Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

The very rare Goldenseal is a perennial herb growing from a thick and knotted yellow rhizome. In early spring it sends up one leaf and a hairy stem which develops two leaves near the top. The leaves are alternate, hairy, 5- to 7-lobed and double-serrate. They enlarge after flowering to about 15 inches wide.

The stem is terminated by a single greenish-white flower. There are no petals and the three sepals fall early leaving many conspicuous stamens. The red fruit looks like a raspberry.

Few wildflowers were as important to the American Indians as Goldenseal. A brilliant yellow dye was obtained from its rhizome, as well as remedies for inflamed eyes, mouth ulcers, cancer, tuberculosis, and edema. It may not have been effective for all these, but it will stop bleeding, even hemorrhaging.

Pioneers adopted Goldenseal and it became a mainstay in American folk medicine. Even now, drug manufacturers extract an alkaloid from its root to use in some eye-drops. Once common in eastern North America, Goldenseal has been almost exterminated in many places by commercial harvesting.

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