in old people or those badly debilitated. Gastric ulcers and the vomiting of thick, bright yellow, stringy mucous, will vomit everything eaten except milk and water. They cannot eat bread or vegetables, can have acute cutting pains or will develop emaciation when eating well.

ABDOMEN::: The liver is swollen and tender with or without jaundice and gall stones. Sharp pain in the region of the spleen, pains extending into the testicles (especially right side) and even wearing clothing is uncomfortable. This remedy will palliate liver cancer by relieving pain and restoring function.

STOOL::: Marked constipation with a sinking feeling in the stomach and dull headache. There is smarting pain in the rectum during stool with pain lasting for hours. Hemorrhoids; even a light flow exhausts and causes faintness. Can have mucous diarrhea or light yellow stools that will have lumps of mucous in them. A better remedy for constipation than Nux.

URINARY ORGANS::: Dull achy pain over the kidneys, bladder catarrh with a thick, yellow, ropy, mucous sediment in the urine. The urine smells "decomposed" and there can be urethritis with a thick, yellow gleety discharge.

FEMALE::: Erosion and excoriation of the cervix, leucorrhea (thick, yellow, tenacious mucous) which is worse after menses: menorrhagia, metorrhagia and pruritus vulva. Lancinating pain in the breast extending up to shoulder and down arm as if being cut by a knife. The skin is adhered to the tumor but mottled - bluish and discolored. Good for abraded or sore nipples during breast feeding.

RESPIRATION::: Dry, harsh cough with a thick, yellow tenacious expectoration. Pain from the chest to the left side, chronic asthma attacks, feels like suffocating when laying on the left side. Chest feels raw, sore and burning.

SKIN::: Variola like eruptions, jaundiced skin when liver involved, hives or moist skin eruptions and ulcers with offensive discharges that itch and burn.

EXTREMITIES::: Dull, heavy dragging sensation across lumbar region, needs to use arms to help rise from a chair, neck feels sore and the limbs are tired and achy.

GENERALS::: Weakness, faintness, prostration, frequent attacks of spells of exhaustion accompanied by cold sweats. Muscles are weakened, small wounds bleed a lot, marasmus and cancerous conditions.


The two major themes that come through all the materia medicas is the value of Hydrastis in treating cancer and in thick, yellow tenacious mucous discharges. Various authors mention treating colon, liver, uterine, cervical, breast, liver, stomach, mouth, throat and tongue cancer, all giving high grades for its efficacy.

The mucous discharge is nearly identical with Kali-bich. If all the symptomatology is in the URT (cold, flu, bronchitis) without any other concomitant findings, then the patient can be started on one, holding the other in reserve should the patient not respond to the first choice. This should be obvious within hours in an acute or sub acute condition.

Obviously for conditions such as marasmus, emaciation, poor wound healing, gastric atony, etc. more time will be necessary. The majority of proving symptoms are from using the tincture through 30x. The tincture cannot be discounted here, authors recommend small amounts to treat diseases such as small pox in addition to those conditions mentioned above. Since it is still cold/flu season, a powerful combination is Echinacea/Golden seal in tincture form to stimulate the immune system, perhaps combined with Oscillococcinum (Flu Solution) as a prophylactic. Overall, it is apparent that Hydrastis needs to be in every homeopaths armamentarium.

Chiropractic Academy of Homeopathy.


By Dean Martens

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