Tips for using yellowroot tea in herbal medicine

Yellowroot tea is easy to make. Just break up a piece and pour boiling water over it, steep, and drink. Yellowroot is used to treat many common health problems including mouth sores, gum disease, sore throat, the tonsils, the esophagus, the stomach, and the urinary tract. A natural antibiotic, yellowroot helps keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder walls making yellowroot tea a popular remedy for bladder and kidney infections. Drink a cup of yellowroot tea at first sign of infection for best results.

Yellowroot stems and rhizomes are also chewed and used in tinctures. Yellowroot herb is very bitter but worth the bad taste when you are sick. It is a go-to remedy for people in the Appalachian Mountains and beyond.

Yellowroot bundles for sale
Yellowroot bundle

Yellowroot bundle for sale $14.00 free shipping

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) bundle -- approximately 2 ounces depending on drying time, the bundle contains enough dry yellowroot for at least 20 cups of medium strength yellowroot tea. This yellowroot is wild-harvested here in the North Georgia Mountains. All of our herbs are hand-selected and held to the highest standards. They have never been sprayed or chemically treated in any way.

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North Georgia mountain yellowroot
Janice with fresh mountain yellowroot

Yellowroot is harvested in the summer and dried for winter use.

Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima) has a long history.

The Cherokee Indians used yellowroot to cure indigestion and to improve appetite. They used the herb to treat cancer, whooping cough, liver disorders, fevers, and heart problems. Yellowroot was also used as a yellow dye and added to war paint.

Catawba Indians, associating the plant's color with the disease, used yellowroot to treat jaundice (when suffering from jaundice, the skin and eyeballs turn a sickly yellow color).

Babies are often born with jaundice. The condition is caused by a buildup of waste material in the blood and can be caused by poor liver or bile duct function. Yellowroot is still used to treat jaundice in many cultures.

The following video with Doctor Karen Hall from Southeastern Ethnobotany has some good information about the yellowroot plant (Xanthorhiza simplicissima):

Yellowroot is anti-inflammatory and a natural antibiotic.

Improve digestion, use in urinary system treatments, flush out harmful toxins, heal ulcers, and reduce harmful bacteria with yellowroot. The medicinal plant can help in the treatment of sinus infections, bladder problems, colds, flu, sore throat, laryngitis, mouth sores, colitis, gastritis, ulcers, chest congestion, diarrhea, and earache. Yellowroot is a uterine tonic and a digestive aid. It is an excellent herbal liver stimulant and is useful in soothing mucus membranes.

Yellowroot can be added to teas, tinctures, eyewashes, salves, and more.

Yellowroot is used in herbal teas, tinctures, tonics, capsules, powders, eyewashes, gargles, ear drops, douches, and salves. It is known as a powerful cooling astringent that reduces phlegm. When combined with ginseng, yellowroot helps boost the entire immune system.

How do I make yellowroot tea?

Here on Payne Mountain Farms, we make a cup of yellowroot tea when needed out of the plant's roots and stems -- using approximately one tablespoons of plant material per cup of water. Measurement do not have to be exact and we don't usually use a measuring spoon when making herbal tea here on the farm. We have made enough yellowroot tea through the years so that now we can do it blindfolded. There is no need to peel off bark although breaking material into small pieces is recommended. Break yellowroot pieces into small sections, about an inch long. Simmer yellowroot in a cup of water for five minutes then steep for up to an hour depending on how strong you want it to be. We drink a teaspoon of yellowroot tea every few hours throughout the day and then drink down what's left an hour before bed time. Add honey and lemon if desired to improve taste (yellowroot is bitter). Yellowroot tea, like other herbal teas, is best made fresh everyday.

Use yellowroot tea as a mouthwash to heal gum disease.

When used as an external herbal wash, yellowroot can soothe irritated skin problems like itchy rash, eczema, and measles. As an herbal mouthwash, yellowroot helps heal mouth ulcers, gum disease, and sore throats. Powdered yellowroot can be sprinkled on infected cuts and abrasions to help heal and protect. Yellowroot salve makes an excellent herbal remedy for chapped lips and dry skin. A small piece of yellowroot can also be chewed like a toothpick. Tony says chewing yellowroot cures the toothache!

Combine yellowroot with chasteberry for women's problems.

Yellowroot is used to treat some female conditions including PMS and yeast infection. It can be useful in preventing night sweats and hot flashes during menopause especially when combined with chasteberry.

Demand for yellowroot is increasing.

Yellowroot is one of the most popular of all medicinal herbs. It is estimated that 250,000 pounds of yellowroot is now sold each year. Demand for yellowroot has increased dramatically since 1990 due to the belief that the tea can mask the presence of illegal drugs in a urine test. This assumption is false. Demand for yellowroot is also on the rise due to it being used in place of goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis).

Yellowroot tea

When making herbal tea, yellowroot should be broken into pieces before adding to water.

Why is yellowroot yellow?

According to drugs.com, yellowroot gets it distinctive color from berberine, the major alkaloid in yellowroot. The berberine content in yellow root is estimated to range from 1.2% to 1.3%. Berberine is a naturally occurring active constituent in the root, rhizome, and stem bark of yellowroot -- with no genotoxic, cytotoxic, or mutagenic effects reported with clinical doses.

Berberine is also present several medicinal herbs including turmeric, goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape, golden thread, and yellowroot. The powdered form is usually taken by mouth for treating high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and diabetes. Berberine can lower blood sugar and reduce testosterone levels -- use with caution if you have diabetes or heart problems.

How is berberine used?

WebMD.com gives us some good information on berberine. In powdered form, berberine is useful for cold sores. Early research suggests that berberine can reduce some of the symptoms and lower death rates in some patients suffering from congestive heart failure. Current research shows that berberine may be better than prescription medications for several conditions and diseases.

Yellow medicine -- the berberine plants

According to Naturopathic Doctor News and Review, "Being bitter, these plants high in the yellow berberine alkaloids have alterative action, that of cleansing the blood. The lymphatic system function is activated. Bile flow is stimulated, freeing the energy of the liver, moving stagnation. When the liver is flowing, there is better digestion and improved elimination through the colon." I couldn't have said it better.

Yellowroot and goldenseal have similar properties.

Yellowroot can usually be used in place of goldenseal. Both plants have similar properties and can be used for a lot of the same purposes. Old herbal books that mention yellowroot might be referring to goldenseal or they might be referring to Xanthorhiza simplicissima.

Yellowroot leaves emerge in early spring.

Yellowroot plants grow from 12 to 36 inches tall. After emerging in early spring, flower buds quickly develop into small white or lavender flowers. Yellowroot flourishes in forests and near shady creek banks where is important for controlling soil erosion.

Yellowroot plants require moist, rich soil.

Yellowroot will not grow in poor, dry soil. The plant likes rich soil and is usually found growing in patches on shady creek banks along with May apple, trillium, bloodroot, and black cohosh. When gathering yellowroot, try not to damage the creek banks. Cut yellowroot off at ground level for easy harvest. The rhizomes will grow new stems and leaves within a few weeks.

Store dried yellowroot for winter use.

Freshly harvested yellowroot rhizomes (roots and stems) should be dried for future use. Once dried, stack in paper bags or baskets. Store in dry area since a damp location may cause the yellowroot to mold.

Yellowroot is easy to identify. As the name implies, the rhizomes and stems are bright yellow when bark is scraped with a fingernail or digging tool. The stem and rhizomes of the plant are both used in herbal medicine since both contain active medicines. Leaves are usually discarded.

Yellowroot with flower stalks and leaves
Yellowroot photo by Janice Boling

Yellowroot flowers are small and not very noticeable. They appear under the leaves in late spring and early summer.

What is the difference between Yellowroot and Goldenseal?

Goldenseal and Yellowroot side by side

What is the difference between yellowroot and goldenseal? Writers sometimes confuse the two plants, especially in old herbals and other home-remedy books. If Latin names or pictures are not used, it's just a guess which plant the author is actually referring to.

Thank goodness, it really doesn't matter too much because we can usually substitute one for the other for medicinal purposes. (Different places have different sources of "yellowroot". In the northwestern United States the go-to for a burberine source is Oregon Grape root.) It can really get confusing when you add in turmeric which is often called yellow root.

North Georgia “yeller” root with the long Latin name of Xanthorhiza Simplicissima is kin to the clematis vine. Our local yellowroot has delicate tops, skinny underground stems, fine roots, and grows on shady creek banks. Both the stems and underground roots are used for healing.

Goldenseal is usually found up north in dryer locations. Its Latin name is Hydrastis Canadensis. Goldenseal is a larger plant with much broader leaves and thicker, knobby roots that resemble a tuber. I don't think I have ever seen any wild goldenseal growing in North Georgia but yellowroot is common.

Yellowroot and goldenseal do not look anything alike but both plants contain a strong, astringent alkaloid known as berberine (and other similar, active ingredients). Research shows that berberine has anti- bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic activity.

Both plants have been used as medicines for hundreds of years. Although both once grew abundantly all over the eastern United States, much of the wild goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) crop was over harvested and is now close to becoming endangered. So far, Xanthorhiza Simplicissima is still plentiful.

One of the most effective ways to get either plant into the body is with tea. A weak tea can be made with a tablespoon of plant material simmered in two cups of water for ten minutes. Make stronger tea with less water or by adding more plant material.

Yellowroot and goldenseal are used to treat inflammations and infections, improve digestion (as a bitter tonic), to sooth mucus membranes, and to treat ulcers. Yellowroot and goldenseal can lower blood pressure, reduce fat levels in the blood, induce the secretion of bile, and help stop bleeding.

Yellowroot and goldenseal stimulate involuntary muscles in the intestinal tract and uterus. A decoction (tea) is used to stop diarrhea, to relieve constipation, to help liver problems, flatulence, pneumonia, cancer, and rattlesnake bites. Other uses include treating hemorrhoids, mouth sores, gum disease, bladder problems, urinary infections, kidney stones, water retention, acne, sore throats, minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Yellowroot and goldenseal are used to ease the symptoms of colds, flu, feverish conditions, and hay fever – especially to clear the sinuses and lungs of sticky phlegm, but should not be used when chills are present. When combined with echinacea, astragalus, licorice, or ginseng, yellowroot and goldenseal make a strong tonic that boosts the immune system.

Roots, stems, and bark are used to make tea, tinctures, ointments, and powders. The leaves are usually discarded. Yellowroot grows beside cool, running water in shady wilderness areas and is not easily cultivated in the home garden.

* Do not use yellowroot and/or goldenseal internally for extended periods (greater than 2 weeks at a time). Do not give yellowroot or goldenseal to children or babies. Over use of yellowroot and goldenseal can slow heart beat (and extremely high doses can be paralyzing to the central nervous system.) Do not use during pregnancy since berberine stimulates the uterus and may induce abortion. Large doses or taking yellowroot for too long of a period can cause vertigo, motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, depression, nervousness, respiratory problems, hallucinations, and seizures. Consult with your health care provider before using yellowroot or goldenseal especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications. If rashes, hives, shortness of breath, or other symptoms develop while using yellowroot or goldenseal, contact your health care provider as soon as possible. Do not use if you have high blood pressure without consulting your healthcare provider. The safety of yellowroot in nursing women, children, and people with kidney and liver disease is unknown. Side effects are rare if yellowroot is taken in correct doses but fresh root can cause mouth irritation. Discontinue use if dizziness or any uncomfortable symptoms occur. Always consult with a physician or health care professional before using any herbal remedy.

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Payne Mountain Farms

Located in Blairsville, Georgia, Tony and I sell wild herbs and handcrafted products - all dried, produced and packaged on our family farm in the North Georgia Mountains. Inventory changes with the seasons depending on what is available and may also vary from year to year. Celebrating our Appalachian heritage where sustainable farming is a way of life, we appreciate our customers and promise to provide the best service, the highest quality merchandise, a secure shopping experience, and fair prices.

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Herb Articles by Janice Boling

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