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, 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? 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.

* Avoid yellowroot in pregnancy and while nursing. Do not give yellowroot to babies. Do not use if you have high blood pressure without consulting your healthcare provider. Do not use internally for more than three weeks. (The plant should not be eaten or chewed while fresh - dry for 2 weeks before use.) We ship dried bundles that are safe to use upon arrival. The safety of yellowroot in nursing women, children, and people with kidney and liver disease is unknown. Side effects are rare but yellowroot can cause mouth irritation and nervousness. Yellowroot may also cause motion sickness or vertigo in some individuals. Discontinue use if dizziness occurs. 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

"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer

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