Introduction

Goldenseal is a highly valued medicinal herb belonging to the Ranunculaceae family. It is native to the open woodland areas of the northeastern United States. It grows naturally on the forest floor and so requires shade to grow successfully.

The plants over-winter as a rhizome, with leaves emerging relatively early in the spring. The stems grow to about 30cm and generally have two large, slightly hairy leaves. The plant produces a small white flower, which develops into a green berry. The berry turns bright red when the seeds are ripe.

The medicinal properties of Goldenseal are attributed to the alkaloids, hydrastine and berberine, which are used as a muscle stimulant, antihaemorrhagic and as a laxative. Goldenseal also has some antibacterial properties, and is believed to help boost the immune system. Extracts from the plant can also be used for the treatment of nasal congestion, mouth sores, eye infections, ringworm, haemorrhoids, acne, and as an antiseptic.

Growing Goldenseal

Propagation:

Seed, division of the crown/rhizome, or by root cuttings. Division is the main method.

Sowing rate: Approximately 100 kg/ha. Plant small rhizomes at 20cm x 20cm spacing.
Yields/ha: 2.5 t/ha dried roots after 5 years.
Time of maturity: 3–5 years minimum
Crop protection: Shade is the key to growing this crop. About 50% seems to be optimum.
Soil type: Needs to be friable as you are digging roots for sale.
Fertilisers: Low fertility rates suit this plant best.
Weed control: Important as the plant is very small and could be smothered.
Pest/Diseases: Goldenseal suffers few attacks from diseases or insects. There are some unconfirmed reports of Rhizoctonia root rot. Watch for slugs.
Harvesting: Goldenseal requires 3–5 years’ growth before harvesting. Often, after 5 years, the centre portion of the root mass will become crowded and begin to die. Plants should be harvested before this occurs. The roots should be dug up in the autumn when the tops have died down. Small sections of root are then used for replanting.
Marketing: Markets for Goldenseal are found in the health industry. Extracts can be found in local health shops. There could also be an export market to Europe and North America.

Further Information

Wikipedia article

NCCAM fact sheet

NC State University information leaflet