Another study explored goldenseal’s antioxidant activity as it applied to cholesterol. In an in vivo study with rats, all rats were given a high-cholesterol diet and then randomly assigned to either placebo treatment or goldenseal treatment. At the end of the 24-day treatment period, serum lipid levels in both groups of rats were examined. The goldenseal cohort showed a total cholesterol reduction of more than 31%, a 25% drop in LDL, and nearly a 33% decrease in triglycerides.7

Goldenseal is being evaluated for its potential use in the treatment of Alzheimer disease (AD). Chinese researchers recently explored goldenseal’s potential to slow the progressive degeneration associated with AD.8 Berberine, an active ingredient in goldenseal, is a natural isoquinolone alkaloid with a wide range of pharmacologic effects. In this new study, berberine was reviewed for its antioxidant properties as well as for its activities as an acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase inhibitor, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, a beta-amyloidal peptide blocker and a cholesterol-lowering agent.8 All of this suggests that berberine may act as a promising multipotent agent to combat AD.8

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Safety, interactions 

Toxicity from goldenseal has been reported. The lethal dose of the berberine isolate is thought to be 27.5 mg/kg.1 Goldenseal is not recommended for use in pregnant or nursing women or in children.2 Patients using warfarin or cardiac glycosides should also avoid using goldenseal.1

Dosage and cost

Recommended doses of the extract are 250 mg by mouth three times daily, or 0.5 to 1.0 g, three times daily for the dried rhizome powder-filled capsules for short periods of time. The powder-filled capsules, used to treat such minor illnesses as respiratory infections, are not recommended for use longer than a period of 14 days.1 The total cost varies depending on the dose concentration, but a typical month’s supply of goldenseal ranges from $20 to $30. 


The use of goldenseal as an adjunctive therapy is safe in appropriate patient groups. As long as proper dosing guidelines and safety issues are addressed, health-care providers may find the short-term use of goldenseal a reasonable recommendation.


1. Fetrow C, Avila J. Professional’s Handbook of Complementary & Alternative Medicines. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2001.

2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Goldenseal.

3. University of Maryland Medical Center. Goldenseal.

4. Mahady GB, Pendland SL, Stoia A et al. “In vitro susceptibility of Helicobacter pylori to isoquinoline alkaloids from Sanguinaria canadensis and Hydrastis canadensis.” Phytother Res. 2003;17:217-221.

5. Clement-Kruzel S, Hwang SA, Kruzel MC et al. “
Immune modulation of macrophage pro-inflammatory response by goldenseal and Astragalus extracts.” 
J Med Food. 2008;11:493-498.

6. Scazzocchil F, Cometa M, Tomassini L et al.  “Antibacterial activity of Hydrastis canadensis extract and its major isolated alkaloids.” Planta Med. 2001;67:561-564.

7. Abidi P, Chen W, Kraemer FB et al. “The medicinal 
plant goldenseal is a natural LDL-lowering agent with 
multiple bioactive components and new action mechanisms.”J Lipid Res. 2006;47:2134-2147.

8. Ji HF, Shen L. “Berberine: a potential multipotent 
natural product to combat Alzheimer’s disease.” Molecules. 2011;16:6732-6764.

All electronic documents accessed on January 4, 2011