Goldenseal Harvest Study

AHPA established the Foundation for Education and Research on Botanicals (AHPA-ERB Foundation) as a 501(c)(3) foundation to promote education and research on medicinal, therapeutic, and health-promoting herbs.

The AHPA ERB Foundation has committed to funding a multi-year harvest study on goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) lead by Principal Investigator Katie Commender, the Agroforestry Program Director for Appalachian Sustainable Development. Other members of the research team are from academia and the USDA Forest Service.

The purpose of this project is to improve the understanding of harvest impacts on natural and forest-farmed populations of goldenseal and to develop recommendations for harvest methods, intensities, and cultivation that support the long-term viability of this species. A complimentary objective is to share knowledge of goldenseal with stakeholders, by providing timely and useful information about research findings on best practices and management. The research team will manage harvest studies to be replicated over multiple growing sites in goldenseal’s natural range, in both natural forest and forest-farmed settings.

Planned as a five-year study, the ERB Foundation expects to provide $10,000 to the research team for each year of the study. The ERB Foundation encourages companies and individuals with an interest in goldenseal to help fund this study.

To donate to this project, please visit the ERB Foundation donation site here, or contact Jane Wilson at for more details.

Goldenseal Harvest and Cultivation Challenges

Goldenseal, also known as orange root, yellow root, or yellow puccoon, is an understory plant native to the eastern North American deciduous forest environment. It has a broad geographical range in eastern North America, and extends through most U.S. states within the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains and into southern New England and several of the Midwest states near the Great Lakes. It also occurs in Ontario, Canada. Goldenseal is cultivated in some locations within and outside of its native range.

Goldenseal rhizome has been used medicinally by indigenous communities and currently is used to produce dietary supplement products. Internationally, goldenseal comes into commerce almost exclusively through export from its two native range countries, either from cultivated sources in the U.S. or Canada or from wild-harvested material collected in the United States.

The primary threat to goldenseal, as with many other woodland plants, is habitat loss. Such loss occurs from conversion of woodlands to other uses as well as from timber harvest and certain mining operations. Additional threats include unsustainable harvest practices, deer herbivory, drought conditions in the plant’s range, competition from invasive species, leaf blight, and even absence of disturbance. Goldenseal has been listed on CITES Appendix II since 1997 and is considered to be “at risk” by United Plant Savers and “vulnerable” on the IUCN red list.

In an effort to develop additional information about harvest impacts for this botanical under a variety of growth conditions, this research study has been developed to study diverse populations of goldenseal and assess varying levels of harvest with the support of funding from the AHPA-ERB Foundation.

About the Researcher

Principal Investigator Katie Commender has been with the Appalachian Sustainable Development program at Virginia Tech for over five years and has been the Agroforestry Program Director since 2018. She earned her M.S. in Forestry with Virginia Tech's Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation Department. In the Agroforestry Program she works with forest farmers as a founding member of the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition. In 2017, she co-founded the Appalachian Harvest Herb Hub to help medicinal herb farmers sustainably grow, process, and market herbs to premium domestic and international markets. She endeavors to help farmers sustainably produce medicinal herbs in both forest farming and alley cropping systems, so that conservation through profitable cultivation can be achieved.

Goldenseal Harvest Study Donors

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