Variations in Alkaloid Content of Herbal Products Containing Goldenseal
David J. Edwards, PharmD, FCCP; Emily J. Draper, BA
J Am Pharm Assoc (2003) 2003;43:419-423. doi:10.1331/154434503321831148


Objective  To determine the concentration of hydrastine and berberine, the primary alkaloids in herbal products containing goldenseal.

Design  Descriptive comparison of 20 products purchased at local pharmacies or health food stores; 17 products were labeled as containing goldenseal root and 3 products contained goldenseal herb as the sole active herbal ingredient.

Setting  Laboratory assessment of alkaloid content using high-performance liquid chromatography.

Main Outcome Measures  Comparisons of hydrastine and berberine concentration, alkaloid ratio, and total alkaloid content among products.

Results  Hydrastine concentration in products labeled as containing goldenseal root ranged from 0 to 2.93%, whereas berberine concentration varied from 0.82% to 5.86%. Median total alkaloid concentration was 5.30%. Only 10 of 17 products met proposed United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards for the hydrastine and berberine content of goldenseal root. Five products contained little or no hydrastine, unusual berberine: hydrastine ratios, and additional peaks not observed with other products. Alkaloid content in goldenseal root products was about fourfold higher than in products labeled as containing goldenseal herb.

Conclusion  Alkaloid content of goldenseal products varies widely, with many products failing to meet proposed USP standards. In addition, the Chromatographie pattern and alkaloid ratio for several products were atypical for goldenseal. Given the current absence of regulation of the quality of herbal products, pharmacists should take extra care to ensure that substandard goldenseal products are not sold in their pharmacies.

Sign In
APhA Members 
Welcome to JAPhA.org! Please log in below using your APhA username and password. Update your APhA profile.
Not a Subscriber
New to JAPhA? Become an APhA member to receive a full subscription to both the print and online editions.


Register for a FREE limited account to benefit from personalization features such as alerts.


Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, Ettner SL, et al. Trends in alternative medicine use in the United States, 1990-1997: results of a follow-up national survey. JAMA. 1998;280:1569–75.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Fairfield KM, Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, et al. Patterns of use, expenditures, and perceived efficacy of complementary and alternative therapies in HIV-infected patients. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158:2257–64.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Radimer KL, Subar AF, Thompson FE Nonvitamin, nonmineral dietary supplements: issues and finding from NHANES III. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100:447–54.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Blumenthal M. Herb market levels after five years of boom. Herbalgram. 1999;47:64–5.
Zeisel SH Regulation of nutraceuticals. Science. 1999;285:1853–5.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Lewis JD, Strom BL Balancing safety of dietary supplements with the free market. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136:616–8.[PubMed]
Ernst E. Herbal medicines: where is the evidence? BMJ. 2000;321:395–6.[PubMed][CrossRef]
De los Reyes GC, Koda RT Determining hyperforin and hypericin content in eight brands of St. John's wort. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2002;59:545–7.[PubMed]
Harkey MR, Henderson GL, Gershwin ME, et al. Variability in commercial ginseng products: an analysis of 25 preparations. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:1101–6.[PubMed]
Wurglics M, Westerhoff K, Kaunzinger A, et al. Comparison of German St. John's wort products according to hyperforin and total hypericin content. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2001;41:560–6.
Hung OL, Shih RD, Chiang WK, et al. Herbal preparation use among urban emergency department patients. Acad Emerg Med. 1997;4:209–13.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Rehman J, Dillow JM, Carter SM, et al. Increased production of antigen-specific immunoglobulins G and M following in vivo treatment with the medicinal plants Echinacea angustifolia and Hydrastis canadensis. Immunol Lett. 1999;68:391–5.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Scazzocchio F, Cometa MF, Tomassini L, Palmery M. Antibacterial activity of Hydrastis canadensis extract and its major isolated alkaloids. Planta Med. 2001;67:561–4.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Abourashed EA, Khan IA High-performance liquid chromatography determination of hydrastine and berberine in dietary supplements containing goldenseal. J Pharm Sei. 2001;90:817–22.[CrossRef]
 Goldenseal. Pharmacopeia! Forum. 2001;27:2255–8.
Govindan M, Govindan G. A convenient method for the determination of the quality of goldenseal. Fitoterapia. 2000;71:232–5.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Keane FM, Munn SE, du Vivier AWP, et al. Analysis of Chinese herbal creams prescribed for dermatological conditions. BMJ. 1999;318:563–4.[PubMed][CrossRef]
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).
Please read the other comments before you post yours. Comments are moderated and will appear on the site at the discertion of the editorial staff.
* = Required Field
(if multiple authors, separate names by comma)
Example: John Doe

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

JAPhA Articles
Topic Collections
PubMed Articles
  • Print
  • PDF Download
  • Email
  • Share
  • Get Citation
  • Submit Comment
  • Article Alerts
    Please Wait... Processing your request... Please Wait.
    You must sign in to sign-up for alerts.

    Please confirm that your email address is correct, so you can successfully receive this alert.

  • Letters To Editor
  • Reprints