The popularity of goldenseal as a medicinal plant is the primary factor for its high market demand that eventually resulted to it’s over harvesting in the wild and its present endangered status. The threats to the existence of this valuable medicinal herb though also produced various positive outputs. Among these are the awareness for its conservation and the established management actions. Researches regarding the diverse aspects of this medicinal herb’s natural ecology are continuous to find solution to the depleting supply of goldenseal in its natural habitats.
The vast amount of studies and literature conducted on goldenseal further intensifies this perennial herb’s importance as a medicinal plant. The goldenseal which has the scientific name Hydrastis canadensis is a perennial herb that belongs to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Other names of this herb are yellow root, sceau d’or, yellow-puccoon, eye-balm, Indian turmeric, and ground raspberry (Loner). The specific taxonomy of the goldenseal is Kingdom: Plantae, Phylum: Anthophyta, Class: Dicotyledoneae, Order: Ranunculates, Family: Ranunculaceae, Genus: Hydrastis (NatureServe).
This herb is indigenous to Eastern United States and the Southern Canada (Lonner). The areas of growth of this herb includes southern of New England going to west to southern Wisconsin, then south to Arkansas and to northern part of Georgia. Plentiful amounts of goldenseal during the early times though were observed in the states of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. States with major harvests of this herb occur in Kentucky and West Virginia (Gagnon). The present surveys on the existence of goldenseal in America indicated that it can still be found in the eastern half of North America.
Among the areas where this herb was still located were Vermont to Minnesota, varying south to Nebraska, Alabama, Kansas, Georgia, and Arkansas. In numerous parts of goldenseal’s natural ecosystem it is already considered infrequent. These areas are Alabama, Delawere, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Vermont, and Ontario (NatureServe). Goldenseal’s association with ginseng includes their similarities in their natural habitat (Gagnon).
The natural ecosystem wherein this herb thrives is in the woodlands along sides of hills and bluffs lining natural drainage wherein there is abundance of leaf mold (Eichenberger, 204). Aside from in woodlands, abundant populations of goldenseal are also located in forests containing alkaline soil (NatureServe). The altitude of these rich, moist, alkaline lands where this herb thrives ranges from 50 to 1,200 meters (Lonner). Mesic southern forests that posses shady areas and rich soil such as those below the canopy of maple trees are also frequent areas of goldenseal growth in the wild (Penskar et al.
). The goldenseal inhabits the shady areas under the canopy of forest trees thus the environmental condition throughout the year varies slightly only. The trees that provide shade are also their competitors for nutrients and water as well as the shrubs, herbs, and young trees (Gagnon). Goldenseal therefore in the wild state is capable of competing for nutrients and blending with other forest plants to survive. The goldenseal is seldom eaten by herbivore animals like insects and mammals due to the strong alkaloids it contains in every part of its body.
Its alkaloid components therefore also serve as the plant’s defense mechanism against herbivore animals. The goldenseal in its natural habitat undergoes less stress due to animals and the environment but the condition below the canopy of forest trees also does not allow immense biomass production. In order to be able to produce gigantic biomass the primary requirement is sunlight. The amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor passing the canopy of forest trees and other big plants is only about 25 to 30% of the total sunlight available.
This environmental condition in the forest floor is among the factors that dictates the slow growth of goldenseal (Gagnon). The cultivation condition of goldenseal involves the replication of its natural habitat. The garden for this herb’s cultivation needs to be partly shady, humus rich, and the soil is well-drained. The preferred materials to imitate the shady condition are the lath blinds. The utilization of lath blinds instead of shady trees is for the cultured herbs to have no competition for nutrients (Grieve). The cultivation of goldenseal is through the use of root-stocks.
The planting of the seeds is not relied on because the primary reproduction of this herb is vegetative or clonal through its rhizomes or roots. This implies that planting roots will yield faster than seeds (“Goldenseal Hydrastis Canadensis”). Before planting the root stocks are separated into small parts. Then these stocks are planted in rows that have a distance of 8 inches. The planting process is done during the autumn season. The period required from planting until the roots of the goldenseal can be harvested is about 2-3 years (Grieve).
In the wild habitat of the goldenseal though, the period of planting to harvest takes about four to five times than that of the cultivated herbs (Gagnon). The cause of this great discrepancy is the more favorable environmental condition undergone by the cultivated herbs. There is more sunlight, less competition for nutrients, and most likely more water supplies. Even in the cultivated areas like other wild plants this herb is scarcely disturbed by disease. There are records of infestation with leaf blight and some other diseases.
The parasites that infest goldenseal are slugs which eat the young herbs and foliage of the grown-up plants (“Goldenseal Hydrastis Canadensis”). The approximated number of occurrences of Goldenseal around the globe is around 1000 to 5000. This herbs approximated typical clump size is from 70 to 500, though it also recognized that various clumps may reach more or less than 10,000 individual stems. In natural environment that is appropriate for the growth of goldenseal, distance between populations of herb is less than 1.
5 kilometers but in areas unsuitable for its growth it is half a kilometer (NatureServe). Goldenseal which is a little herbaceous plant has a solitary and hair covered stem that has colors varies from light to reddish green. It is approximated that the height of this small herb is about 1 inch. The possession of two serrated leaves that have five lobes each is also a characteristic of this native perennial herb. There are also accounts though that states some goldenseal species to produce only one basal leaf on its long hairy stem (“Goldenseal: Hydrastis Canadensis”).
The uppermost leaf of the stem is the usual location where the single flower of this herb grows. Goldenseal flowers are small and estimated to be 0. 5 inch in diameter. Each flower possesses 3 deciduous sepals; lacks petals; and, contains an estimate of 40 spreading stamens and 12 centrally clustered pistils. The fruits of the goldenseal on the other hand are like raspberry in shape. The root or rhizome which is the sought after part for its medicinal properties is twirled, crinkled, and has a bright yellow-brown color (“Goldenseal”).
The rhizomes grow underground along with the other roots which are long and fibrous. There is limitation in the mass of rhizome growth because after sometime these parts of the goldenseal reproduces through vegetative process or cloning. The rhizomes produce seedlings that are identical and are capable of growing separately from the rhizome it was cloned from (Gagnon). The principal reproduction method of the goldenseal is vegetative or clonally through its rhizomes but to a lesser extent this herb is also capable of multiplying through seed fertilization.
The period it takes for the seeds of goldenseal undergo self or cross fertilization ranges from 4 to 5 years whereas the vegetative propagation occurs only in about 1 to 2 years. The vegetative propagation of the rhizome is a continuous process if the plant remains undisturbed. The newly budded young herbs will grow mature then the rhizomes propagate through vegetative process. This herb therefore undergoes exponential reproduction that gradually occurs over several years. This form of goldenseal reproduction produces young populations that are genetically identical (Gagnon).
The clonal reproduction of this perennial herb through its rhizomes is therefore responsible for the distinctive patchy populations of goldenseal. The blooming of goldenseal flowers varies in different areas where this plant inhabits. Early May is the flower period for this herb in Michigan while its fruits develop in September. In other populations of goldenseal though, the development of fruits occur as early as July. The goldenseal fruits are likened to the appearance of raspberry. During the months of July and August the ripening of the goldenseal fruits happens in which the fruit’s color into bright red.
The individual fruits of this herb possess one dark brown or black seed with average length of 2. 4 mm (Gagnon). The colonies of this plant gradually amplify in size as the years passes by. Colonies can consist of more than numerous hundreds of shoots that has a characteristic arrangement of the taller ones in the center of the colony while the smallest ones are in the edges. This attribute of a goldenseal populace implies that vegetative propagation is the primary form of colony spreading out (Penskar, 2).
In Canada the pollinators of goldenseal that aids in its reproductive process are the small bees that belong to the genera Evylaeus and Dialictus while in Unites States the goldenseal pollinators are syrphid flies and larger bees. The dispersal of goldenseal seeds through the fruits that are eaten by animals such as birds is unproductive because seedlings are infrequently observed in the wild (Lonner). The unpalatable characteristic of this herb’s parts to animals is also a factor for the little or none at all significance of animals in the dispersal of goldenseal seeds.
The first introduction of goldenseal occurred in England during 1760’s by Miller. The name of this herb then was Warnera. The cultivation of this herb then was not because of its medicinal value but rather due to its horticultural charisma. The culture of goldenseal for medicinal value started when the depletion of this herb’s growth in Ohio where it used to be plentiful was noted. The small scale culture of this herb started in some parts of America. It was in 1905 that the growing demand for goldenseal was noted by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Goldenseal’s medicinal properties were discovered by the early settlers from the American Indians. These people use the rhizome or root of the goldenseal as medicine while the juice which is color yellow was utilized as tarnish to their faces and clothing coloring. The intensive trading of goldenseal was then noted in 1905 where the approximated amount of goldenseal traded ranges from 200,000 to 300,000 pounds (Grieve). The person that has the major contribution in the popularity of goldenseal as a medicinal plant is herbalist full of charisma named Samuel Thompson.
This herbalist believed the capacity of goldenseal to cure various diseases. It is during his time that the demand of this herb in commerce for its medicinal value first soared. The popularity though of goldenseal as a medicinal plant is not a continuous phenomenon (Gagnon). There were periods that the demand is dramatically high and there are also those periods of low demand. The continuous increasing demand for this herbal medicine was noted in the early 1900s and up to the present time. Goldenseal which is marketed for its medicinal value can be bought in different forms.
These available forms of herbal goldenseal include the tea, capsule, liquid gargle, powdered root, and fluid extracts. The various conditions like bacterial infections, skin wounds, sore throats, sore eyes, ulcerations, chronic colon inflammations, hemorrhoids, liver problems, dyspepsia, and constipation are only a few of the illnesses wherein goldenseal is considered as a herbal medicine (Grieve). The wide range of conditions that this medicinal herb caters to justifies its increased demand in the market.
At present, goldenseal along with others medicinal herbs such as ginseng are recorded in the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In Canada, goldenseal is regard as specie with threatened existence while in USA the general status is endangered though there as variations in different states. The U. S. federal government listed goldenseal to be threatened in Maryland, Michigan, and New York. In Conneticut, Georgia, Massachussetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Vermount the threats on the existence of this herb is increased to the endangered status.
Areas of special concern are in North Carolina and Tennessee because higher commercial exploitation of goldenseal is present there (USDA). The primary reason for the threatened existence of the goldenseal is over harvesting. As the studies conducted to establish the value of goldenseal as a medicinal plant increased, the demand of this herbal medicine also continuously rocketed (Penskar, 2). A pound of the roots of goldenseal can sell to as much as $100 (“Goldenseal Hydrastis Canadensis”). In order to compliment the increasing demand uncontrolled harvesting of goldenseal in its wild environment occurred.
The population of this herb in its natural environment slimmed down. The over exploitation of goldenseal created this herb’s endangered status (Penskar, 2). Other factors that contribute to the endangered status of goldenseal species are the deforestation and development of areas wherein the populations of goldenseal thrive (Mulligan). The various human destructive interventions to the natural ecology of this herb include limestone mining, suburban developments, creation of roads, digging for hedgehog, and hunting for slugs (NatureServe).
The populations of goldenseals are not the only victims of human interventions in the forests but other wild plants and animals as well. Man’s continuous intervention with the natural ecosystems of wild plants and other animals brought about the present threats to the existence of the various species like the goldenseal. The slow growth of goldenseal in the wild multiplies the impact of the over harvesting of this herb. The growth rate of a population of this perennial plant is likely to be only slightly above or below the population stability or maintenance which is 1. 00.
Any growth of the population above 1. 00 is equal to the part of the population that can be harvested. What occurred in the case of the unregulated harvesting of wild goldenseal though is that along with allowable harvestable populace the stock of the herbs population were also collected. The scenario that occurred to this herbs population therefore was that there were only small portions of the population that were left to reproduce and expand the wild populace. The intensified impact of over harvesting makes the establishment of sustainable actions difficult (Gagnon).
Sustainable actions toward the goldenseal populace need to be implemented to prevent the extinction of this perennial herb. The major action for the conservation of goldenseal needs to focus on the wild-harvesters. Strict management of goldenseal wild harvesting is necessary to make sure the continuous growth of this herbs populace in their natural environment. The legal requirements established for goldenseal wild-harvesting must be properly observed. Harvesting of goldenseal in the wild is not a problem as long as the process is controlled and the continuous growth of this herbs wild populace will be maintained.
Various methodologies in agriculture such as rotational harvesting, collection of thin patches instead of the entire herb population, replanting portions of the harvested goldenseal rhizomes, and allowing some of the mature and young herb population to be left to grow and reproduce in their wild environment also needs to be put into practice (Lonner). The growers of goldenseal are another group that sustainable actions point out to. Every state has varied legal requirements for the cultivation of this herb.
These requirements must be strictly followed by the growers while ensuring that the supply for planting was collected without compromising the wild populace of the herb. Each grower needs to be responsible enough to seek the advice of the experts in their area for the requirements of goldenseal cultivation (Lonner). Legal regulations need to indicate that the commercial growers can only continue to cultivate goldenseal if the stocks to be utilized in their agriculture are not taken from the wild. The consumers and medical practitioners that utilize goldenseal are also people that conservation actions should focus on.
The practitioners will aide in the over-exploitation of this herb if their prescriptions will only include goldenseal if it is best indicated. Substitution of other herbs that are not endangered can also be done by the practitioners in their prescriptions. The consumers on the other hand should scrutinize first the methodologies of the herb’s collection before buying. Through buying only goldenseal that is harvested without compromising the natural population of the herb, over-exploitation will be lessened if not eradicated (Lonner, 2).
The protection of the natural ecosystem of goldenseal is also an essential factor for its conservation (Penskar, 2). The importance of maintaining the environment where this herb thrives is equal to the control and management of its over-harvesting. The preventive measures implemented against over-harvesting are useless if the natural habitat of this herb is already destroyed by continuous deforestation and industrial development of forest lands. In Michigan, conservation efforts include the protection of the goldenseal’s natural habitat.
Nature preserves containing thriving populations of this herb are kept under the ownership of Michigan Nature Association, The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Audubon Society, and some Universities (Penskar, 2). These nature preserves are integrated into parks to further uplift the awareness of goldenseal conservation. Conservation actions of goldenseal also need to establish a network of areas wherein the populations of goldenseal are entirely not allowed to be collected or harvested (Gagnon).
These areas should be protected by legally to ensure that even though there is depletion of the other wild populace of this herb there are still numerous conserved areas that are untouched by harvesters and collectors. The natural wild characteristics of the herb will be preserved because human intervention on the population is not allowed. The agriculture of goldenseal needs further promotion. High agricultural production of this herb from stocks that are also acquired from growers should be the primary aim.
If continuous multiplication of the agriculture production occurs the high demand of this herb can be met without compromising the wild populace (Gagnon). The monopoly of root stocks by some growers needs to be disintegrated for the agriculture industry of goldenseal to flourish. The different states wherein the goldenseal thrives can establish a nursery of this herb. The seedlings produced in the nursery can be distributed to people interested in cultivating this valuable medicinal herb. The nursery can provide alternative jobs to the wild harvesters of goldenseal.
The establishment of laws and conservation actions towards the protection of goldenseal’s existence will not suffice. There is also a need for continuous inventory and monitoring of every population of this herb. The population monitoring programs necessitates the cooperation of all the states wherein the harvesting or collection of goldenseal from the wild is possible. A network of monitoring system allowing the cooperation of various government and non-government organizations will further ensure the success of the conservation actions (Gagnon).
Prior to the endangered status of the goldenseal, the biblical stewardship was utilized to protect and ensure the continuous existence of this medicinal herb in the wild. The high demand for this valuable commodity brought about the greed in people thus leading to the over harvesting of goldenseal. The threat in the existence of this herb though created awareness in people regarding the importance of preserving the population of goldenseal in the wild. Today, the good stewardship of the goldenseal wild and cultured populace is already implemented with the aid of various groups and the governments concerned.
The endangered status of goldenseal can intensify to the point of extinction of this species if the sustainable use and conservation are not properly implemented. Further researches on the biology and ecology of goldenseal will also aide in the conservation and management of this species (Foster). Researches such as methodologies for mass reproduction of goldenseal at a shorter span of time are of great significance to the agriculture aspect of this medicinal herb.
The inventories of goldenseal populations in the wild also need to be further intensified to determine further protection against the exploitation of this medicinal herb (Penskar, 2). Firm management of the wild populations and greater emphasis on the cultivation of this herb is necessary to prevent further aggravation to the status of this plant species. Works Cited Eichenberger, MD and Parker, GR. “Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L. ) Distribution, Phenology, and Biomass in an OaK-Hickory Forest”. Ohio Journal of Science . 76. 5 (1976): 204-210. Foster, Steven.
2008. “Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)”. Steven Foster Group, Inc.. 29 October 2008. <http://www. stevenfoster. com/education/monograph/goldenseal. html>. Gagnon, Daniel. 1999. “A review of the ecology and population biology of Goldenseal, and protocols for monitoring its populations”. Office of Scientific Authority of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 29 October 2008. <http://www. nps. gov/plants/MEDICINAL/pubs/goldenseal. htm>. “Goldenseal”. 2008. University of Maryland Medical Center. 28 October 2008. <http://www. umm. edu/altmed/articles/goldenseal-000252.
htm>. Grieve, M. “Goldenseal Hydrastis Canadensis”. 29 October 2008. <http://www. botanical. com/botanical/mgmh/g/golsea27. html>. “Hydrastis canadensis L. ”. NatureServe. February 2008. Ecological systems data. 28 October 2008<http://www. natureserve. org/explorer/servlet/NatureServe? searchName=Hydrastis+canadensis>. “Hydrastis canadensis L. Goldenseal” 2008. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 29 October 2008. <http://plants. usda. gov/java/profile? symbol=HYCA> Lonner, J. April 2007. “Medical Plant Fact Sheet: Hydrastis canadensis/ Goldenseal”.
A collaboration of the IUCN Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, PCA-Medicinal Plant Working Group, and North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. Arlington, Virginia: PCA-Medicinal Plant Working Group. 29 October 2008. <http://www. pollinator. org/Resources/Hydrastis%20canadensis%20fact%20sheet. pdf>. Mulligan, M. R and Gorchov, D. L. 2004. “Population loss of goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis L. (Ranunculaceae), in Ohio1”. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society. Penskar, MR, Choberka, EG and Higman, PG. 2001. “Special Plant Abstract for Hydrastis Canadensis (goldenseal)”. Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Lansing, MI. 3 pp.