How to Locate Yellow Root in Ohio

Look for goldenseal in deep woods off the trail.
Look for goldenseal in deep woods off the trail. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis L., called yellow root in herbal healing circles, is a member of the buttercup family. Goldenseal is an endangered species in some states, and its populations have decreased in all states due more to over harvesting than to habitat loss. Native Americans used the brightly colored roots to treat cancer and many other ailments. Currently, herbalists use goldenseal medicinally for stomach upset, inflammation and as an antibiotic. Because of its population decline, few places in Ohio allow harvesting. Replanted goldenseal rootstock takes three to five years to mature.

Things You'll Need

  • Photograph or botanical illustration of goldenseal
  • Harvesting permit
  • Harvesting form

Obtain identification materials (see resources) and learn to identify the goldenseal. The plant has a pair of palmate leaves on top of a one foot high branched, hairy stem. Each leaf is wider than it is long and has five to nine lobes originating at a central point like fingers on a hand. The dark green leaf has double-pointed teeth on the edges. In the fall, during harvest time, it has a single, bright-red, raspberry-like fruit.

Get directions to Wayne National Forest (WNF) and plan your trip for the fall. The forest is in southeastern Ohio. Pack a shovel and plastic bags for plants.

Obtain a permit for goldenseal harvest in WNF. The permit allows harvest up to 5 lbs. Along with the permit you will receive a harvesting form; filling out the form will help ensure future availability of goldenseal.

Search in locations that have well-drained, moist, rich soil in the shade. A thick layer of leaf mold provides an ideal environment, so look in heavily forested, low-lying locations.

Dig your plants carefully with the shovel disturbing surrounding plants as little as possible. Harvest less than 10 percent of the plants in each location to preserve the population.

Tips & Warnings

  • Think towards the future by planting your own supply of goldenseal for yourself and others (see resources).
  • Harvesting goldenseal in any other government-owned land in Ohio or without a permit is against the law.

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