Ask The Expert

Save goldenseal

Q: Are there alternative herbs to the endangered goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)?

A: Goldenseal is native to eastern North America, where Native Americans used its bitter-tasting, yellow roots to treat a wide range of conditions and infections. Because goldenseal has been overharvested to supply mainly the North American market, wild sources have been severely depleted. Considered a protected plant by several Eastern states, the federal government, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), goldenseal has been cultivated to prevent extinction while supplying increased demand.

If you can’t purchase a product made with cultivated goldenseal, try a few nonendangered alternatives, such as the roots of both yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) and Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium). Well-known in Latino communities, yerba mansa is an anti-inflammatory that helps heal sinus infections, stomach ulcers, and gum and lung inflammations. It is also antibacterial and antifungal. Also long used by Latinos, Oregon grape (and its related species) has strong antimicrobial and antibiotic properties and is used to treat stomach inflammations and bacterial or fungal infections.

This month’s ASK THE EXPERT is written by Elizabeth Elstien, a practicing herbalist, educator, writer, and the owner of Peaceable Kingdom Botanicals in Tucson, Arizona.