What Are the Benefits of Yellow Root?

Goldenseal is yellow root.
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Yellow root, most commonly referred to as goldenseal, may have antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. This herb dates back to the Native American tribes who used yellow root as a remedy for digestive disorders such as gastritis, eye infections such as conjunctivitis, gonorrhea, canker sores, urinary tract infections and skin issues. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, yellow root has become one of the most popular herbs in the United States; however, there is minuscule evidence that supports any of the claims made about this herb.

About Yellow Root

Yellow root, or Hydrastis canadensis, is a small plant with a hairy stem, jagged leaves, small flowers and raspberry-looking fruit. It used to grow all over the United States, but because of the plant being over-harvested, it is now considered an endangered species. Medicinally, the roots and stems of this plant are used. They are bright yellow to yellow-brown in color and have a distinct smell and a bitter taste. Yellow root's most active ingredient is berberine, which has been thought to treat eye infections and severe cases of diarrhea. The amount of berberine found in this herb is small; scientific studies have yet to prove its effectiveness for certain. Yellow root can be found in tea, liquid extract, tablet and capsule form. It is also often combined with other herbs such as echinacea.


Immune Booster

Yellow root may be an effective immune booster, because it contains two alkaloids known as berberine and canadine that appear to harbor mild immune-stimulating effects. In a study published in the September 2008 issue of the "Journal of Medicinal Food," researchers found that goldenseal may have the ability to regulate macrophages, or the white blood cells that take in foreign material that often try to compromise the immune system. However, the study showed that this may be caused indirectly by yellow root's natural ability to reduce the inflammatory response and may not be as effective when used to directly treat the infection. Most research that has been done were test tube studies only. Research needs to be performed on humans to deem this an effective immune booster.


Lowers Cholesterol

Yellow root may also be heart-healthy, helping lower low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol levels. In a study published in the October 2006 issue of the "Journal of Lipid Research," scientists found that goldenseal extract is effective in reducing overall cholesterol and lowering LDL cholesterol levels in lab animals. During this study, they found that canadine and berberine were both effective up-regulators, or agents that make cells more sensitive to change, on low density lipoprotein receptors causing them to naturally lower cholesterol levels. Although human studies need to be done, these are promising results.



Yellow root, in small doses and for short-term use, appears to be safe. Some side effects may include nausea, abdominal discomfort and vomiting. It may also irritate the mouth, throat and skin, as well as cause an increased sensitivity to light. Yellow root should not be taken by women who are breast-feeding or who are pregnant, and it should not be given to newborns or small children because it could cause jaundice or kernicterus. Those who suffer from liver or heart disease or have high blood pressure, are taking anticoagulants or tetracycline should not use yellow root. Any use of an herb, including yellow root, should be done under the supervision and cooperation of a doctor.