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Goldenseal

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is another botanical with a long production history. While having a somewhat less colorful history than ginseng, over-collection has reduced the population to dangerously low levels in many states. CITES also lists goldenseal and the US Fish and Wildlife Service regulates its collections.
Goldenseal photo - credits: Eric Burkhart

Goldenseal photo - credits: Eric Burkhart

Currently, goldenseal production and marketing is experiencing rapid expansion in the United States. Demand probably currently exceeds supply, because of the increasing acceptance of botanical products by the health food industry. Unlike ginseng production, where not only plant quantity but also visual and preceived chemical quality differences are important to sale price, goldenseal is primarily traded by weight.

Goldenseal's site requirements closely parallel the requirements for ginseng.

What is Goldenseal Used For?

Goldenseal is a dietary supplement thought to aid the immune system. It is used in a large percentage of the popular botanical products (medicinal and supplemental). In addition, goldenseal may reduce inflammation. While this product is classified as a supplement (fairly safe to use but not necessarily shown to be effective by the Food and Drug Administration), its presence in numerous products demonstrates the potential market.

How Do I Get Started?

Goldenseal propagation usually depends on roots and rhizomes. When purchasing from a supplier, the sale price for rhizome cuttings (wet weight) should be close to the price paid for roots (dry weight) at auction (consult local fur buyers, they often have access to this information). Currently, this price is $30 to $40 per pound. Because goldenseal has an expanding market, order your rhizomes early.

Preparing the Site and Care

Unlike ginseng, goldenseal root form (actually a rhizome) is not very important to the sale price. For this reason, cultivation in beds is recommended.

Select a site where suitable forest cover exists, but where tilling the soil will not severely damage overstory tree roots. Remove leaves and weeds from the site. Reserve the leaves for mulch. Till the soil to at least six inches. Remove all large rocks. A bed width of 30 inches is perfect. A producer can straddle a bed of goldenseal at this width to weed. Wider beds will present greater difficulties. Raised beds aid in drainage.

After bed preparation, plant rhizome cuttings that contain a bud. Fibrous root scraps may also grow, so plant any cutting waste. Plant roots one or two inches deep and at a six to twelve inch spacing. Larger spacings require more weeding initially as well as a longer time to obtain full bed occupation; however, the cost of establishment is less. After planting, mulch with the reserved leaves. Mulching reduces weed competition and evaporation of moisture from the soil.

Goldenseal Fruit
Goldenseal Fruit - Credit: Eric Burkhart

Instead of preparing one large single bed, multiple dispersed beds will reduce the chance of disease transmission. While goldenseal is not subject to many diseases, this is a prudent precaution.

Care

As with ginseng, slugs and small mammals will damage goldenseal. Follow the suggestions outlined in ginseng care. Deer browsing is usually low on goldenseal.

Harvesting

Always contact the buyer or broker prior to harvest. Besides providing specific harvesting information to increase profits, the buyer/broker may have a market for live rhizomes.

This market is often more lucrative than the "dry" market. Harvest will usually not occur for at least four years after planting. Assess the bed's potential for harvest at the end of each season. Fully occupied bed with large rhizomes are ready for harvest. Do not pass up an early harvest if the price is high. Dig the rhizomes according to the specifications provided by the buyer or broker. This usually involves digging the rhizomes with a garden fork. After digging, the roots are washed over a screen with a garden hose. If the root is for new planting stock, protect the roots from drying.

Dry roots following the instructions for ginseng.

Goldenseal sales are subject to many of the same regulations affecting ginseng. Contact your local office of the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources prior to planting, harvest, and sale.

Sources of Rhizome

If any other producer wishes to have their name included on this list, please contact Robert Hansen

  • Beersheba Wildflower Gardens: 615-692-3575
  • Companion Plants: 614-592-4643
  • Elixir Farm Botanicals: 417-261-2393
  • American Ginseng Gardens: 615-743-3700
  • Elkview Nursery: 740-733-0875
  • Natures Cathedral: 319-454-6959
  • Pacific Botanicals: 503-479-7777
  • Tusasegee Valley Ginseng: 704-293-5189
  • The Sandy Mush Herb Nursery: 704-683-2014
  • Well-sweep Herb Farm: 908-852-5390

Supplier list provided by Jeanine Davis, Extension Horticulture Specialist at North Carolina State University

More Information

Here, the medicinal plant goldenseal is reviewed. Uses and commerce, occurrence in Pennsylvania, biology, collection guidelines, forest farming, woods-cultivated versus wild-simulated goldenseal, and economic implications are discussed.

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Goldenseal

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