Side Effects of Goldenseal

There are few side effects from taking goldenseal.

As with any herbal remedy or medication, there are some minor side effects of goldenseal, and a wise consumer learns about the effects as well as the benefits of any herbal remedy before taking it.

Goldenseal Herbal Remedy

Native to the United States, goldenseal offers antibacterial and antimicrobial action. It's a woody perennial, growing wild through the northeastern United States and southern Canada. Due to over harvesting, it's becoming scarce in the wild, and many herbal companies seek additional sources of this herb. A second form of goldenseal hails from Japan, but its actions may be different from the North American goldenseal.

Because of over harvesting, some herbal companies may substitute similar herbs for goldenseal in commercial mixes, such as barberry. These herbs also contain berberine, the active compound in goldenseal. However, the effects of herbal medicine are often from several compounds within a plant, rather than one single element such as berberine. If an herbalist recommends taking goldenseal, it is worth it to use a product from a reputable company, such as Gaia Herbs, to ensure your are getting the best and most effective herbs. Many herbal medicine companies are now encouraging farmers, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of the United States, to cultivate organic goldenseal for use in herbal medicines.

Uses of Goldenseal

Goldenseal is often recommended for its antibacterial and antimicrobial activity. Frequently combined with Echinacea, it offers a one-two punch when used with Echinacea to ward off colds, treat sore throats and other minor complaints. While Echinacea is thought to stimulate the immune system, goldenseal appears to alter the type and quantity of mucous throughout the body, making it harder for so-called 'bad' microbes to flourish and encouraging the body's natural defenses to rid itself of the invader. Goldenseal may be taken as a tincture, tea or pill. Tincture is often mixed with warm water and other herbs to create a gargle for sore throats. Always follow the instructions for proper dose found on the package. Herbal preparations can vary in strength and intensity, so dosage amounts may vary based on the manufacturer and preparation.

Side Effects of Goldenseal

If you're considering taking goldenseal, it's important to know the side effects. There are few published studies on goldenseal, so information about both its benefits and side effects is limited to tradition and observations made by herbalists, naturopathic doctors, and others skilled in herbal remedies.

Common Side Effects

There are few known side effects of goldenseal. The most commonly reported side effects are allergic reactions. The symptoms of an allergic reaction range from a mild reaction, such as a rash, to severe reactions resulting in shortness of breath, swelling in the throat and trouble breathing. If you take goldenseal and have trouble breathing or break out in itchy hives, see a doctor immediately or go to an emergency room. As with foods and prescription drugs, it's very possible to be allergic to an herb such as goldenseal.

Other side effects of goldenseal include nausea and vomiting. Usually these happen when people take excessive amounts of goldenseal, or goldenseal on an empty stomach. Again it's important to always follow package directions when taking an herbal medication. If an upset stomach results, stop taking goldenseal. The upset stomach should go away.

Who Should Not Use Goldenseal

Because no studies have been done on how goldenseal can impact an unborn baby, most doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid taking goldenseal. They also recommend that women who are breastfeeding do not take goldenseal, since it may pass through breast milk, and the effects on infants are not known. Please see an herbalist or naturopathic doctor if considering goldenseal for children, since the dose may vary from an adult dose.

Confusing Research

When looking into the side effects of goldenseal, you might come across warnings from the European Union against using goldenseal. The warnings are actually against excessive use or consumption of berberine, an isolate derived from goldenseal and found in other herbal preparations such as Oregon grape and barberry. While it's true that very high doses of berberine extract caused liver problems in rats in laboratory studies, you would have to take a huge amount of actual goldenseal to get the same amount as was fed to the rats in the study. Most herbalists believe that using goldenseal for a limited duration and according to directions is safe for most people. When in doubt, consult an herbalist or naturopathic doctor.


When used properly, the side effects of goldenseal are minimal. Goldenseal has the potential to help many common ailments.

Side Effects of Goldenseal