Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L. ) is a North American woodland herb with a yellow perennial rhizome. A new stem grows each year about 30 cm high. The leaves are large (up to 30 cm wide), usually with five lobes. A single white flower, a mass of stamens with no petals, is produced from late April to May, depending on latitude and altitude, followed in July by a bright red berry with 10 to 30 black seeds. The natural range of the plant extends from southern New England west through the extreme southwestern portion of southern Ontario, to southern Wisconsin, and south to Arkansas and northern Georgia.
Goldenseal is highly valued for its rhizome and roots that contain medicinal alkaloids (Small and Catling, 1999). The roots have antibiotic properties, suppressing certain bacteria, protozoans, and fungi, and are used to treat AIDS and other severe chronic diseases, and digestive disorders, and to enhance the immune system (Davis and Bit, 1998). Commercial formulations prepared from the plant are widely used to treat colds and nasal congestion, as well as certain infections and parasites (Small and Calling, 1999).
orangeroo, yellow-puccoon, fard inolien, hydrastis du Canada, racirie jaunisse, sceau d'or, kanadische Orangewurz, hidrastis, raíz de oro
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: Range extent was calculated based on a map in Sinclair and Catling (2000a). Range extent is closer to 1,250,000 sq km.
Eastern United States, northward into Ontario: southern Vermont to Ontario, west to Minnesota and south to Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. Common in Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia; uncommon around the range perimeter. The central portion of its range is and was where goldenseal was the most abundant, including Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia (Sinclair and Catling 2000a). Christensen and Gorchov (2010) describe the core part of the historical range as the Ohio River Valley.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Anonymous. 1986. List-Based Rec., Soil Conserv. Serv., U.S.D.A. Database of the U.S.D.A., Beltsville. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1103
- Voss, E. G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II Dicots (Saururaceae-Cornaceae). Bull. Cranbrook Inst. Sci. 59. xix + 724. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1700
- Gleason, H. A. 1968. The Choripetalous Dicotyledoneae. vol. 2. 655 pp. In H. A. Gleason Ill. Fl. N. U.S. (ed. 3). New York Botanical Garden, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1704
- Keener, C. S. 1992. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/29092
- Radford, A. E., H. E. Ahles & C. R. Bell. 1968. Man. Vasc. Fl. Carolinas i–lxi, 1–1183. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/636
- Small, J. K. 1933. Man. S.E. Fl. i–xxii, 1–1554. Published by the Author, New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1515
- Fernald, M. 1950. Manual (ed. 8) i–lxiv, 1–1632. American Book Co., New York. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1327
- Ford, B. 1994. Hydrastis (Ranunculaceae). 7 pp. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/46410
Comments: In the United States goldenseal is found in rich, densely shaded, deciduous forests with good air flow and water drainage (Greenfield and Davis 2012). Light gaps and soil disturbance stimulate local proliferation (McGraw et al. 2003).
Canada: In Southwest Ontario goldenseal is limited to deciduous woodlands near floodplains and periodic spring-flooded plateaus. There only remnants of this woodland remains, less than 5%of these forests remain from pre-settlement times (Sinclair and Catling 2000).
Goldenseal grows best in rich, mesic hardwood forest, especially those underlain by limestone or alkaline soils, butis also known from slightly acidic soils too. These forests are often second growth forests with the following associates (listed alphabetically by strata): Acer rubrum, Acer saccharum, Betula lenta, Carpinus caroliniana, Carya spp., Fagus grandifolia, Fraxinus americana, Liriodendron tulipifera, Ostrya virginiana, Quercus spp., Thuja occidentalis, Tilia americana, Ulmus rubra, Cornus alternifolia, Corylus americana, Lindera benzoin, Lonicera spp., Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Toxicodendron radicans, Adiantum pedatum, Anemone quinquefolia, Aralia nudicaulis, Arisaema triphyllum, Asarum canadense, Asplenium platyneuron, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Carex platyphylla, Carex spp., Caulophyllum thalictroides, Cimicifuga racemosa, Dicentra spp., Dryopteris spp., Geranium maculatum, Hepatica spp., Hydrophyllum spp., Maianthemum spp., Mitella diphylla, Osmorhiza spp., Panax quinquefolius, Podophyllum peltatum, Polystichum acrostichoides, Sanguinaria canadensis, Trillium spp., Uvularia spp., Viola spp. Species composition will vary considerable from region to region, but some of the above associates are likely to be found. Areas with Hydrastis also tend to have a nice collection of spring wildflowers and fern diversity is also likely higher than surrounding areas.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300
Comments: USA: 1000+ extant occurrences globally. Alabama: 14; Arkansas: 100s; Connecticut: 6, Delaware: 26;Georgia: 15; Kansas (no occurrences delineated), Kentucky: >100; Illinois: 100s; Indiana: 59; Iowa: 21; Massachusetts: 4, Maryland: 19; Michigan: 91; Minnesota: 14; Mississippi: 5; Missouri: 100s; New York: 22; North Carolina: 31; New Jersey: 2; Ohio: many; Pennsylvania: 17; Vermont: 5; Tennessee: 154; West Virginia: many; Wisconsin: >100 CANADA: Ontario (22) (NatureServe Element Occurrence data 2012). Element occurrence data not available for Virginia. Since many states do not actively track this species, comprehensive population numbers are not well known. Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia likely have the highest number of plants.
Life History and Behavior
Persistence: PERENNIAL, Long-lived
Goldenseal reproduces both clonally and sexually, which clonal division more frequent than asexual reproduction. It takes between 4 and 5 years for a plant to reach sexual maturity, i.e. the point at which it produces flowers. Plants in the first stage, when the seed erupts and cotyledons emerge, can remain in this state one or more years. The second vegetative stage occurs during years two and three (and sometimes longer) and is characterized by the development of a single leaf and absence of a well developed stem. Finally, the third stage is reproductive, at which point flowering and fruiting occurs. This last stage takes between 4 and 5 years to develop (Burkhart 2005).
Flowers in April through May, and fruits from July 4 through July 19 in Ontario (Sinclair et al. 2000). Fruit and seed set is not dependent on cross-pollination because Goldenseal has a mixed-mating system and flowers show similar fruit set whether or not pollinators were excluded (Sinclair et al. 2000, Christensen and Gorchov 2010).
In the northern reaches of goldenseal's range, in southwest Ontario, seedlings are rare (Sinclair and Catling 2000a). A study in the core portion of the range, in Ohio, found that while seedlings were far fewer than ramets, a 'substantial' number of the seedling-minority made it to the next life history stage, and ultimately represents an infusion of genetic diversity into the otherwise highly clonal population (Christensen and Gorchov 2010).
Christensen and Gorchov (2010) noted the following that seedling rarity is not due to: a) infrequent flowering, low fruit or seed set, and low seed viability.
Christensen and Gorchov (2010) provide a good, clear diagram of the life-history of this plant, including diagrams of the possible transitions, places of regression to an earlier life stage, between life stages.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Hydrastis canadensis
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hydrastis canadensis
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, an herbaceous understory species of the eastern deciduous forest, with the core of its range in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia (Sinclair and Catling 2000a). It extends north into Ontario, Canada and as far south in the United States to Alabama, east to North Carolina and north to Vermont.
Goldenseal may be best known for its use as an herbal supplement for a variety of health purposes, including as an immune booster and anti-inflammatory agent. Its earliest known use was by indigenous people in the eastern North America and by the 1700s it was used as a digestion aid and treatment for skin imflammation (Barton 1798). Its use is well documented from the 1800s to the present, with increasing demand through time as markets expanded beyond local usage. The species has been primarily wild-harvested, and over-collection of the plant is a predominate threat.
Concern due to over-collection is expressed at the national levels both in the United State and Canada. Since 1997, goldenseal has been listed in Appendix II of the Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), with an annotation to regulate the underground parts (i.e. roots, rhizomes): whole, parts and powdered. A CITES Appendix-II listing requires that exporters obtain permits or certificates to ensure that international trade is legal and is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. In Canada, goldenseal is designated 'threatened' by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
Long-term decline since the beginning of its harvest history is evident, and short term trends are more localized, from declining to stable. State conservation statuses range from vulnerable to critically imperiled in the periphery of the range, to uncommon and secure in the core of its range. As of 2013, the species is state-listed as endangered, vulnerable or threatened in at least ten states. Seven of the states within goldenseal's range do not have State plant endangered species lists or protection laws.
Goldenseal, from a rangewide perspective and in a classical perspective of distribution and abundance is currently uncommon to secure, however, from a more holistic conservation perspective the extent of threats, long-term trends and short-term trends demand continuous and close monitoring in both the United States and Canada.
Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
The following topics are addressed in the publication, Cultivating the increasingly popular medicinal plant, goldenseal: Review and update by Adrianne Sinclair and Paul M. Catling, which is reproduced below.
This publication was reproduced from the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, volume 16 (3), with permission from the authors and the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture.
Cultivating the increasingly popular medicinal plant, goldenseal: Review and update
Adrianne Sinclair and Paul M. Catling
Abstract. Interest in the cultivation of goldenseal is increasing and this may have benefits for agriculture, human health, and conservation. To enable a better understanding of growing conditions, cultivation methods reported in the literature were reviewed, 21 natural goldenseal populations in the northern portion of its natural range in North America were described and analyzed in terms of population size and health, and 15 successful growers were interviewed on requirements for optimal cultivation. Growing conditions in the wild were compared to those reported in the cultivation literature. Summary of data from natural populations suggests goldenseal grows best in mixed hardwood forests, under 60 65% shade, in moist sandy loam soils high in organic matter, with pH 5.7 to 6.3. Similarly, review of the literature suggests that goldenseal grows best in moist, well drained loams high in organic matter, with pH 5.5 to 6.5. Reported shade requirements vary but 47 80% shade is considered optimal. Growing conditions reported by growers were also consistent with the cultivation literature and similar to conditions of wild populations. Although optimal growing conditions are similar to those for many crops, goldenseal is relatively robust and can grow well in a variety of conditions including wet, predominantly sandy or clay soils with pH as low as 4.8 and as high as 7.8. Cultivation can utilize a ginseng crop infrastructure and goldenseal has been recommended as a rotation crop for ginseng. Commercial production of goldenseal is potentially advantageous because (1) it is an environmentally friendly crop; (2) it has been grown successfully far outside its natural range, is easy to grow, and is considered potentially profitable; and (3) it is relatively inexpensive, having low energy, land area, and fertilization requirements. Development of a sustainable crop may contribute to the protection of native wild gennplasm, which can provide valuable material for crop improvement.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%
Comments: It is known that the rhizome of Hydrastis canadensis is wild-collected for medicinal uses. Short term trend information is available from a few sources. There is decline in some populations due to wild-collection and habitat loss. Wild-collection in Canada is prohibited. Overall population decline is evidenced through fewer populations present, fewer patches per population, and fewer ramets per patch (Sanders and McGraw 2005). Rangewide, or state-by-state, abundance information for goldenseal is unknown, which is typical of most wild-harvested plant species (McGraw et al. 2003). Abundance and short-term trends in the core range states, in terms of both population size (numbers) and patches, is not available because it is not state-protected, and hence not monitored closely. There are studies and observations for a few jurisdictions.
Population studies in Ontario, Canada detected no declines between 1991 and 1998. Some patches may have been increasing while others were decreasing (Sinclair and Catling 2000a). The rate of expansion over several decades in Ontario is considered slight and slow, and possibly because of lack of disturbance given that populations in areas with some disturbance (greater light and nutrient resources) had highly variable growth rates (Sinclair and Catling 2002).
In West Virginia, evidence of poaching was documented near Morgantown, West Virginia (Sanders and McGraw 2005), however, it is widely known that the rhizome is collected for trade in the medicinal market.
In Ohio, a core range state, recent short-term declines of approximately 30% were detected in goldenseal (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004, pers. comm. Gorchov 2012). Of 42 sites documented in Ohio from 1977-1998, 14 of these were extirpated as of 2002, if the rate of decline is constant, approximately 1.6% of populations are expected to be extirpated each year, and approximately a 30% decline over 20 years (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004, pers. comm. Gorchov 2012).
In New York, recent studies have shown on-going extirpations as the distribution was reduced from 14 counties to 12 counties, due to habitat loss (Tait 2006).
In Indiana, another core-range state, a dramatic increase in the amount of goldenseal harvested over the past 10 years, and law enforcement officials have expressed concern for the species due to the tonnage being shipped from the state (pers. comm. Indiana Department of Natural Resources). Even though quantitative information about trends in Indiana do not exist, sharp increases in collection over 10 years suggest that a decline is very likely in this slow growing perennial. A study described the growth rate of goldenseal as 'slight' (Sinclair and Catling 2000a).
Some information about short-term trends is available from state Natural Heritage botanists. Alabama (pers. comm. A. Schotz 2012) and Ohio (pers. comm. R. Gardner 2012) have had short term declines and West Virginia (pers. comm. P. Harmon) may also have short term declines. Botanists from the following states; AR, DE, KY, MO, MS, NC, NY, PA, TN, and VT say that the species is stable to slightly declining in their state.
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 10-50%
Comments: Since the mid 1800s, populations throughout goldenseal's range have dramatically declined due to collection for medicinal uses and habitat destruction (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004). There is anecdotal evidence that during the 19th century as botanists noticed the decline and loss of goldenseal populations because of market demand and loss of habitat, greater pressure on managed or previously unharvested populations intensified (Albrecht and McCarthy 2006). Once-abundant populations were decimated, and the distribution of this widespread species was reduced to isolated, scattered patches (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004, CITES 1991, Lloyd and Lloyd 1884-1885 in Foster 1991, Henkel and Klugh 1904).
Loss of habitat is another primary threat both in United States (Tait 2006) and Canada (Sinclair and Catling 2000a). There are only remnants of the woodlands remaining where this species occurs in Canada: less than 5% of these forests remain from presettlement times (Sinclair and Catling 2000a). Similarly, in New England during the 1800s, forest conversion, from forested lands to agriculture and settlement, reached its height and approximately 80% of the originally forested land was lost (Tait 2006). In addition, many Ohio populations have gone extinct (Christensen and Gorchov 2010). A study by Mulligan and Gorchov (2004) assessed the status of 71 historical locations of goldenseal in Ohio and concluded that nearly half of the populations had been extirpated (13% of the extinctions were due to habitat destruction). They note that this number may be somewhat mitigated by the rate of colonization, however, that is unknown.
Finally, according to the proposal to list goldenseal in Appendix II of CITES (1997), "the decline to rarity of this species has been reiterated by numerous authors including Millspaugh 1887, Henkel and Klugh 1904, Lloyd and Lloyd 1908, Grieve 1931, Deam 1940, Fernald 1950, Hill 1952, Gleason 1968, Schery 1972, Wofford 1989, Catling and Small 1994, Elliott 1995, Foster 1991, and Foster 1995."
Degree of Threat: Very high - high
Comments: Hydrastis canadensis, Goldenseal, is a medicinal plant, increasingly under pressure from wild-harvest both in domestic and international medicinal plant markets (Sinclair and Catling 2000a, McGraw et al. 2003, pers. comm. Indiana Department of Natural Resources 2012). According to Miami University (Ohio) researchers Christensen and Gorchov (2010), while it has been cultivated for 100+ years, much of the trade both domestically and internationally comes from wild harvested plants. According to Greenfield and Davis (2012), nearly all of the wild collected material is collected by small-scale diggers from the southern region Appalachian range and Missouri, and only 40% of the overall supply of goldenseal was from cultivated material as of 2005 (Greenfield and Davis 2012). Demand continues to be higher than can be satisfied with cultivated material. The market for goldenseal is expected to grow at a rate of 5% to 10% annually, and the market for high quality cultivated material is expected to grow 10 to 15% annually (Greenfield and David 2012). In Indiana, collection pressure has intensified dramatically over the last 10 years, based on the number of inquiries by herbal diggers in the state (pers. comm. Indiana Department of Natural Resources). Along with the increased demand for goldenseal in Indiana, according to State officials, it is evident that herbal diggers that are harvesting wild goldenseal in July and August are also harvesting American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) outside the legal harvest season that has not yet had a chance to reproduce (pers. comm. Indiana Department of Natural Resources). Law enforcement officials in Indiana are concerned for the species due to the amount being shipped from the state, and while there are no quantitative data on population declines in Indiana (pers. comm. Indiana Department of Natural Resources), declines seem likely. Collection pressure in parts of the species' range where unemployment is high [presumably the Appalachian portion of its range] is incentivized by prices paid for wild-collected roots/rhizomes in the herbal market (McGraw et al. 2003). Studies suggest that if as little as 10% of the plants from a population are removed by collected annually, that the population will go extinct over time (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004).
Habitat destruction is a primary threat throughout its range, as indicated by Sinclair and Catling (2000a) only 5% of forested habitat that supports goldenseal in Canada remains, in many personal communications with Natural Heritage Botanists in 2012 and throughout New England (Tait 2006). It is surmised that local extinctions in Ohio were the result of urban sprawl (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004). The interaction and compounding intensification of over-collection and habitat loss, should not be overlooked. Albrecht and McCarthy (2006) suggest that observations by botanists of population disappearance in the early 19th century documented this co-occurrence of threats. It is also suggested that the combination of these two threats may reduce or reverse positive efforts of stewardship, or 'managed' populations (Albrecht and McCarthy 2006). It should also be recognized that the combined interaction of these threats may be increasing the rate of decline in areas of its range where these two threats are actively occurring.
Invasive species is also a threat, including pressure from both non-native plants. White-tailed deer browse is also a threat in Ohio (Mulligan and Gorchov 2004) and in other parts of the range.
Additional threats in Canada include, habitat disturbance from trails, logging, flooding and recently dug holes from poachers. Disease and grazing do not seem to be threats in Canada (Sinclair and Catling 2000a).
The presence of the leaf blight is threatening the population in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Further threats as noted by state Natural Heritage Botanists:
Alabama: Incompatible forestry practices appear to be the foremost concern, with invasive species of secondary importance (Al Schotz, pers. comm., 2012).
Arkansas: Unknown (Theo Witsell, pers. comm., 2012).
Connecticut: Invasive species and canopy closure. Severity of the threats is unknown (Nelson DeBarros & Nancy Murray, pers. comm., 2012).
Delaware: Invasive species and deer browse (William A. McAvoy, pers. comm., 2012).
Indiana: Not known, but collecting and habitat destruction likely (Michael Homoya, pers. comm., 2012).
Kansas: Unknown (Craig C. Freeman, pers. comm., 2012).
Kentucky: The current threats are land conversion/development, collection, and high deer populations (Deborah White, pers. comm., 2012).Massachusetts: This plant has never been common in Massachusetts, populations are very small and threatened by herbivory (Bryan Connolly, pers. comm., 2012)
Michigan: Collecting and habitat destruction (M.R. Penskar et al. 2001).
Minnesota: Invasive species (such as garlic mustard and buckthorn) continue to be discovered in the greater area of goldenseal's range in Minnesota. This will likely be a rising threat to populations in the long-term (Derek Anderson, Welby Smith, & Nancy Sather, pers. comm., 2012).
Missouri: Current threats are over harvesting, particularly on public land. (Malissa Underwood, pers. comm., 2012).
Mississippi: In the Loess Bluff Physiographic Province, rapid subdivision development is encroaching into the habitat of goldenseal. One population has already probably been extirpated by a "Loess Bluff Restoration Project" associated with a housing development. In the Pontotoc Ridge Physiographic Province, the private land owner is considering developing the land as a new subdivision(Heather Sullivan, pers. comm., 2012).
New York: It is collected for medicinal purposes but so far there is no evidence that it is being over-collected in New York. There is a moderate threat from habitat destruction, especially in the Lower Hudson area. Exotic species like garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle threaten its understory habitat (Steve Young, pers. comm., 2012).
North Carolina: Poaching and effects of climate change (drought, increased temperatures, wind damage, invasive species) (Laura Gadd, pers. comm., 2012).
New York: It is collected for medicinal purposes but so far there is no evidence that it is being over-collected in New York. There is a moderate threat from habitat destruction, especially in the Lower Hudson area. Exotic species like garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle threaten its understory habitat (Steve Young, pers. comm. 2012).
Ohio: Some threats include development, recreation, roads and associated maintenance, resource extraction and processing (timber, oil, renewable energy), agriculture, and non-native species (Rick Gardner, pers. comm., 2012).
Ontario: Possibly lack of disturbance at some sites (Sinclair & Catling 1998) (Michael J. Oldham, pers. comm., 2012).
Pennsylvania: Invasive species, succession (more coming in later report), and gas development (Chris Firestone, pers. comm., 2012.)
Tennessee: Timber operations and ATV trails are the main threats (Todd Crabtree, pers. comm., 2012).
Virginia: Mostly unknown, but harvest and development are likely threats (John Townsend, pers. comm., 2012).
Vermont: Invasives, development, and climate change. (Bob Popp & Aaron Marcus, pers. comm., 2012).
Wisconsin: Forest conversion is likely the largest historical threat. Forest fragmentation and development is likely the largest current threat with invasive plants and earthworm likely causing significant impacts, especially for spread by seed. Leaf herbivory is unknown, but deer populations are high in the known region. Fruit herbivory and seed destruction is also unknown, but turkeys and rodents may be causing destruction of seed or placement in inappropriate habitat. Possible threats by logging, although the level of logging in the southern part of the state where it is found is relatively low, especially in the southeast. Impacts of harvest are unknown. We do not receive any harvest data and reports of sales to ginseng dealers is erratic. It would be fairly simple to survey ginseng dealers and ask them about amounts and trends in goldenseal harvest. Dealers may also have a sense if it is generally being harvested sustainably. (Kevin Doyle, Assistant Botanist & Ryan O'Connor, Assistant Ecologist, Kelly Kearns, pers. comm., 2012).
West Virginia: Wild harvest (P.J. Harmon, pers. comm., 2012).
Diseases and pests
None of the 21 wild populations of goldenseal showed evidence of disease or pest problems. Similarly, cultivated goldenseal rarely suffers from disease or pests when grown in small plots in the woods (Davis, 1999a, 1999c). Some plantings may be affected by botrytis leaf spot and/or slugs (Davis, 1999c; Li and Oliver, 1995). Removal of affected foliage and mulch provides reasonable control for botrytis (Davis, 1999a), and successful methods of control for slugs have been documented (Davis, 1999a, 1999c). However, as goldenseal has been increasingly cultivated, there are now more reports of diseases (caused by Alternaria, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium) occurring under artificial shade structures, but not in the forest (Beyfuss, 1999; Davis, 1999a, 1999c). The more intensive the production system used, the greater incidence of disease (Davis, 1999b). The chance of diseases can be reduced by proper sanitation practices, adequate air and water circulation, and avoiding over fertilization (J.M. Davis, North Carolina State University, pers. comm., 2000). None of the interviewed growers reported any diseases or pests associated with their production practices.
Biological Research Needs: Few studies have been conducted on the genetic diversity of the species. Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis showed that moderate to high genetic diversity was found in wild populations sampled in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but that some populations had very low genetic diversity suggesting they are reproducing vegetatively (Kelley 2009). One other study examined 6 goldenseal locations in North Carolina and found that most genetic variation was found within populations, however, genetic diversity across populations was found to be low (Torgerson 2012). Torgerson (2012) notes that because genetic and allelic diversity was low across all of the goldenseal populations researched in North Carolina, that reintroductions into declining populations should not cause genetic loss through oubreeding depression. Similar studies in other states in the core range states would further help inform stewardship practices such as reintroductions in harvested populations. Genetic studies are also needed to examine the consequences of climate change if low genetic levels are detected along the leading or trailing edges of its range. Genetic diversity should also be considered when developing stewardship programs focused on responsible harvesting.
Patterns of rhizome collection need to be documented to better understand the proportion of size classes that harvesters remove, and how goldenseal responds to these different patterns (pers. comm. Gorchov 2012). In other words, the frequency, intensity and technique of harvesting patterns needs monitoring, in addition to its re-growth response (Albrecht and McCarthy 2006).
Modeling is also a need. Models that project the impact of harvesting based on the different proportions of life history classes collected and at different time intervals are needed (pers. comm. Gorchov 2012). Models that use real-life harvesting practices could be intrumental in documenting and predicting the decline of goldenseal, and decline is a vital component to assessing extinction risk for this clonal species.
The extent of impact of deer browse on patches throughout goldenseal's range is needed (pers. comm. Gorchov 2012). Many states record that white-tailed deer herbivory is a threat, however, the extent of the threat is not well understood.
Lastly, there are a number of questions relating to the economic trade that need research. It is not clear what percentage of wild harvested goldenseal is used domestically. It is not clear what the harvest or cultivation practices are of herbal companies that do not belong to AHPA (American Herbal Products Association). It is also not clear if this is offsetting collection pressure from wild populations of goldenseal, given that some states continue to report declines, and to what extent poaching is impacting wild populations. More research is required to determine whether current goldenseal demands can be satisfied by increased cultivation and whether market prices might stabilize if there are potentially stable supplies of goldenseal.
Availability of planting stock
Suppliers of plant propagation material are readily available on the World Wide Web; however, a survey by the American Herbal Products Association indicates that most material is obtained from wild sources (McGuffin, 1999). Suppliers and/ or local natural resource departments may be able to ensure that source material has originated from cultivation. Current research is directed at alternative methods of generating planting stock (Reeleder, 2000) and optimizing cultivation techniques (McNeill et al., 2000), to reduce collection from wild populations. Suppliers are also encouraging growing the plant from seed (Cech, 2000). Regional natural populations contain characteristics, including local climate and pest adaptation, and possibly genetic variation in blight and drought resistance, alkaloid content, and other characteristics, necessary to develop and maintain a viable crop in local areas.
Low fertilization and energy requirements
Davis (1998, 1999a, 1999b) found that addition of inorganic N (ammonium nitrate) and P either reduced growth or had little effect, indicating that fertilizer requirements are generally low. Minimizing fertilization reduces both actual and environmental costs. Less expensive organic sources of fertilizer, such as leaf compost, manure compost, bone meal, or cottonseed meal, have been recommended by researchers and growers as more effective for goldenseal production (Bryant, 1977; Davis, 1996a; Hardacre, 1977; McNeill et al., 2000; Reeleder, 2000).
Sustainability and germplasm protection
Reduction of the increasing threat to natural populations as a result of cultivation could decrease the likelihood of loss of goldenseal germplasm. The germplasm may prove valuable in crop development if goldenseal gains popularity as a crop.
Goldenseal has an approximate "biodiversity friendly" score of 17, making it one of the crops that contributes most to biodiversity protection. Its very high score is a consequence of various characteristics such as: (1) it requires relatively little agricultural input (i.e., fertilizers and pesticides); (2) it contributes to protection of wild species; (3) it requires relatively low energy for maintenance and harvest; (4) it has a high value per ha and relatively low hectarage requirement; (5) it can be grown in rotation thus reducing the need for agrichemicals; and (6) its flowers produce food for pollinators.
Some ginseng farmers have taken advantage of goldenseal's potential as a rotation crop (Merwin, 2000). Its value results from the perception that ginseng cannot be grown continuously due to deterioration of soil quality. However, this may be overstated since soil quality adequate for ginseng production can be maintained (T.S.C. Li, Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, pers. comm., 2000). Ginseng farmers have noted that goldenseal has similar cultural requirements and, consequently, there is substantial potential profit in taking advantage of an existing ginseng plantation to grow goldenseal. The raised beds, forest site, or shade apparatus is already in place and similar equipment can be used in crop management and harvesting. It is generally conceded that goldenseal is less difficult to grow than ginseng because of the greater tolerance of the former crop to higher light intensity, wetter conditions, and diseases and pests (Beyfuss, 1999; Bryant, 1977; Cech, 1995; Davis, 1996a, 1996b; Konsler, 1987; Table 3). Two growers indicated that goldenseal is more tolerant of drying out and grows well in much wetter conditions, compared to ginseng, and goldenseal roots are less likely to rot (Table 3). Goldenseal is not affected by the most serious diseases of ginseng, e.g., leaf and stem blight caused by Alternaria panax and root rot caused by Phytophthora cactorum (Beyfuss, 1999; Davis, 1999a). In fact, goldenseal may be grown successfully in locations where ginseng crops have failed due to root rot caused by P. cactorum (Davis, 1999a). Davis (1998) found that by the second year after planting old ginseng beds half with goldenseal and half with ginseng, 28% of the ginseng remained compared to 80% of the goldenseal, at one site, and 83% of the goldenseal was left, but none of the ginseng, at another site. Cech (1995) reports that some growers mix goldenseal plants in with their ginseng to "purify" the soil. One of the growers reported use of this strategy (not recorded in Table 3). One farmer growing both ginseng and goldenseal referred to them as "the king and the queen," the "queen" (goldenseal) being more robust and reliable.
Goldenseal can be propagated from rhizome pieces, seed, buds, one year old seedlings, and/or root cuttings (Bryant, 1977; Davis, 1996a, 1998, 1999a, 1999b; Konsler, 1987; Li and Oliver, 1995; Merwin, 2000). It takes 3 to 5 years to grow harvestable roots from rhizome pieces, 5 to 7 years from seed (Cech, 2000; Davis, 1996a, 1999a; Merwin, 2000), and 4 to 6 years from root cuttings or seedlings (Davis, 1999a). Literature sources indicate that goldenseal is most easily and reliably propagated by dividing rhizomes in 2.5 cm (1 inch) or larger pieces, each with a bud and roots (Davis, 1996a, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c; Konsler, 1987).
From 24 to 27 August, 1999, at the start of senescence, the authors planted 100 rhizome pieces, each with at least 1 bud and numerous rootlets, at each of 5 sites where goldenseal grows naturally in Ontario. Based on analysis of variance, no significant difference in growth (leaf width and plant height) was found in either spring (4 to 6 May, 2000), summer (19 to 21 June, 2000), or fall (21 to 23 August, 2000) between small rhizome pieces [<2.5 cm (1 inch)] and larger pieces [<5 cm (2 inches), <7.5 cm (3 inches), and > 7.5 cm (3 inches)]. Studies on rhizome size (primarily its length) and rootlets, with or without buds, show that numerous healthy rootlets on a rhizome are important (i.e., little or no growth without) and latent buds produce plants when buds are not obvious or broken off (Davis, 1998). One of the interviewed growers stressed that bud size, rhizome size, and number of rootlets affect growth rate (Table 3). Ease of propagation was emphasized by many of the interviewed growers, and most prefer to use rhizome pieces that allow earlier harvest.
One grower reported positive results from passing goldenseal roots through a wood chipper, scattering the pieces over prepared beds, and raking them into the soil. Another grower claimed it was impossible for a goldenseal bed to be completely dug out because root fragments left in the soil will start a new population. Davis (1998) also reports that small root pieces left in the soil after harvest produce new plants the next year. Some have had success by simply layering rootlet cuttings in a bed, letting them grow for a year, and transplanting them (Davis, 1998, 1999a).
Literature on cultivation (Davis, 1996a, 1999c) and information from interviewed growers (Table 3) indicates that propagation of goldenseal by seed is difficult and unpredictable. Cech (2000) places cultivation of goldenseal by seed in the "extra care" category (compared to "challenging" or "easy"). Germination rates of purchased seed range from 0 to 90% (Davis, 1999c). Davis (1999b) reports that many growers achieve only 30 to 40% germination the first spring after sowing. She obtained about 33% germination the first year, but up to 94% the second year after sowing. Through experimentation, Davis (1998) found no effect of extraction method or disinfecting treatment on germination, but that sowing time and temperature were critical. The highest germination percentage was with seeds held at room temperature (21C) for 2 weeks before planting, and the highest germination (up to 88%) was with seeds sown in August (shortly after extraction), compared to late fall or spring. Interestingly, one interviewed grower emphasized that propagation by seed was not difficult (Table 3).
Soil texture. Of the natural populations surveyed, 13 grew in sandy loam, 6 in clay loam, and 2 in loam soils.
Fourteen of the 15 interviewed growers were successfully growing goldenseal in loam soils (7 growers specified sandy or clay loam, 1 specified sandy or silty loam; Table 3). Similar preferred soil type has been reported by researchers and experienced growers (Cech, 1995, 2000; Davis, 1996a, 1996b, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c; Konsler, 1987). Konsler (1987) and Davis (1996b) state that goldenseal tolerates any soil type except heavy clay or light sand, but some growers reported successful growth in predominantly clay or predominantly gravelly soils (Table 3). In so far as soil texture contributes to a large population, the largest natural populations grew in loam soils (Table 1). The healthiest natural population, based on number of stems, number of patches, leaf size, and leaf color (i.e., health defined in terms of size of the population, size of plants in the population, and absence of stress as suggested by color), occurred in clay loam soil.
Moisture. Natural populations of goldenseal occur on uplands in mesic woods, as well as on lowlands near rivers in dry mesic to mesic woods (Sinclair and Catling, 2000a). Many sources allude to a preference for moist but well drained soils (Davis, 1996a, 1996b, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c; Hardacre et al., 1962; Li and Oliver, 1995; Maskewich, 2000; McLellan and Felton, 1998; Merwin, 2000; Reeleder, 2000). All 15 growers indicated that moist but well drained soils are optimal for goldenseal growth; however, one grower grew one plot of plants successfully in what was referred to as "sloppy, muddy" conditions (Table 3).
According to Konsler (1987), goldenseal grows best on slopes that provide good surface drainage; however, 6 growers reported excellent growth on level (or slightly sloping) terrain without raised beds, and 12 of 21 natural populations (60%) occurred on level land. Davis (1999a, 1999c) states that, under cultivation, raised beds should be constructed to promote good water drainage. Eight of the interviewed growers had success with raised beds, but seven also had success without them. Davis (1996a) suggests mulching with shredded leaves, chopped straw, and similar materials, to reduce moisture loss and weed growth, and increase winter protection. Seven growers reported the use of mulch
to increase soil organic matter content rather than to protect the plants during winter. Disadvantages of surface mulch include its removal to allow emergence of seedlings and its provision of cover for certain pests such as slugs. Current research is directed at optimal mulch selection and it appears so far that plants perform best with hardwood and pine bark mulches (J.M. Davis, North Carolina State University, pers. comm., 2000). Bryant (1977), an experienced grower, emphasized the importance of preventing the beds from drying out in summer.
When grown under a forest canopy, goldenseal usually does not require irrigation, unless subject to
drought conditions, which cause plants to drop foliage and become dormant earlier (Davis, 1999c). While some interviewed growers irrigate during periods of plant stress, many reported that irrigation is not necessary, and a few emphasized "no irrigation" (Table 3).
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pH. The naturally occurring goldenseal populations occur in soil with pH ranging from 5.4 to 7.8. The largest populations were observed in soil with pH 6.3 to 7.8. Other large populations (>1000 stems) occurred within a soil pH range of 5.7 to 6.3. Three of the five smaller populations ( 241 stems) grew in soil with pH > 7.4 (Table 1). The healthiest population grew in soil with pH 6.4. Davis (1996a, 1998, 1999b) found optimal growth (100% survival, larger and healthier plant tops, higher fresh root weight) between pH 5.5 to 6.5, based primarily on experiments with goldenseal grown in pots with forest soil under a wood lath structure. Almost all interviewed growers reported optimal growth within the same pH range. However, one grower in New York State (listed in Table 3) reported successful woodland cultivation in soil with pH 4.8. Davis and Bir (1998) emphasize the importance of maintaining pH at 5.5 to 6.5 because of the sensitive relationship between pH and growth.
Soil fertility. Soil fertility (nutrients and organic matter) data for 14 naturally occurring goldenseal populations are presented in Table 1. According to fertility guidelines for native ornamentals (OMAFRA, 2000), all populations occurred in soil with high organic matter; adequate Mg, Mn, and Zn; but low P. Although population size and health are generally attributed to soil fertility, two of the largest populations (>1000 stems) occurred in soils with low K, and two with medium K levels. Of the smallest populations ( 241 stems), two grew in soils with low K, two with medium K, and one with very high K levels. The healthiest populations, based on number of stems, number of patches, leaf size, and leaf color, occurred in soils with medium K levels. Goldenseal is widely reported to prefer rich or fertile soils (Beyfuss, 1999; Davis, 1996a, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c; Kelly, 1977; Maskewich, 2000; Reeleder, 2000) high in organic matter (Beyfuss, 1999; Bryant, 1977; Davis, 1996b, 1999b; Hardacre, 1977; Konsler, 1987; McLellan and Felton, 1998). All 15 growers indicated that goldenseal grows best in very fertile soil high in organic matter. Most did not quantify the amount of organic matter in the soil, but merely indicated that it was "high." Other growers stated that, based on visual observations, organic matter content of their soils ranged between 15 and 70% (Table 3).
Before planting goldenseal, it is generally recommended that the soil be tested and fertility recommendations for native ornamentals be followed, if the soil testing laboratory does not provide any specific guidelines for goldenseal (Davis, 1996a, 1999a, 1999c). If tests indicate low fertility levels, addition of organic matter, such as composted manure, composted leaves, bone meal or cottonseed meal, is recommended (Bryant, 1977; Davis, 1996a, 1999c). Goldenseal does not benefit from addition of inorganic N or P, based on a 3 year experiment with application rates of 0 to 0.3 kg/m3 N and 0 to 0.3 kg/m3 P (Davis, 1998, 1999a, 1999b; Davis and Bir, 1998). None of the interviewed growers used chemical fertilizers, but instead added organic material such as leaf mold or composted manure (Table 3). Davis (1996a, 1999c) and Li and Oliver (1995) stress the importance of avoiding over fertilization as it can promote plant disease. According to Davis (1999c), goldenseal growing on high organic matter soils should be only lightly fertilized with an organic source of nutrients. Furthermore, Davis (1999c) suggests application of a balanced fertilizer at a low rate each spring, and Cech (1995), a grower with over 15 years of experience, suggests addition of compost each summer.
One interviewed grower reported that goldenseal "grows prolifically in [the] lime belt between North Carolina and Tennessee" (Table 3). However, T. Blakley (pers. comm., 2000) at the National Center for the Preservation of Medicinal Herbs in Rutland, Ohio, pointed out that there is no proof yet that goldenseal will produce more with higher Ca levels. In fact, preliminary results from an ongoing calcium study show that application of 2.2 to 5.6 Mg of Ca ha-1 (2,000 to 5,000 lb ac-1) reduced leaf number and plant height, increased disease incidence, and caused earlier dieback (J.M. Davis, pers. comm., 2000).
Shade. Natural populations in the northern range limit of goldenseal were subject to 30 to 90% shade. Shade requirements reported by interviewed growers and in the cultivation literature fall within the upper portion of this range. Interviewed growers reported 70 to 87% shade as optimal for growth, except for one Ontario grower who reported optimal growth under 50% shade. Hardacre (1977) successfully grew goldenseal under 66% shade; other researchers and farm managers report 75 to 80% shade for optimal growth (Beyfuss, 1999; Davis, 1996a, 1999b; Li and Oliver, 1995; Merwin, 2000). Konsler (1987) reported 65 % shade as minimum tolerance. Conversely, natural populations thrived with as little as 30% shade. The healthiest natural population grew under 30% shade in a woodland edge, and one grower also found that goldenseal grew well at the forest edge (Table 3). The largest natural populations (>1000 stems) grew under conditions of 60 to 65% shade (Tablet). Although studies are not complete, Davis (1999a) reported that optimal plant growth occurred between 63 and 80% shade, and the highest plant stand counts and survival occurred under conditions of 47 to 63% shade. T. Blakley (pers. comm., 2000) suggested that 50% shade may be adequate in the northern U.S. states and southern Canada, but in the warmer south, 70% would likely produce better results. Davis (1996b, 1999a, 1999b, 1999c) and Konsler (1987) suggest avoiding cultivation sites in forests with no undergrowth (possibly it is too dark or dry). In natural populations, plant vigor was low (i.e., wilted, discolored, and shorter plants) with 90% shade and sparse undergrowth, but high (larger, greener plants) in sites with an even undergrowth and up to 70% shade.
Cultivation and conservation
Goldenseal is perceived to be at high risk of extinction due to excessive harvesting of wild populations to supply the market. The Nature Conservancy (U.S.) has assigned the plant a national rank of N4 and a global rank of G4, indicating that it is not susceptible to immediate threat; however, goldenseal is considered endangered, critically imperiled, imperiled, rare, or uncommon in all 27 U.S. states having native populations (USFWS, 1997). In Canada, goldenseal is considered threatened due to increasing potential for unrestrained wild harvest, as well as habitat loss (Sinclair and Catling, 2000a; White, 1991). Globally, goldenseal was added to Appendix 11 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) in 1997 (CITES, 2000), which requires that goldenseal be artificially propagated for export (Environment Canada, 1999) and that national and international trade in roots, rhizomes, rootstocks, and bulk powdered herb will become more tightly regulated.
The actual risk of over harvest eliminating wild populations is dependent on market conditions, as well as ecological characteristics. Increased cultivation may soon reduce the price of goldenseal to the point where collection of wild plants is not a threat to survival; however, this point is best reached before wild germplasm is lost. Results from a 1999 American Herbal Products Association survey (McGuffin, 1999) are encouraging in suggesting that the goldenseal market is in transition from wild to cultivated sources. Projections suggest that 37 Mg will come from cultivated sources in 2000 and reach 90 Mg or more after 2003. In terms of goldenseal ecology, the long term effects of digging wild roots are unknown. Although there are abundant anecdotal references to a decline after digging (e.g., USFWS, 1997), there is also evidence for a beneficial effect of some level of soil disturbance (Sinclair and Catling, 2000b). While removal of large plants may reduce seed production, soil disturbance may allow increases in patch size in the long run, since goldenseal can produce new plants from root pieces and tips.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, Pharmaceutical, Folk medicine
Production Methods: Cultivated, Wild-harvested
Comments: Goldenseal roots, plants, leaves, seeds, fruits and whole plants are sold in many forms: powdered, dried or fresh (Egert 2007). Two parts of the goldenseal plant are used for medicinal purposes: the rhizomes and leaves (or aerial parts). Rhizomes seem to be the preferred target for harvest because goldenseal rhizomes have the highest concentration of medicinally-active alkaloids, berberine, hydrastine and canadine. Leaves and stems contain lower levels of these alkaloids (Douglas et al. 2010).
Studies have found that goldenseal performs well as a yeast inhibitor, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, bile stimulant, and immune system stimulant (Bradley 1992, Benigni et al. 1962, Liu 1991, Kaneda 1991, Murray 1995, Sun 1988, Sack 1982). These properties help cure mouth and gum disorders, eye afflictions, infected wounds, bacterial or fungal infections, diarrhea, vaginitis, food poisoning, giardia, cholera, and dermatitis (e.g. Mills 1991, Murray 1995, Amalaradjou & Venkitanarayanan 2011). In a survey of AIDS/HIV patients, goldenseal was one of the products most purchased, and most recommended by health-store employees (Medical Sciences Bulletin 1995).
Studies in medical journals focused on the interaction of goldenseal with other drugs (Guo et al. 2011, Chatuphonprasert 2012, Shi & Klotz 2012, Gurley et al. 2012, Zadoyan & Fuhr 2012, and Yamaura et al. 2012) and its chemical makeup (Le et al. 2012). There is evidence of the effectiveness of it treating mycoplasmosis (Arjoon 2012), H1N1 influenza A virus (Cecil et al. 2011), cancer (Karmakar et al. 2010 and Kim et al. 2010), and growth inhibition of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)(Cech et al. 2012).
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is a trade association with over 200 herbal companies as members. AHPA surveys their members annually and goldenseal tonnage reports are based on these surveys (from up to 10 companies). Between 21 and 63 tons of dried rhizome and 0.1-10 tons of fresh wild rhizome were harvested each year from 2000-2010. In 1998, the AHPA recorded only 2% from cultivated sources, and this percentage increased to17-41% between 2000 - 2010. AHPA members increased procurement of cultivated goldenseal by 2-17% from 1998-2010 (Dentali & Zimmerman 2012). AHPA (2012) reported in that timeframe that 21,500 kg of the total 255,000 kg harvested were exported internationally.
As with other medicinal plants, the "problem" with cultivating goldenseal is that you have to wait several years to get a product. There are two methods for cultivating goldenseal: woods-cultivated and wild-simulated. Woods/forest cultivated methods require less investment, but profit earnings are unpredictable. Burkhart and Jacobson (2009) indicated that cultivating goldenseal in a forest was not profitable at a historics price of $20/pound because of the annual production cost over the multiple years required before harvest. However, if has been suggested that organic certification may be a viable option to increase profitability of cultivated goldenseal (Burkhart and Jacobson 2009).
The price for rhizomes increased from the $5/lb in the 1970s to $40/lb in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with a downturn in 2005 when growers and wild harvesters earned about $15/lb. The price per pound for leaves consistently averages half that of the rhizomes (PA DCNR 2012). In 2010, organic goldenseal farmers were earning $40/lb for rhizomes (Baker 2010). Recent information indicates that cultivated goldenseal may be garnering a higher price than wild goldenseal, with cultivated root selling for $30-35/dried pound and wild material selling for $20-25/pound (David and Greenfield 2012).
Previously available only in specialty health and natural foods stores, goldenseal and other medicinal herbs became part of the general marketplace during the 1990s, and since then the demand has been increasing dramatically (Foster, 2000). Between 1991 and 1996, the wholesale value of goldenseal in the U.S. increased by as much as 600% (Robbins, 1996). Since 1994 goldenseal has been one of the top six best selling medicinal herbs in the U.S. (Robbins, 1996; Small and Catling, 1999), and remains so today (Foster, 2000). Between 1995 and 1997, the medicinal plant market as a whole, as well as demand for goldenseal, experienced in excess of a 30% growth rate (USFWS, 1997). Goldenseal is also available in numerous drug products (Small and Catling, 1999) and in a wide array of herbal products on international markets, e.g., in France, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, and other European countries (IUCN, 1997; Robbins, 1996). Since demand has increased greatly, and supplies have declined, the price of goldenseal has increased dramatically. In the early 1990s, the price of goldenseal ranged from $18 to $24 per kg (Foster, 2000). In 1999, the price ranged from $66 to $110 per kg (Davis, 1999c; Foster, 2000). In 2000, the price of goldenseal was over $110 per kg, with some companies charging over $220 per kg (Foster, 2000; Price lists on World Wide Web). The current goldenseal shortage and the large increase in its demand appear to highlight the need for cultivated supplies to satisfy a growing domestic and international market (Foster, 2000).
Stewardship Overview: Populations should be monitored for impacts related to harvest, and wild-collection is a primary threat to this species. Most populations of goldenseal are made-up of 1000 and fewer stems, and while populations may be small protecting even the smallest should be considered. Goldenseal maintains a mixed-breeding system and is able to self-pollinate to produce fruit, as well as produce sterile stems (non-flowering) that are genetically identical to other stems in the same patch (Christensen and Gorchov 2010, Sanders 2004). Since goldenseal is capable of self-pollination to set fruit, even small populations can be long-lived, and can act as sources of genetic variability for other nearby populations (Sanders 2004). Further, populations in small areas should be considered for conservation based on research that showed that goldenseal responds favorably to light and soil disturbance, and larger populations were associated with small habitat area (Sinclair and Catling 200b). A genetic study in North Carolina showed that while higher levels of genetic diversity were measured within populations, that genetic and allelic diversity was low across populations suggesting that reintroductions into populations would not likely cause outbreeding depression (Torgerson 2012).
Studies show that the best measure of past collection is the number of fertile (Sinclair and Catling 2000, Christensen and Gorchov 2010) and large sterile plants (Christensen and Gorchov 2010) from year to year, as these two life classes are responsible for maintaining or proliferating population size.
Data collection on environmental conditions such as temperature, precipitation and soil nutrients should be maintained over the life of any monitoring program. Buds for next year's stems are formed in summer or fall (Sinclair and Catling 2000) and spring growth is likely linked with the size of the flower bud and a determiner of whether plants will reproduce vegetatively or sexually in a given year (Christensen and Gorchov 2010). Growth is dependent on precipitation and temperature, and in one study high levels of soil nutrients (especially phosphorus) promoted growth of young stems (Sinclair and Catling 2000).
Other data related to the habitat should also be collected, such as percent canopy cover and soil displacement by animals and uprooted trees since goldenseal positively responds to mild disturbance, particularly light gaps and some soil disturbance (McGraw et al. 2003). Management and monitoring of patches should be done based on changes in leaf-area from year to year, and not stem count. Results from illicitly harvested patches in West Virginia show that leaf-area was immediately and negatively affected compared to pre-harvest leaf-area, and that stem-counts do not clearly relate to pre-harvest numbers (Sanders and McGraw 2005). Finally, if populations are harvested, the time of year this takes place should be noted. Albrecht and McCarthy (2006) found that fall-harvested populations may recover faster than those harvested in the mid-summer.
Success in monitoring and managing population dynamics is dependent on the knowledge of the data collectors and program managers, since understanding the reproductive life history of this plant is critical (i.e. it is known that large sterile (non-flowerig) plants transition back and forth from fertile plants) for accurate tracking of population health and viability. Further, managers should know the local phenology pattern of the plant from emergence to senescence. Detailed information about the life history of goldenseal is available in Christensen and Gorchov (2010), general biology and complexities associated with management are provided in Sinclair and Catling (2000), and diagram of the root (used in medicinal compounds) available in Van der Voort et al. (2003).
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also called orangeroot or yellow puccoon, is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. The plant bears two palmate, hairy leaves with 5–7 double-toothed lobes and single, small, inconspicuous flowers with greenish white stamens in the late spring. It bears a single berry like a large raspberry with 10–30 seeds in the summer.
Goldenseal has been ascribed[according to whom?] the following herbal properties (whole herb): bitter, hepatic, alterative, anticatarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, laxative, emmenagogue, and oxytocic.
Goldenseal is often used as a multi-purpose remedy, and is thought[according to whom?] to possess many different medicinal properties. In addition to being used as a topical antimicrobial, it is also taken internally as a digestion aid. Goldenseal may be purchased in salve, tablet, tincture form, or as a bulk powder. Goldenseal is often used to boost the medicinal effects of other herbs with which it is blended or formulated.
There is currently insufficient evidence to determine whether goldenseal is effective for any conditions. According to the American Cancer Society, "evidence does not support claims that goldenseal is effective in treating cancer or other diseases. Goldenseal can have toxic side effects, and high doses can cause death."
At the time of the European colonization of the Americas, goldenseal was in extensive use among certain Native American tribes of North America, both as a medicine and as a coloring material. Prof. Benjamin Smith Barton in his first edition of Collections for an Essay Toward a Materia Medica of the United States (1798), refers to the Cherokee use of goldenseal as a cancer treatment. Later, he calls attention to its properties as a bitter tonic, and as a local wash for ophthalmia. It became a favorite of the Eclectics from the time of Constantine Raffinesque in the 1830s.
Herbalists today consider goldenseal an alterative, anti-catarrhal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, bitter tonic, laxative, anti-diabetic and muscular stimulant. They discuss the astringent effect it has on mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, the bladder, and rectum (applied topically), and the skin. Goldenseal is very bitter, which stimulates the appetite and aids digestion, and often stimulates bile secretion.[unreliable source?]
Mechanism of action
Herbalist Paul Bergner investigated the research and has been unable to find case reports where the level of intestinal pathogens are lower after taking goldenseal. In fact, a study by Rabbani where men with E. coli induced diarrhea had 42–48% reduced symptoms after taking berberine showed unchanged levels of intestinal bacteria, pathogenic or otherwise.
Constituents and modern pharmacology
Goldenseal contains the isoquinoline alkaloids: hydrastine, berberine, berberastine, hydrastinine, tetrahydroberberastine, canadine, and canalidine. A related compound, 8-oxotetrahydrothalifendine was identified in one study. One study analyzed the hydrastine and berberine contents of twenty commercial goldenseal and goldenseal-containing products and found they contained variously 0%-2.93% hydrastine and 0.82%-5.86% berberine. Berberine and hydrastine act as quaternary bases and are poorly soluble in water but freely soluble in alcohol. The herb seems to have synergistic antibacterial activity over berberine in vitro, possibly due to efflux pump inhibitory activity.
Multiple bacteria and fungi, along with selected protozoa and chlamydia are susceptible to berberine in vitro. Berberine alone has weak antibiotic activity in vitro since many microorganisms actively export it from the cell (although a whole herb is likely to work on the immune system as well as on attacking the microbes and hence have a stronger clinical effect than the antibiotic activity alone would suggest). Interestingly, there is some evidence for other berberine-containing species synthesizing an efflux pump inhibitor that tends to prevent antibiotic resistance, a case of solid scientific evidence that the herb is superior to the isolated active principle. However, it is not yet known whether goldenseal contains a drug resistance efflux pump inhibitor, although many antimicrobial herbs do.
Most of the research that is popularly attributed to goldenseal has actually been into the constituent berberine, which goldenseal has in common with a variety of other medicines including oregon-grape, coptis, phellodendron, barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and yellowroot. However, constituents frequently act differently in isolation than a whole herb acts in the body. In 1996, the committee of the European Union that regulates drugs placed barberry in a table of Herbal Drugs with Serious Risks without any Accepted Benefit because it contains berberine. Paul Bergner investigated the literature and was able to find only a single report of potential adverse effects of berberis species, berberine-containing plants, or berberine itself in a computer search of the MEDLINE and TOXLINE databases of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This was a study in China that showed that berberine sulfate is inappropriate for the treatment of newborn infants with prenatal jaundice. However that is not a likely scenario in a country where babies born jaundiced are hospitalized, but it does lend credence to the traditional advice not to take goldenseal or other berberine herbs during pregnancy.
Research into the toxicology and pharmacology of goldenseal has focused on berberine and hydrastine, which are antimicrobial, chloretic and each have a variety of other properties helping immunity. But toxicity in a concentrated constituent does not translate to toxicity of the whole herb, which contains many other compounds. In one study, the lethal dose (LD50) for rats was 12 times lower with hydrastine than with goldenseal extract.
A study where pregnant rats fed were about 47 times the usual human dose of 26 mg/kg concluded, "Maternal liver weights were increased at ≥6250 ppm, suggesting possible enzyme induction. There was no definitive evidence of developmental toxicity in this study." Another study, where mice were fed ~300 times the estimated human intake from dietary supplements, concluded, "Maternal liver weights were increased at greater than 12,500 ppm, but in the absence of treatment-related histopathological lesions. At the high dose, definitive evidence of developmental toxicity was limited to a statistically significant (~8%) reduction in average fetal body weight per litter."
The lethal dose (LD50) of berberine isolates in humans is thought to be 27.5 mg/kg. Berberine is absorbed slowly orally; it achieves peak concentrations in 4 hours and takes 8 hours to clear Berberine is excreted in the urine and human studies of berberine show evidence it can be absorbed through the skin. Pharmacokinetic data is not available for hydrastine or goldenseal root powder. Berberine in humans can cause blocking of receptors in smooth muscle, blocking potassium channels in the heart and reducing ventricular tachycardia, inhibiting intestinal ion secretion and toxin formation in the gut and increasing bile secretion.
While goldenseal, like all alkaloid-rich herbs including coffee and tobacco should be avoided during pregnancy and given to very young children with care, it appears that goldenseal is unlikely to be toxic in normal doses. Interactions with drugs with narrow therapeutic windows like warfarin, ciclosporin, protease inhibitors and cardiac glycosides are potential concerns.
Side effects of goldenseal may include "digestive complaints, nervousness, depression, constipation, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, stomach cramps and pain, mouth ulcers, nausea, seizures, vomiting, and central nervous system depression. High doses may cause breathing problems, paralysis, and even death. Long-term use may lead to vitamin B deficiency, hallucinations, and delirium." In addition, goldenseal may cause brain damage to newborn babies if given to them directly or if taken by their breastfeeding or pregnant mothers, and may affect blood pressure unpredictably because it contains several different compounds that have opposite effects on blood pressure.
Goldenseal has an affinity for mucosa, and is cooling so should not be used if an infection is at an early stage or there are more chills than fever. Goldenseal should be used with caution only while sick with illnesses that respond to hydrastine and berberine. It should generally not be taken for an early stage Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), but reserved for illnesses in which there is yellow or green phlegm. Generally a two-week maximum dosage is suggested. Taking goldenseal over a long period of time can reduce absorption of B vitamins. Avoid goldenseal during pregnancy and lactation, with gastrointestinal inflammation, and with proinflammatory disorders. A recent study (2011) found rats fed with Goldenseal constantly for two years had a greater tendency towards tumor formation.
Goldenseal has been found to have inhibited cytochrome P450 CYP2D6, CYP3A4, and CYP3A5 activity by approximately 40%, a statistically and clinically significant reduction. CYP2D6 specifically is a known metabolizer of many commonly used pharmaceuticals, such as antidepressants (including all SSRIs except for fluvoxamine), neuroleptics, and codeine. Combining Goldenseal with such medications should be done with caution and under the supervision of a doctor as it can lead to serious - perhaps fatal - toxicity. Those with a genetic deficiency in these enzymes are at particular risk.
Use for masking illicit drug use in urine drug tests
Goldenseal became a part of American folklore associated with chemical testing errors, from pharmacist John Uri Lloyd's 1900 novel Stringtown on the Pike. In the book, the victim's habit of taking goldenseal in the form of digestive bitters, causes this herb to appear as the poison strychnine in a chemical test - thus suggesting murder. It has been used on occasions in this century to attempt to mask the use of morphine in race horses (without success).
Two studies have demonstrated no effect of oral goldenseal on urine drug assays over water alone. Subjects who drank large amounts of water had the same urine drug levels as subjects who took goldenseal capsules along with the water.
Goldenseal became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1905, the herb was much less plentiful, partially due to overharvesting and partially to habitat destruction. Wild goldenseal is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which by definition means harvest from public land is prohibited and may require a permit to export, although trade of the plants is still deemed to be undetrimental to the wildlife population and is otherwise unregulated. More than 60 million goldenseal plants are picked each year without being replaced. The process of mountain top removal mining has recently put the wild goldenseal population at major risk due to loss of habitat, illegality of removing goldenseal for transplant without registration while destruction in the process of removing the mountain top is permitted, and increased economic pressure on stands outside of the removal area.
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Native Americans used Hydrastis canadensis medicinally for treating cancer, whooping cough, diarrhea, liver trouble, earaches, sore eyes, fevers, pneumonia, heart trouble, tuberculosis, chapped or cut lips, and dyspepsy; to improve appetite; and as a tonic, and as a wash for inflammation (D. E. Moerman 1986).
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Hydrastis canadensis occurs in eastern North America and is a monotypic genus. In the most current taxonomic revision Hydrastis is placed in Hydrastidaceae, with one other monotypic genus, Glaucidium, which is restricted to Japan (Tobe 2003).