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Yellowroot or goldenseal?
By Janice Boling
What is the difference between yellowroot and goldenseal? Authors sometimes confuse the two plants, especially in old herbals and other home remedy books. If Latin names or pictures are not used, it’s just a guess which plant the author is actually referring to. Thank goodness, it really doesn’t matter too much because one can substitute for the other.
North Georgia “yeller” root with the long Latin name of Xanthorhiza Simplicissima is kin to the clematis vine. Our local yellowroot has delicate tops, skinny underground stems, fine roots, and grows on shady creek banks. Both the stems and underground roots are used for healing.
Goldenseal is usually found up north in dryer locations. Its Latin name is Hydrastis Canadensis. Goldenseal is a larger plant with much broader leaves and thicker, knobby roots that resemble a tuber. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any goldenseal around here but yellowroot is common.
Yellowroot and goldenseal do not look anything alike but both plants contain a strong, astringent alkaloid known as berberine (and other similar, active ingredients). Research shows that berberine has anti- bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic activity.
Both plants have been used as medicines for hundreds of years. Although both once grew abundantly all over the eastern United States, much of the wild goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) crop was over harvested and is now close to becoming endangered. So far, Xanthorhiza Simplicissima is still plentiful.
One of the most effective ways to get either plant into the body is with tea. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yellowroot and goldenseal teas are almost identical.
Yellowroot and goldenseal are used to treat inflammations and infections, improve digestion (as a bitter tonic), to sooth mucus membranes, and to treat ulcers. Yellowroot and goldenseal can lower blood pressure, reduce fat levels in the blood, induce the secretion of bile, and help stop bleeding.
Yellowroot and goldenseal stimulate involuntary muscles in the intestinal tract and uterus. A decoction (tea) is used to stop diarrhea, to relieve constipation, to help liver problems, flatulence, pneumonia, cancer, and rattlesnake bites. Other uses include treating hemorrhoids, mouth sores, gum disease, bladder problems, urinary infections, kidney stones, water retention, acne, sore throats, minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Yellowroot and goldenseal are used to ease the symptoms of colds, flu, feverish conditions, and hay fever – especially to clear the sinuses and lungs of sticky phlegm, but should not be used when chills are present. When combined with echinacea, astragalus, licorice, or ginseng, yellowroot and goldenseal make a strong tonic that boosts the immune system.
Roots, stems, and bark are used to make tea, tinctures, ointments, and powders. The leaves are usually discarded. Yellowroot grows beside cool, running water in shady wilderness areas and is not easily cultivated in the home garden.
Do not use yellowroot and/or goldenseal for extended periods (greater than 2 weeks at a time). At doses of 2-3 grams, yellowroot and goldenseal can slow heart beat (and at higher doses can be paralyzing to the central nervous system.) Do not use during pregnancy since berberine stimulates the uterus and may induce abortion. Large doses can also cause nausea, vomiting, depression, nervousness, respiratory problems, hallucinations, and seizures. Consult with your health care provider before using yellowroot or goldenseal especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications. If rashes, hives or shortness of breath develop while using yellowroot or goldenseal, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
"And God said, To every beast of the earth and to every fowl of the air and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth wherein there is life, I have given EVERY GREEN HERB for meat: and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." Genesis 1:29-31
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life - it is not a quick fix."... Janice Boling
Herbal products should be kept in a cool, dry place. Store for extended periods in the refrigerator. Discard if mold appears or if oils become rancid. Never use on open wounds. Always test on a small area of skin before widespread use. Consult with your healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medicines. Discontinue use if rash or irritation develops.
*Note - the information on this website is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.