Hydrastis canadensis is a perennial herb with a knotty yellow rhizome, native of North America, used by Amerindians for a variety of ailments. The herb’s active ingredients are various isoquinoline alkaloids, including berberine, berberubine, canadine, candaline, hydrastine, hydrastinine, and so on. Other constituents include chlorogenic acid, meconin, phylosterins and resins.
- Antibiotic. Berberine shows a broad spectrum of antibiotic activity ranging from Staphylococcus species, to Streptomyces, Chlamydia, Corynebacterium diphtheria, Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Pseudomonas, Shigella dysenteriae, Entamoeba hystolica, Trichomonas vaginalis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Neisseria meningitidis, Treponema pallidum, Giardia lamblia, Leishmania donovani and Candida albicans. Its action is actually stronger than the usual chemical antibiotics used against these pathogens. And contrary to other broad spectrum antibiotics, berberine inhibits the growth of Candida, the overgrowth of which is the most common side effect of normal antibiotic use.
- Antifungal. Scientific evidence shows a potent antifungal activity, as with Candida albicans. The combination of powerful antibiotic and antifungal properties, makes goldenseal a particularly attractive alternative to the usually prescribed antibiotics, which are undeniably the principal cause of modern fungal infections, and of the unparalleled proliferation of Candida in western populations—and not only.
- Antiparasitic. Goldenseal has also a demonstrated activity against parasites as the above list of pathogens clearly points out. Combined with its antibiotic activities, the herb is of considerable value in the prevention and treatment of food poisoning, traveller’s diarrhea, etc.
- Anti-infective. Studies aimed at investigating the fact that the therapeutic effect of berberine is greater than its direct antibiotic action, concluded that the alkaloid has a twofold action. Examining its effect on a group A staphylococci, they found that berberine not only inhibits staphylococcal growth, but also blocks these organisms’ capacity for attaching themselves to a cell. Thus, goldenseal seems ideally suited for treating “strep throat” and similarly frequent and irritating infections.
- Brain cancer treatment. Berberine shows powerful anticancer activity directly by killing tumor cells and indirectly by stimulating white blood cells. Of great importance is the effect against human malignant brain tumors. Berberine showed an average kill rate over twice that (91 vs 43 percent) of BCNU, the standard chemotherapy for brain tumors. And of course, without the well known side effects of chemotherapy.
- Febrifuge. Berberine has produced antipyretic effects that are three times as potent as aspirin. But while aspirin suppresses fever through its action on prostaglandins, berberine does the same by enhancing the immune system’s ability to handle fever-producing compounds generated by various micro-organisms.
- Immune stimulant. Other studies show that berberine increases the blood supply to the spleen, an organ responsible for filtering the blood and releasing compounds that potentiate the immune function. At the same time it activates macrophages, cells responsible for destroying bacteria, viruses, tumor cells, and other particulate matter.
- Liver tonic. Berberine has been shown to both stimulate bile secretion and bilirubin, and to also correct metabolic abnormalities in liver dysfunction such as cirrhosis. Clinical studies with patients suffering from chronic inflammation of the gallbladder, caused the disappearance of clinical symptoms within 24-48 hours.
- Toxicity inhibitor. Goldenseal alkaloids inhibit the formation of polyamines, toxins produced by bacteria in the intestines from undigested and putrefied proteins. Such polyamines damage the lining of the intestine causing excessive permeability, the so-called leaky gut, which increases the risks of food allergies, and triggers or exacerbates psoriasis and certain kinds of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Caution. Goldenseal is a powerful herb that must be used with knowledge and discretion particularly so in large doses. Under no circumstances use during pregnancy, since berberine stimulates the uterus and may induce abortion at high doses. Goldenseal can also lower the heart beat, and at higher doses paralyze the central nervous system. Do not use for more than a week at a time, and always consult an experienced health care professional.