Digestion of food begins in the mouth. In fact the process begins before food ever reaches your mouth as just the anticipation of eating stimulates the flow of gastric fluid alerting the entire digestive system that food is on the way. The first place food touches is the tongue. This is important because the tongue contains hundreds of receptors which form the basis of not only taste such as sweet, salty, sour, or bitter, but also stimulate enzyme and other gastric secretions which facilitate proper digestion. Bitters in particular, have been generally removed in most Western diets resulting in unbalanced stimulation and subsequent digestive inefficiencies.
Bitter herbs have been used by humans to stimulate these receptors and improve digestion for thousands of years. These herbs stimulate salivation and act to keep the entire digestive system in balance. An unbalanced digestive system manifests itself in a number of ways including acid reflux, poor or painful digestion, ulcers, uninhibited cell growth (cancer), hemorrhoids, constipation and diarrhea.
Goldenseal is one of those bitter herbs whose beneficial effects on digestion were first shown to European Settlers by the Native Americans. Modern science has discovered these effects can be attributed to a number of compounds found in the plant called alkaloids, the primary one being berberine. Besides the active compounds in goldenseal, the plant contains other constituents which act synergistically with the alkaloids to increase their potency and/or reduce any potential adverse effects.