What’s in a name? For Juliet, little importance. But for plants, everything. Dubbed the “Cherokee cure for cancer,” Goldenseal was one of the cure-all herbs favored by many Native American tribes. Hydrastis, Goldenseal’s botanical name, means “water” and “to accomplish,” hinting to the yellow root’s unrivaled effectiveness at soothing the body’s mucus membranes. Folk names often reveal the value and traditional uses of a plant, such as Indian Paint and Turmeric root; both references to the potent amber-yellow dye released by Goldenseal. It is a star ingredient in Kloss’ Liniment, a timeless remedy that heals virtually any skin ailment. The eclectic physicians of the 19th Century relied greatly on the endless virtues of this plant as well. For starters, it can be used in all cases of infections, skin disorders such as eczema, sore throat/mouth, and irritated eyes. It is rare and costly, so every ounce of its powder is like gold to those who formulate with it.
Like any gift we are given, we are entrusted with the fate of this and other precious herbs that have given so much to mankind throughout time. Goldenseal is native to the North Eastern woodlands of North America but is quickly becoming depleted due to over harvesting. According to United Plant Savers, of the 27 states where Goldenseal grows naturally, 17 have reported it imperiled or uncommon. Efforts are being made to preserve this important herb and as consumers we must demand only cultivated forms of it, and never purchase products that use Goldenseal taken from the wild. If you are unsure of the sources of a product, look into the company’s practices or ask them yourself where they get their Goldenseal from. A reliable source for certified organic, cultivated Goldenseal and hundreds of other herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs.
Goldenseal is a magnificent herbal ally that must never fade away. One way to help preserve Goldenseal is to replace it in formulas with Barberry or Oregon Grape Root. For a list of at-risk plants, visit United Plant Savers.