The characterization of herbal materials is a significant challenge to analytical chemists. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.), which has been chosen for toxicity evaluation by NIEHS, is among the top 15 herbal supplements currently on the market and contains a complex mixture of indigenous components ranging from carbohydrates and amino acids to isoquinoline alkaloids. One key component of herbal supplement production is botanical authentication, which is also recommended prior to initiation of efficacy or toxicological studies. To evaluate material available to consumers, goldenseal root powder was obtained from three commercial suppliers and a strategy was developed for characterization and comparison that included Soxhlet extraction, HPLC, GC-MS, and LC-MS analyses. HPLC was used to determine the weight percentages of the goldenseal alkaloids berberine, hydrastine, and canadine in the various extract residues. Palmatine, an isoquinoline alkaloid native to Coptis spp. and other common goldenseal adulterants, was also quantitated using HPLC. GC-MS was used to identify non-alkaloid constituents in goldenseal root powder, whereas LC-MS was used to identify alkaloid components. After review of the characterization data, it was determined that alkaloid content was the best biomarker for goldenseal. A 20-min ambient extraction method for the determination of alkaloid content was also developed and used to analyze the commercial material. All three lots of purchased material contained goldenseal alkaloids hydrastinine, berberastine, tetrahydroberberastine, canadaline, berberine, hydrastine, and canadine. Material from a single supplier also contained palmatine, coptisine, and jatrorrhizine, thus indicating that the material was not pure goldenseal. Comparative data for three commercial sources of goldenseal root powder are presented.