What Is Goldenseal: How To Grow Your Goldenseal Plants

What Is Goldenseal: How To Grow Your Goldenseal Plants

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What is goldenseal and what are the health benefits of goldenseal? This native plant, which grows wild across much of the shady deciduous forestlands of the eastern half of the United States, has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is an endangered species, largely due to overharvesting. Removing the plant from the wild is illegal in many states, but growing goldenseal plants in your garden isn’t difficult. Read on to learn more.

What are the Health Benefits of Goldenseal?

Native Americans used goldenseal to treat a variety of conditions including fevers, ulcers, and skin disorders. Today the herb is often used to treat colds, nasal congestion, and respiratory ailments- frequently in combination with Echinacea.

Goldenseal is also taken to relieve tummy complaints such as ulcers, diarrhea, and constipation as well as a variety of skin conditions and rashes. An eyewash made of goldenseal is believed to help eye infections, and a mouthwash is used for painful gums.

Little research has been done to prove any health claims and there is little evidence that goldenseal actually works; however, herbalists continue to stand by the health benefits of goldenseal.

How to Grow Goldenseal

Goldenseal is easy to propagate from pieces of rhizome, which you can dig from an established plant. You may also be able to purchase starts from a garden center or greenhouse that specializes in herbs or native plants.

You can also plant seeds or root cuttings, but the process takes longer and isn’t always dependable. Again, please avoid harvesting wild plants.

Goldenseal thrives in rich, well-drained soil. Add compost or other organic material if your soil doesn’t drain well, as goldenseal won’t tolerate wet feet. Avoid open areas. An ideal location is one that replicates the plant’s natural environment, such as a shady place under hardwood trees.

Plant rhizomes just under the surface of prepared soil, with 6 to 12 inches (15-31 cm.) between each rhizome.

Goldenseal Plant Care

Water goldenseal as needed until the plant is well established, but don’t allow the soil to become soggy. Once established, goldenseal is relatively drought tolerant but benefits from weekly irrigation during warm, dry weather. Withhold water during the winter months, unless the weather is abnormally dry.

Goldenseal plant care requires careful weed control until the plant is well established. Cover the planting area with a thick layer of mulch in autumn, then remove all but 1 or 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) in early spring. Although goldenseal tends to be drought tolerant, slugs can be a problem. If this is the case, limit mulch to 3 inches (8 cm.) or less.

Harvest green goldenseal leaves in fall. Harvest the roots in autumn after the plant goes dormant.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.

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Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), also called orangeroot [2] or yellow puccoon, [2] is a perennial herb in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae, native to southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. It may be distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock. The stem is purplish and hairy above ground and yellow below ground where it connects to the yellow rhizome. Goldenseal reproduces both clonally through the rhizome [3] and sexually, with clonal division more frequent than asexual reproduction. It takes between 4 and 5 years for a plant to reach sexual maturity, i.e. the point at which it produces flowers. Plants in the first stage, when the seed erupts and cotyledons emerge, can remain in this state one or more years. The second vegetative stage occurs during years two and three (and sometimes longer) and is characterized by the development of a single leaf and absence of a well developed stem. Finally, the third stage is reproductive, at which point flowering and fruiting occurs. This last stage takes between 4 and 5 years to develop. [4]

A second species from Japan, previously listed as Hydrastis palmatum, is now usually classified in another genus, as Glaucidium palmatum.

Herbs to avoid

Garlic and chives

Herbs from the allium family

Garlic and chives are by and large the most dangerous herbs for your cat. In fact, all members of the allium family—including onions, leeks, scallions, and shallots—are toxic to felines. Even a small ingestion of these can cause damage to your cat’s red blood cells, leading to anemia or even death.


Marijuana plant © Jennifer Martin / CC-BY-4.0

Unfortunately Bob Marley’s statement that “herb is the healing of a nation” is not inclusive of cats. Marijuana is toxic to both cats and dogs ingestion of the plant in any form (including edibles, tinctures, etc.) may result in the following symptoms of poisoning: prolonged depression, vomiting, incoordination, sleepiness or excitation, hypersalivation, dilated pupils, low blood pressure, low body temperature, seizure, coma, and, rarely, death.


German chamomile © JanRehschuh / CC-BY-3.0

Many sites list chamomile in the column of herbs safe for cats however, this is a dangerous generalization, as some types of chamomile are toxic to cats and dogs alike. While German chamomile is considered safe, English/Garden/Roman/True chamomile can cause contact dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and allergic reactions in pets.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort © Leslie Seaton / CC-BY-2.0

If your cat goes outside, avoid growing St. John’s Wort where he can consume it. Ingesting enough of this herb can cause photosensitization in pets (ulcerative and exudative dermatitis).

Other herbal irritants

Avoid growing the following herbs in your cat garden, as they can cause vomiting and diarrhea in your pets:

  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Tarragon

Be sure to consult with your veterinarian before trying herbs safe for cats. You can also check out ASPCA’s complete list of toxic and non-toxic plants (and herbs!) for cats.

Cover photo: © Dwight Sipler / CC-BY-2.0

Goldenseal Benefits

Goldenseal has an acrid, bitter taste and a disagreeable odor, but there are so many goldenseal benefits that it has been called "the universal herb" for over 300 years. The powdered rootstock — considered a general tonic for the mucous membranes — can be applied as a snuff or an antiseptic dust, in washes and infusions, or in capsule form. In combination with other herbs, goldenseal has been used — at various times and, we must assume, with varying degrees of effectiveness — to treat ulcers, sinus conditions, dyspepsia, worms, bowel irregularity, gonorrhea, prostate and vaginal infections, and morning sickness among other problems.

However, goldenseal should be taken only in small and infrequent doses. no more than one half to one gram, and not more than three times daily. The ingestion of large quantities can overstimulate the nervous system and produce convulsions, miscarriage, and the excessive buildup of white corpuscles in the blood.

Drying and packing

Before drying, make a final inspection for cleanliness. Both goldenseal tops and roots should be dried in the shade under low humidity conditions, if possible. For best results, 3-by-6-feet drying screens made of hardware cloth allow air circulation above and below the product and will help expedite drying time. Depending on conditions, tops will take from five to seven days to dry, and roots will take a week to 10 days. Shriveled, crackly tops indicate drying is complete. Roots will snap clean and crisp when dry. The crop may now be packed for storage or shipment.

It is important that your product be dry before packing. If not, mildew will ruin it. After all this work, now is not the time to rush things. If a few more days of drying time is needed, so be it.

After the product is dry, place it in cardboard boxes for weighing. Make sure you record the weight of the empty container first, however. Fill your containers with product and deduct the weight of the container. Record this amount. The value of goldenseal products is based on weight, cleanliness and quality. Roots should be packed tightly, while tops can be crammed for shipment. Cramming will not decrease the value of the tops. Shipping costs are high, and it is less expensive to ship larger containers than many small ones. The U.S. Postal Service provides excellent shipping services for your goldenseal products.

What is GoldenSeal?

What is GoldenSeal? Golden Seal is a perennial herb that is part of the Buttercup family. Golden Seal is used for a lot of medicinal purposes in a variety of ways, and used both topically as well as internally.

There are actually quite a few ways to purchase Golden Seal, in a bulk powder, salve, tincture, or a tablet. Internally it is a great digestion aid and if gargled with it has been known to remove canker sores.

Golden Seal has been around since times of the European conquest of America but has remained very strong because even today it is used for anti-catarrh, anti inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, bitter tonic, laxative, and muscular stimulants.

Herbalists say that if you are trying to ease gastritis, colitis, duodenal ulcers, loss of appetite, and liver disease, Golden Seal is what you might want to look into which is available at all herbal supplement stores.

Golden Seal is very bitter so it stimulates bile secretions, stimulates the appetite, and aids in digestion.

Golden Seal has been around since the mid 19th century but is now threatened because Golden Seal is one of the most over harvested herbs. It keeps getting harvested and harvested but never replaced.

Golden Seal which also goes by the name Yellow Root is often combined with Echinacea and prepared for easing the symptoms of colds. It is the underground root of Golden Seal that is harvested and dried to make teas and both liquid and solid extracts that are then turned into bulk powder, capsules or tablets.

Scientists claim that there is no evidence to support the use of Golden Seal for any ailments or medical condition whatsoever because of the very small amount of berberine that Golden Seal contains. Regardless of scientific claims, Golden Seal is one of the most widely sold herbs on the market today.

Video – Goldenseal One of Nature’s Infection Fighters

In this video below, Herbalist and forest farmer, Ben Kitchen, explains Goldenseal’s medicinal properties. It’s one of the most powerful medicinal plants and can be ingested with other herbs or used in a topical application for its antimicrobial properties.

Although a very controversial subject, many people believe that the reason that Golden Seal is standing solid ground in the marketplace is because it is used primarily for the purpose of masking positive drug screens for people who are required to take drug tests for work or through law enforcement agencies.

Many claims there is no validity to this claim but still many people are buying it because a friend told them that it worked and for that matter it is promoted in High Times magazine for the sole purpose of covering bogus drug screens. The claim is that because THC which is the active ingredient in marijuana is fat soluble it stores itself in the kidneys and becomes water soluble. Two to three days prior to a drug screen, you get some Golden Seal, follow the directions and it’s a guaranteed pass.

If Golden Seal is one of the most popular herbs on the market today then someone has to be keeping them in business. It is true that many people are turning to herbal remedies in an attempt to heal themselves naturally rather than load up with a heap of prescription medications that come with nasty side effects.

Below is a selection of Goldenseal products, the powder, liquid root tincture and Goldenseal capsules.

If you would like to grow your own organic herbs easily – make sure to check out the indoor herb gardens: Indoor Herb Growing Kits

Commercial Production of Ginseng and Goldenseal


Because wild ginseng commands prices well over $200 per lb., much wild ginseng is being dug at a very young age and early in the season before the plants have a chance to produce seed. This has resulted in concern that our wild populations may be exterminated as has occured with wild ginseng in China. The federal government has placed ginseng on the list of plants that may be in danger of extinction each state must have a program of ginseng certification, monitoring, and research to comply with federal requirements for ginseng export. As a result of relatively high prices being paid for wild ginseng roots, there has been increased interest in growing ginseng as a cultivated crop.

Plant Characteristics

The leaves turn yellow and the stems die each fall, leaving a scar where the stem was attached to the root. A new bud for next season's stem is formed on the opposite side of the root in mid-summer. The age of a particular root can be estimated by counting the scars.

Ginseng plants usually begin to lower and set seed in their third growing season. A cluster of greenish-white blossoms forms an umbel on the stalk in June or July. Small green berries about the size of small beans are produced, and in late summer, the berries turn red. Each berry contains one to three flat seeds. Ginseng appears to be self-pollinated.

Cultivated plants become increasingly larger until their fourth, fifth, or sixth year, after which growers usually harvest the roots for market. At this time, roots are up to 4" long, 1" thick, and are often forked.

Selecting a Growing Site

Ginseng will not tolerate much sun 70 to 80% shade must be provided. Excess shade will reduce yields of roots and seeds, while too much sun will burn the leaves, reduce yields or even kill plants. Shade can be provided in a wooded area or under a lath or polypropylene shade house. The best wooded sites are those with long-lived, deep-rooted, deciduous trees. Oak hickory, beech, poplar, and walnut trees are good, although oak leaves do not decompose quickly and may smother small plants. Ginseng roots may be stunted or difficult to dig under shallow-rooted trees, and short-lived trees may leave gaps in the canopy as they die. Shallow-rooted or short-lived trees include maples, elms, elders, redbud, dogwood, and ash.

Preparing the Soil

To prepare permanent beds under artifical shade, plow, disc, and rotovate the soil. Four to six inches of leaves, rotted sawdust, or other organic material may be worked in to a depth of 8". Have your soil tested early in the planning stage so that any needed fertilizer can be added during the disking or rotovating operations. Do not add chemical fertilizer to the soil unless a soil test indicates the need, since high fertility may induce rank growth, lower disease resistance, and lower the resemblance of the cultivated root to a wild root.

In a wooded site, remove all of the understory growth and any large trees that are not necessary for shade. A bulldozer may be necessary to clear large areas. If so, do not use a regular cutting blade but a blade with spikes spaced 1' apart on the bottom. These spikes will remove vines while keeping leaves and topsoil intact. Disc the soil 6 to 8" deep, going over the area repeatedly in different directions. Calcium, phosphorus, and limestone should be added during the initial soil preparation as indicated by soil tests. After rotovating, throw the soil from the walkways into the beds with a bed maker or a spade. Four-foot-wide beds are convenient for most people to work, but some growers make beds as wide as 6'. The beds should be about 6 to 8' high. Raised beds are very essental to allow for good drainage. The crowns of the beds should be slightly rounded. Try to situate trees in the beds, not in the paths.

Building a Shade House

Support posts for polypropylene houses are spaced 24' on center and are connected by 1/4" cables over or through the posts. Dead men are buried in the ground to anchor the cables. The shade fabric is conneded to the cable with S-hooks which pass through grommets in the fabric. The shade material must be removed each fall to avoid damage from snow.

The approximate amounts of materials required for a 1-acre shade house are:
Polypropylene house

  • posts--100
  • cables--4720'
  • shade cloth--5760 sq yd
    Lath house
  • posts-- 361
  • riders--4360'
  • lath--

    Planting Seeds or Roots

    Seeds can be started in seedbeds and transplanted to permanent locations later. This method allows a smaller area of ground to be prepared initially and makes weed control easier. Also, when the roots are being transplanted a year or two later, diseased roots can be discarded. There are 7000-8000 seed per lb.

    Most growers report sowing 50 to l00 pounds of seed per acre. The seeding rate will vary with the row spacing, the within-row spacing, the bed width and the path width. Growers who sow 50 to 100 lb. of seed per acre are spacing plants much closer than 4x6" in the rows since all seed will not germinate. However, ginseng usually germinates at about a 70% level. Higher and lower germination percentages frequently occur. Large growers prefer to sow at the higher rates to avoid skips or bare spots in their beds.

    Plantings may be started by purchasing 1-year-old roots. This is more expensive than starting from seeds. There are two major advantages to starting with roots for the novice who wants firsthand experience at growing ginseng before attempting a larger commercial planting. First, the roots can be spaced so as to make maximum use of the area planted. Second, the plants will come into flowering and seeding one year sooner, providing the grower with seed for further expansion.


    Prior to the growing season, there shout be 2 to 3" of mulch on the beds. Leaf litter, sawdust or straw can be used. You will need about 3,000 cubic feet of sawdust or at least 2 tons of straw to mulch an acre. Mulch may encourage rodents that feed on seeds and roots. Rodent poison should be used during the entire year.

    Harvesting Seeds

    De-pulping can be accomplished by placing the berries in cloth bags and mashing them daily for about 5 days to burst the berries and free the seeds. The pulp and empty seeds can be floated off and the seeds washed. Clean seeds should be placed in moist sand in a box with a screen top and bottom and held under natural conditions outdoors by burying the box in a well-drained area. The top of the box should be at least 4" below the soil. An alternate method is to place the box of seed in a protected building or basement area where temperatures will be below 45°F during the winter but will not go below 25°F for extended periods. Check the seed regularly to be sure that the sand is moist. The seed need a short, warm-moist period (1 to 2 months) followed by a cool-moist period (3 to 5 months) followed by another warm-moist period (4 to 6 months) and finally another cool-moist period (3 to 5 months).

    Growers have reported seed yields of 150 to 250 lb. per acre. With a market value of around $100 per lb., seed should bring about $10,000 to $25,000 per acre per year once the plants come of seed bearing age.

    Harvesting and Drying Roots

    Damaged roots are much less valuable than whole roots harvest the roots carefully to avoid breakage. Harvesting can be done by hand, with a garden fork or with a mechanical digger which is a modified potato digger. Roots are placed in a tub or on a screen and washed before the soil attached to them dries.

    Roots can be dried in the open or in drying rooms with forced hot air. If dried outdoors, place the roots on screens in the shade. Turn them daily and inspect for mold. If mold is present they can be moved into the sun but only for short periods avoid overheating.

    Once the roots are dry, store them in a dry, rodent-proof area until they are ready to be sold. Many growers store and ship ginseng in large cardboard drums that hold 50 to 100 lb. of roots each. One acre should yield at least 1500 to 2000 lb. of dry roots.

    Pests and Diseases

    Insect pests of ginseng are basically those that feed on a variety of plants that grow in "ginseng-type" habitats. Insects are not a major problem.

    Ginseng diseases occur on both foliage and roots. Diseases of leaves and stems are usually caused by fungi and include Alternaria blight, gray mold (Botrytis), and anthracnose. Root rot diseases are caused by Alternaria, Phytophthora, Ramularia, Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, and Verticillium fungi. Root knot nematodes may also be a problem. Many diseases can be controlled using fungicides however, few compounds are cleared and labeled for use.

    Rodents, such as voles or field mice, can do a great deal of damage to established ginseng beds, especially in wooded areas where trees are used as shade. These creatures make holes into the beds or get into tunnels made by moles and then feed on the ginseng roots. Grain treated with zinc phosphide or Warfarin, is used by some growers to help solve this problem.

    Weeds can also be a serious problem. Only a limited amount of research has been done with the use of herbicides on ginseng beds. Hand pulling of weeds combined with the use of a mulch is the only recommendation at present.

    Theft is one of the major concerns of Kentucky ginseng growers.


    Goldenseal is a naive perennial and occurs over the same range and under the same wooded conditions as ginseng. The cultural requirements for Goldenseal are the same as for ginseng and it is often grown under the same wooded conditions or shade structure. Goldenseal is an excellent crop to follow ginseng since a second crop of ginseng usually cannot be grown economically on the same land.

    Goldenseal plants emerge in early spring from buds on perennial rootstocks. The plant grows 10-15" tall and each bud producing usually two leaves. The leaves are five lobed and measure up to 8" long and 12" wide. Flowering occurs in late April or May, and red fruits develop in July or August. The fruit resembles a large red raspberry and contains 10 to 25 seed. The plant dies slowly after the fruits ripen. The root is a horizontal rhizome 1/2&-3/4" thick with many fibrous roots.

    Goldenseal is propagated by seed, rhizome divisions, or rootlet cuttings. Seed require stratification (moist-chilling) before they will germinate. Collected fruits should be mashed lightly and fermented in water for several days to facilitate separating the pulp from the seed. The seed should never be allowed to dry they may be placed in moist sand and kept in a shaded area until fall when they may be sown outdoors in a prepared bed. Cover about 1/2" deep and apply 2" of mulch. Most of the mulch should be removed in spring before the seedlings emerge. The seedlings will not effectively come up through the mulch and will be choked out if the mulch is not removed. The seedlings do not look like the mature plant initially two rounded cotyledonary leaves appear first. Transplant the rootstocks to permanent beds when the tops die down. Set the rootstocks on a 6-6" or 8-8" spacing.

    For vegetative propagation, the rhizomes may be dug in the fall, divided into 1/2" or larger pieces preferably with a bud on each piece. These should be replanted 1" deep and at an 8x8" or greater spacing. The rootlets with buds may be cut in pieces 1 1/2-2" long and replanted 1" deep in a nurse-bed spaced about 1 inch apart. Many rootlets without buds and treated in this same manner will often produce plants. These can be replanted to permanent beds after one or two growing seasons. The beds should be mulched with 2" of bark, leaf mold, or straw for winter protection.

    The plants require three to five years growth before harvesting. Often after five years the center portion of the root mass will become crowded and begin to die plants should be harvested before this occurs. Dig the roots in the fall after the tops have died down. Wash and dry gently artificial heat may be used, but do not cook the roots. Retain as many of the fibrous roots as possible. The dry weight will be about 30% of fresh weight. The leaves and stems also have commercial value but must be harvested while still green (about September) and dried. Harvesting stems and leaves will reduce root growth, so this should be delayed as long as possible.

    Watch the video: 10 Plants That Can Change Your Life: Herbal Medicines In Your Own Backyard!