Touted as a cure for almost any ailment in the 1800s, goldenseal is now one of the lesser-known antifungal treatments in mainstream medicine. It was originally promoted by an enigmatic doctor named Samuel Thompson, who prescribed it for a variety of illnesses.
Goldenseal is named for its bright orange or yellow roots. In traditional medicine, it was used to treat skin disorders, digestive complaints, and even cancer. Today, goldenseal is still used by medicinal herbalists with great success. It is particularly effective for healing wounds and topical infections. Equally important is its potent antifungal action against yeast and fungal infections, particularly Candida overgrowth.
How Does Goldenseal Help With A Candida Overgrowth?
Goldenseal’s secret weapon is its active ingredient, berberine. Berberine is an alkaloid that is also found in other plants such as barberry and Oregon grape. Scientific research has shown berberine to harbor a host of powerful therapeutic actions, namely antifungal and antibacterial. Like many other naturally-derived antifungals, berberine allows the plant to defend itself from microbial attack.
Berberine works by binding to certain molecular targets in the body and altering their function. Its most important mechanism of action is in activating an enzyme within our body cells called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). This enzyme regulates metabolism, and has a major influence on the immune system and the body’s ability to fight disease.
The antifungal action of berberine has been documented in a 2011 study, in which it was shown to inhibit the growth of various Candida species. More recently, berberine has been found to work alongside pharmaceutical drugs such as fluconazole, enhancing the overall antifungal activity of the drug in fighting Candida.
Goldenseal also has impressive antimicrobial activity, and can fight pathogens that cause bacterial diarrhea such as E. coli and V. cholera. It is also believed to be effective in treating bacteria that cause urinary tract infections and gonorrhea.
Other studies have found that Berberine can help to regulate blood sugar levels, preventing the spikes that can feed a Candida overgrowth. This is also an important means of treating those with type 2 diabetes.
Berberine is also a powerful immune stimulant, and is often used to treat and prevent colds and flu. Its ability to activate macrophages (white blood cells) has been shown to enhance the body’s overall defense system, allowing it to fight not only Candida infection but other invading pathogens. It also helps to reduce the pro-inflammatory cytokines that aggravate infections and slow healing.
How Do You Take Goldenseal?
Goldenseal is generally available as either a liquid extract (tincture) of the goldenseal root, or as capsules made from goldenseal root powder. The tincture is most often recommended by medicinal herbalists, as it provides a more concentrated dose and is absorbed more easily. To take goldenseal tincture, you will need to first dilute a few drops in water and drink 1-3 times per day. Herbal tinctures are usually sold with a dropper, so it’s easy to measure the exact amount for each dose.
Goldenseal capsules are often prescribed for those who need a more convenient form of dosage. It’s recommended that you take the capsules in divided doses – that is, several times a day. This helps to keep the goldenseal active in the body for longer. However, the dosage will depend on the strength used by the manufacturer, so check the dosage instructions on the bottle.
Please note that it is very important to keep within the dosage limits of goldenseal, as large quantities have been known to irritate the liver. Health practitioners advise starting with a small dose (below the manufacturer’s recommended amount), then slowly building up over the course of a week or so. Taking goldenseal for prolonged periods of time is also not advised. Again, consult your health practitioner regarding the strength of your dosage and how long you should take it for.
When you start taking antifungals, it’s generally a good idea to separate them out from your probiotics or other supplements that you may be taking. This will help to maintain their effectiveness. Also try to avoid making too many changes to your regimen at once, or you might end up with a Herxheimer reaction like Candida Die-Off.
It’s also wise to take goldenseal in combination with other natural antifungal remedies. This helps to create a “multi-faceted” attack on the Candida, preventing the yeast from adapting to a single antifungal agent.
Other Benefits of Goldenseal
Long-known as an ‘all-rounder’ for treating disease and enhancing various body systems, goldenseal can be used to treat ailments of the skin, digestive tract, mucous membranes and heart for centuries. However, most reports about its efficacy are anecdotal and limited to traditional medicine. Here are a few of its claimed benefits:
- Fights yeast, bacteria and viruses
- Stimulates the immune system
- Regulates blood sugars
- Digestive bitter (stimulates digestive function)
- Improves upper respiratory health
- Relieves sore throats
- Helps to repair the gastrointestinal tract
- Disinfects topical wounds
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves appetite
- Reduce sugar production in the liver
Who Should Not Take Goldenseal?
Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take goldenseal. Goldenseal’s active ingredient, Berberine, may cause uterine contractions and other complications with pregnancy.
Goldenseal is also not recommended for those with kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, or other serious conditions. If you have any chronic health issue, consult your health professional before taking goldenseal.
Other reported side effects of taking goldenseal include feelings of nervousness, or irritations in the throat. Those with a sensitive digestive system may also experience some digestive discomfort.
Keep in mind that it is not recommended to take goldenseal for prolonged periods of time. Many health practitioners recommend taking goldenseal for no longer than two weeks, whether orally or topically.
Should You Make Goldenseal A Part Of Your Regimen?
There are lots of antifungal treatments to choose from, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, or natural. Most practitioners recommend taking two or three antifungals at the same time to prevent the yeast from adapting.
For lots more information on how to choose the right antifungal, take a look at our Ultimate Candida Diet treatment plan.