Goldenseal Proves to be Natural Antibiotic and Antiviral

goldenseal potent antiviral and antibiotic

Photo by Jon Ward

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Despite the research proving that antibiotics are producing more deadly superbugs, antibiotic medications are still prescribed for even the most easily conquered bacterial infection.

And unbelievably, antibiotics are still being prescribed for a number of viral infections.

Of course antibiotics will not cure a viral infection. And they often will not cure a bacterial infection of a bacteria that has grown resistant to the antibiotic being used.

The World Health Organization has found that many antibiotics are thus losing their effectiveness. Read this article here.

And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are finding that some infections are resulting in greater deaths because they are now untreatable with antibiotics. Here is the article.

Luckily, nature provides a means to fight off bacterial and viral infections without producing resistant bacteria.

One of those agents is Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Goldenseal has been shown in the research to be both antibiotic and antiviral.

The fact that Goldenseal can be used as a lethal antibiotic was illustrated in a study from the University of North Carolina, where researchers tested Goldenseal against several strains of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria.

The researchers tested both raw Goldenseal and Berberine – an antibiotic component extracted from Goldenseal against various USA300 strains of MRSA.

The researchers found that while the Berberine inhibited MRSA significantly – with average minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of 150 micrograms per milliliter – the Goldenseal inhibited the MRSA strains at a rate two times the rate of Berberine – with an MICs of 75 micrograms per milliliter.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the Goldenseal inhibited the MRSA bacteria through a variety of mechanisms – rather than just one. It also squashed the MRSA’s ability to quorum sense – which is their means of communication.

The researchers stated:

“Collectively, our results show that H. canadensis leaf extracts possess a mixture of constituents that act against MRSA via several different mechanisms. These findings lend support for the traditional application of crude H. canadensis extracts in the prevention of infection.”

This last point confirms that whole powdered Goldenseal is preferable to berberine extract.

Other studies confirm Goldenseal’s antibiotic potency

Other studies have also showed Goldenseal’s ability to outperform pharmaceutical antibiotics in combating bacterial infections. For example, researchers from the Egyptian Agricultural Research Center compared giving antibiotic pharmaceuticals to infected fish in an infected aquaculture farm with giving Goldenseal to infected fish.

The fish had been infected with Aeromonas hydrophila, A. sobria, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Citobacter freundii – which combined to kill most of the fish that went untreated.

They were able to naturally divide the fish into cages that allowed them to be separated. The cages where the fish were given the antibiotics, 84% of the fish survived due to their being given the antibiotics.

But among the fish given the Goldenseal, a full 87% of the fish survived – surpassing the 84% survival rate of the antibiotic medicines given to the other fish.

Goldenseal is also Antiviral

Additional research proves that Goldenseal is also a potent antiviral medication.

Researchers from North Carolina State University’s Microbiology department have found that goldenseal herb (Hydrastis canadensis) inhibits the growth of the H1N1 influenza virus in human cells.

The research tested the growth of H1N1 influenza A virus among a variety of cell types, including human lung cells. They found that the application of an alcohol extract of goldenseal to the human cells infected with H1N1 virus stopped the growth of the virus. Goldenseal accomplished this by blocking the virus’ ability to alter and transfer DNA and other protein information – stopping its ability to replicate.

The active constituent believed by the researchers to be central in these effects is berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid within Goldenseal. Goldenseal and berberine have shown in other research to be significantly antibacterial.

The researchers also found that berberine blocked inflammatory factors related to the influenza A H1N1 virus. These included TNF-α and PGE2, which stimulate inflammation related to the viral infection – causing fever and aching pain among other symptoms. The researchers concluded that the mechanisms involved in blocking these inflammatory factors were separate from Goldenseal’s ability to block the growth of the virus.

The researchers concluded that, “Taken together, our results suggest that berberine may indeed be useful for the treatment of infections with influenza A.”

Goldenseal contains many benefits and constutuents

This multiple effect ability of the Goldenseal herb – used for thousands of years among traditional doctors for a variety of infections and inflammatory conditions – is common among medicinal herbs. Most herbalists refer to this as the synergistic effect of the herb due to the fact that most herbs contain many – and some even hundreds – of active constituents.

This is illustrated by Goldenseal. In addition to berberine, Goldenseal also contains tetrahydroberberastine, hydrastine, canadine, canalidine, berberastine and hydrastinine among other medicinal constituents. All of these and others have their own medicinal effects, along with the ability to buffer and balance the effects of other constituents. This buffering feature of multiple constituents is believed by herbalists to be why natural herbs have so few adverse side effects.

Goldenseal is a natural supplement typically available as a raw powder or extract taken from any part of the plant, including the seeds, stems, leaves and root. The root is considered the most medicinal part of the plant, however. Its name is derived from the fact that it often has a golden yellow color.

A 2014 study from the Peking Union Medical College has confirmed that Berberine from Goldenseal reduces inflammation and oxidation associated with diabetes.

And a 2013 study from India’s University of Kalyani found Goldenseal inhibited cancer growth among liver cells.

Caution: Goldenseal should be used with caution, as it can stress the liver if too much is taken for too long. See your health professional.

Learn about other natural immune system strategies.


Atta ME, Abdel-Wahab AM, Gad DM. Bacteria Associated with Diseased Cage Cultured Oreochromis niliticus and Control Trial with Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.). Jnl Ar Aqua Soc. 8(2) Jun 2013.

Hermann R, von Richter O. Clinical evidence of herbal drugs as perpetrators of pharmacokinetic drug interactions. Planta Med. 2012 Sep;78(13):1458-77. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1315117.

Cecil CE, Davis JM, Cech NB, Laster SM. Inhibition of H1N1 influenza A virus growth and induction of inflammatory mediators by the isoquinoline alkaloid berberine and extracts of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Int mmunopharmacol. 2011 Nov;11(11):1706-14.

Li Z, Geng YN, Jiang JD, Kong WJ. Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Berberine in the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:289264.

Saha SK, Sikdar S, Mukherjee A, Bhadra K, Boujedaini N, Khuda-Bukhsh AR. Ethanolic extract of the Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, has demonstrable chemopreventive effects on HeLa cells in vitro: Drug-DNA interaction with calf thymus DNA as target. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2013 Jul;36(1):202-14. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2013.03.023.

Hermann R, von Richter O. Clinical evidence of herbal drugs as perpetrators of pharmacokinetic drug interactions. Planta Med. 2012 Sep;78(13):1458-77. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1315117.


Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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