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Hydrastis canadensis


Hydrastis canadensis


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Yellow Root, Goldenseal, Yellow Puccoon, Orange Root, Indian Dye.


Hydrastis canadensis is easily identified by its knotted, yellow root system.  It has a hairy, blueish-red stem that turns yellow just below the ground.  It has hairy, double toothed leaves and produces a single small flower in the summer. The fruit is the size of a small berry and contains numerous seeds.

Origin / Habitat

H. canadensis is a plant that grows wild in parts of the United States but has recently become endangered. It can be found in growing in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It thrives in damp woods and meadows.(1) It was initially used by Native Americans and gained popularity with the eclectic medical movement from the 1850's to the 1940's. It has been used for GI disturbances, as an anti-infective, to stimulate bile flow and as eyewash.

Chemical Constituents

Alkaloids, including hydrastine, berberine, canadine, and berberastine. (2)

Plant Part Used

Root (4)

Traditional Use

H. canadensis was an important herb in many eastern Native American tribes, the most documented being the Cherokee and Iroquois tribes.  The Cherokee tribe had many uses for H. canadensis including promoting circulation, treating ulcers, and an anti-inflammatory.  It was also used topically for wounds.(3),(4) The plant was made into a lotion to treat topical ailments and eye conditions. The Cherokee tribe combined H. canadensis with bear fat and applied it to the skin to repel insects.(5)

The Iroquois drank the herb as a tea infusion to treat fevers and pneumonia.(5) H. canadensis and whiskey infusion was taken to invigorate a run down system and heart ailments. Root infusions were also utilized for tuberculosis, earaches, sour stomach and liver and gall bladder illnesses.(4)


Dosages vary too greatly by tribe and application for a common dosage to be identified.



The alkaloids in H. canadensis have an astringent activity, which contributes to their anti-inflammatory activity on mucous membranes.(6) Hydrastine has been reported to have anti-tussive, antiperistaltic, and some blood pressure lowering effects.(7) Berberine has been used in upper respiratory infections and inflammation of the mucous membranes. Berberine stimulates the production of bile,(8) as well as having an associated antibiotic effect on a broad array of pathogens.(9) Berberine is claimed to increase blood flow to the spleen, which could have positive benefits for immune function. Berberine has been reported to possess anti-pyretic effects in rats.(10),(11) H. canadensis has been studied in infectious diarrhea and other GI infections,(12) as well as against such organisms as Shigella dysenteriae, Salmonella paratyphi, Giardia lamblia, and Entamoeba histolytica.(9) It is believed that H. canadensis may actually reduce the adhesive ability of streptococci to host tissues.(13)

Recent literature has reported that berberine may decrease the responsiveness of certain cancer cell lines to the chemotherapeutic drug paclitaxel.(14) Pretreatment of cells with berberine prior to paclitaxel blocked the paclitaxel-induced cell cycle responses and morphological changes. These results together suggest that berberine may modulate the expression and function of pgp-170 that leads to reduced response to paclitaxel in digestive track cancer cells.

There has been controversy regarding the absorption of H. canadensis in vivo. However, the active constituent berberine was reported to be highly detectable in plasma and urine following in vitro testing by HPLC analysis.(15) Also, there has been centuries of traditional use of H. canadensis as an effective antibacterial agent, which suggests that although absorption may vary in individuals, therapeutic efficacy still exists.


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Due to varying and unknown amounts of berberine in H. canadensis, excessive use of this supplement should be avoided.(16)

The berberine contained in H. canadensis possesses inotropic, chronotropic, antiarrhythmic, and vasodilator properties.(17) Patients with various cardiovascular conditions including congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, and hypertension should not use berberine-containing products unless closely monitored by a health care professional.


Based on animal data, avoid use in pregnancy.(18)

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Medicinal Herbs


  1. Hutchens AR. Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston MA: Shambhala Publications;1991.143.
  2. Kowalewski Z, et al. Toxicity of Berberine Sulfate. Acta Pol Pharm. 1975;32(1):113-120.
  3. Hutchens AR. Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston MA: Shambhala Publications;1991.144.
  4. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.270.
  5. Cickoke AJ. Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Avery;2001.47-48.
  6. Zhang MF, et al. Antidiarrheal and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Berberine. Chung Kuo Yao Li Hsueh Pao. 1989;10(2):174-176.
  7. Sabir M, et al. Study of Some Pharmacological Actions of Berberine. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1971;15(3):111-132.
  8. Newall CA, et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:151-152.
  9. Amin AH, et al. Berberine Sulfate: Antimicrobial Activity, Bioassay, and Mode of Action. Can J Micro. 1969;15:1067-1076.
  10. Sabir M, Akhter MH, Bhide NK. Further studies on pharmacology of berberine. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol.1978;22:9-23.
  11. Sabir M, et al. Study of Some Pharmacological Actions of Berberine. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1971;15(3):111-132.
  12. Rabbani GH, et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Berberine Sulfate Therapy for Diarrhea Due to Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 1987;155(5):979-984.
  13. Berberine. Altern Med Rev. Apr2000;5(2):175-177.
  14. Lin HL, et al. Berberine Modulates Expression of Mdr1 Gene Product and The Responses of Digestive Track Cancer Cells to Paclitaxel. Br J Cancer. Oct1999;81(3):416-422.
  15. Chen CM, et al. Determination of Berberine in Plasma, Urine and Bile by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography. J Chromatogr B Biomed Appl. Mar1995;665(1):117-123.
  16. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines; A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London:The Pharmaceutical Press;1996.
  17. Lau CW, Yao XQ, Chen ZY, Ko WH, Huang Y. Cardiovascular actions of berberine. Cardiovasc Drug Rev. Sep2001;19(3):234-244.
  18. DeSmet P, et al. Adverse Effects of Herbal Drugs I. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 1992:97-104.

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