Goldenseal root is an herbal remedy used for various health disorders. People take goldenseal root for colds and other respiratory tract infections, as well as for infectious diarrhea, constipation, colitis and muscle spasms. Applied topically, it may assist in healing wounds and canker sores, and can be used as a mouthwash for sore gums. Goldenseal root is made into teas and liquid extracts, and is also available in tablets and capsules. Side effects are uncommon.
Minor Side Effects
Some people taking goldenseal root may experience drowsiness, headache or an upset stomach. Rarely, goldenseal may cause nausea and vomiting, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
Like any herb, goldenseal root can cause allergic reactions in some people, as noted by EMedTV. Signs include a rash or hives, itching, wheezing or problems breathing, tightness in the chest and swelling of the face, throat or mouth. An allergic reaction to goldenseal calls for immediate medical attention.
Pregnant women should not take goldenseal root. Goldenseal can induce menstruation, and a component of this herb called berberine may cause uterine contractions, according to the NCCAM. This may lead to premature labor or miscarriage.
Effects on Children
Women who are breastfeeding should not take goldenseal because it may be transferred through breast milk, and the herb is dangerous to babies and young children. Babies and young children also should never be given goldenseal, as it can cause life-threatening liver problems and a condition called kernicterus, or brain damage due to severe jaundice. Symptoms of kernicterus or other liver issues in babies and young children include yellowed skin, increased or decreased muscle tone, extreme drowsiness and lethargy, high-pitched crying, fever and arched back.
People with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease should not take goldenseal root, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Berberine may cause a life-threatening heart episode called QTc prolongation in patients with severe underlying heart disease. Goldenseal also may interfere with medications that regulate blood pressure.
Although unlikely, taking very high doses of goldenseal root can cause toxicity. Symptoms as listed by the MSKCC include depression, nervousness, hallucinations, stomach ulcerations, slowed heart rate, respiratory depression and seizures.