Skip to main content

Yellow Root

Scientific Name(s): Xanthorhiza simplicissima Marshall.
Common Name(s): Parsley-leaved yellow root, Shrub yellow root, Yellow root, Yellow wart

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 14, 2023.

Clinical Overview


Yellow root has been used in folk medicine as a yellow dye and for multiple conditions, including mouth infections and sore throat, diabetes, and childbirth. Yellow root has also been used for its antibiotic, immunostimulant, anticonvulsant, sedative, hypotensive, uterotonic, and choleretic properties. However, clinical data are lacking regarding the use of yellow root to treat any condition.


There is no clinical evidence to support dosing recommendations for yellow root.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use during pregnancy. Berberine crosses the placenta, enters breast milk, and has been associated with jaundice and kernicterus in neonates.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Information is lacking; however, clinical trials using berberine report minor GI adverse effects.


The yellow root constituent berberine is generally considered nontoxic, with no genotoxic, cytotoxic, or mutagenic effects reported at clinical doses.

Scientific Family

  • Ranunculaceae (buttercup)


Yellow root (not to be confused with goldenseal [Hydrastis canadensis L.]), a shrub-like plant indigenous to the east coast of North America, grows from New York to Florida and is commonly found near stream banks and shady areas. It flowers in April and derives its name from the bright yellow color of the rhizome.Duke 2002, USDA 2016 A synonym is Zanthorhiza apiifolia.


One of the primary uses of yellow root by American Indians was as a natural source of yellow dye. Among other uses, yellow root has been used as a remedy for hypertension and diabetes, for mouth infections and sore throat, and to aid in childbirth.Duke 2002, Newall 1996


Berberine is the major alkaloid in yellow root, with the minor alkaloids jatrorhizine, mognoflorine, and puntarenine identified; the isoquinoline alkaloids liriodenine and palmatine have also been isolated. The berberine content in yellow root is estimated to range from 1.2% to 1.3%.Knapp 1967, Okunade 1994, Wu 1989

Uses and Pharmacology

Yellow root may exhibit properties similar to those of goldenseal and barberry because of the presence of berberine; however, limited experiments have been reported with X. simplicissima. See the Goldenseal and Barberry monographs.

In vitro and animal data

Antimicrobial activity has been described,(Okunade 1994) and in vitro inhibition of leukemia cell replication has been demonstrated.(Baker 1989)

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of yellow root for any condition. However, results from 2 low-quality controlled trials (one translated from Chinese to English via Google translate) reported significant within-group improvements in diastolic and/or systolic blood pressure with administration of berberine to adults with primary hypertension. Between-group comparisons were not reported. Dosage was 300 and 500 mg administered 3 times daily for 8 weeks and 3 months in patients with concomitant gout and newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, respectively.(Suadoni 2020)


There is no clinical evidence to support dosing recommendations for yellow root. Doses of 0.5 to 1 tsp of the powdered root bark taken up to 3 times a day have been documented.Duke 2002 Yellow root may be used as an adulterant in goldenseal preparations.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use during pregnancy.Kumar 2015 The chemical constituent berberine crosses the placenta, is transferred through breast milk, and has been associated with jaundice and kernicterus in neonates.Kumar 2015


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Information is lacking; however, clinical trials using berberine report minor GI adverse effects.Kumar 2015


A case report of toxicity after drinking yellow root tea for 2 years has been attributed to arsenic contamination.Parsons 1981 Information on X. simplicissima whole plant extract is lacking. Berberine is a naturally occurring active constituent in the root, rhizome, and stem bark of many medicinally important plants, with no genotoxic, cytotoxic, or mutagenic effects reported with clinical doses.Kumar 2015

Index Terms

  • Zanthorhiza apiifolia



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Baker V, Shrestha K, Thomas S, et al. Dissociation of cellular proliferation and c-myc expression by buttercup extract. Am J Med Sci. 1989;298(5):283-288.2683768
Duke JA, Bogenschutz-Godwin MJ, duCellier J, Duke PK. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Knapp JE, Hussein FT, Beal JL, Doskotch RW, Tomimatsu T. Isolation of two bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids from the rhizomes and roots of Xanthorhiza simplicissima. J Pharm Sci. 1967;56(1):139-141.6030487
Kumar A, Ekavali, Chopra K, Mukherjee M, Pottabathini R, Dhull DK. Current knowledge and pharmacological profile of berberine: An update. Eur J Pharmacol. 2015;761:288-297.26092760
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
Okunade AL, Hufford CD, Richardson MD, Peterson JR, Clark AM. Antimicrobial properties of alkaloids from Xanthorhiza simplicissima. J Pharm Sci. 1994;83(3):404-406.8207690
Parsons JS. Contaminated herbal tea as a potential source of chronic arsenic poisoning. N C Med J. 1981;42(1):38-39.6937737
Suadoni MT, Atherton I. Berberine for the treatment of hypertension: A systematic review. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2021;42:101287.33461163
Wu YC, Yamagishi T, Lee KH. Cytotoxic isoquinoline alkaloids from Xanthorhiza simplicissima. Gaoxiong Yi Xue Ke Xue Za Zhi. 1989;5(7):409-411.2810448
Xanthorhiza simplicissima. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (, September 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed February 2016.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.