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Hydrastis Canadensis

The pilgrims first learned about the benefits of Goldenseal from the Native American people, but it did not take long before this herb gained widespread popularity. Golden Seal is a prime example how a plant's popularity can be its demise, unless we recognise its value and preserve it for future generations. In 1760 Miller brought a sample (then known as Warnera) back to the Old World and it was grown at Kew, Edinburgh and Dublin. Unfortunately it failed to make an impression on gardeners and thus never became popular as a garden herb in Britain. In 1782, Hugh Martin, addressing the Philosophical Society, mentioned the fact that Goldenseal yields a yellow dye, but it was not until 1798 that its medicinal virtues began to attract attention. From then on its reputation spread, both in England and the United States, and by about 1850 it had become an important article of commerce. The demand increased rapidly and steadily and as early as 1905 the U.S. Department of Agriculture drew attention to the situation, which even then appears to have been somewhat worrying. The annual supply in those days was estimated at between 200 000 - 300 000 pounds! Only a tenth of this staggering amount was designated for export to the Old World. Needless to say, the supply began to diminish, not just from over collection, but even more so due to deforestation - which was the method by which it was collected commercially. Golden Seal's natural habitat was decimated, as much of the eastern United States was stripped of its native woodlands. In 1991 it was officially recognised as an endangered species and by 1997 trade restrictions were being imposed in a belated attempt to save what was left of this once abundant species. Finally it was recognised that it is necessary and makes sense to propagate and cultivate this species on a large scale, which has been happening in the last few years and thus, finally, supplies and prices for this herb should stabilise.

Goldenseal has gained a reputation as a herbal antibiotic and immune system stimulant. Traditionally it was used for treatment of inflammatory conditions of the mucus membranes, especially those of the digestive system. Its traditional uses include treatment of peptic ulcers, gastritis, dyspepsia and colitis. It has proven its value in cases of diarrhoea, haemorrhoids and habitual constipation. As a bitter it stimulates the appetite, aids digestion and generally has a toning effect on the whole body. It is also effective for treatment of catarrhal conditions of the upper respiratory tract and inflammations of the urinary system. Its astringent properties have also been employed in cases of excessive menstruation and internal bleeding. It has a stimulating effect on the uterine muscles and thus is sometimes used as an aid in childbirth. However, since this effect can be very powerful and hence quite painful, it is not recommended to attempt such treatment without the supervision of a midwife skilled in the use of herbal remedies. Externally, a wash can be prepared to treat skin conditions such as eczema and ringworm, as well as wounds and badly healing sores, or used as drops in cases of earache and conjunctivitis. The decoction may also be effective as a douche to treat trichomonas and thrush. As a gargle it can be employed in cases of gum infections and sore throat. Do not use during pregnancy.

Goldenseal is strongly protective and is said to increase the power and potency of any spell or ritual. Not much is known about Native American magical uses of this herb.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.