A Natural Laxative
For anybody that suffers from constipation, cascara sagrada can offer some genuine, natural relief. While the vast majority of people who use this natural remedy use it as a laxative, it can also do a whole lot more. If you are interested in finding out just what it is and how it can help your health, then read on.
What is Cascara Sagrada?
Cascara sagrada is produced from the bark of the Rhamnus purshiana tree which is a native of western parts of North America. Other common names for the product are bitter bark, cascarinde, buckthorn, chitem bark, Rhamnus and sacred bark.
It has a very long history of use as a laxative and was traditionally taken by the Native Americans as a treatment for constipation.
When the Spanish conquerors made their appearance, they were introduce to the herb and gave it one of its common names – Sacred bark because of its incredible effectiveness. There are also records of its use as a natural laxative by monks dating back to the early part of the 19th century.
By the turn of the 20th century, over 20% of the overall market in the US. However, in 2002 the FDA banned its use as an ingredient in laxative products.
The Health Benefits of Cascara Sagrada
1) A Natural Laxative for Constipation
Constipation can be very uncomfortable and is a bit embarrassing to talk about but if you are a sufferer, you are most certainly not alone. Estimates suggest that over 60 million people suffer from the condition in North America alone with hundreds of millions also suffering in the rest of the world.
While adding more fiber to the diet is a big help, it does not always work and natural remedies like cascara sagrada offer an effective, natural alternative to over the counter medications.
Studies have demonstrated why the herb works as a laxative. Researchers have identified that anrgraquinone derivatives present in the bark helped to stimulate peristalsis or the strong, wavelike contractions in the large intestine. This action helps to keep your food moving through the entire digestive system and aids in evacuation.
Cascara sagrada helps speed up the process and produce more efficient bowel movements because there is less time for the intestine to absorb the stool’s liquid.
In November 2002, America’s FDA declared that cascara OTC laxatives were not considered safe or effective. Studies on elderly populations have showed that the majority of people using laxative products long term could discontinue their use if they added a fiber supplement.
Hemorrhoids is another common and often painful condition that can be helped by taking cascara sagrada especially if the condition is caused by bearing down aggressively. Because of its well-known laxative properties which also help soften the stool, you can evacuate your bowels far more comfortably. This means there is less need to strain which can help diminish the occurrence of hemorrhoids.
3) Antimicrobial Actions
Apart from its well known laxative abilities, cascara sagrada has been studied for its other benefits with attention shifting to a compound called emodin which may have a number of beneficial effects.
In vitro studies have showed that emodin – one of the main active compounds in cascara sagrada has antibacterial and anti-fungal effects. It is effective against a range of bacteria including Helicobacter pylori, E coli, and several strains of Staphylococcus aureus. It has also demonstrated anti-fungal action against Candida. (1)
4) Anti-inflammatory Actions
Studies have also been done to examine the anti-inflammatory effects of emodin isolated from the plant. The results have proved very promising but the exact way in which it works remains unclear. Researchers believe that emodin gets its inflammation fighting ability from its ability to influence cytokines.
Cascara sagrada is among a huge collection of herbs that have been investigated for their potential applications in cancer treatment and management. Once again, it is the active constituent emodin that is causing quite a bit of excitement. In vitro experiments have demonstrated that emodin can inhibit a range of human cancer types though the precise mechanism remains unclear. (2) (3) (4)
Emodin has however showed both cancer cell death and anti-tumor potential under laboratory conditions. Experts have suggested that emodin may have a role to play as an adjunctive therapy to traditional cancer treatments. Unfortunately up to now, very few experiments have been done on animals and clinical trials are necessary before its actual potential is known.
6) Central nervous System Effects
Cascara sagrada, and its constituent emodin in particular, has also demonstrated the potential to improve emotional well-being, anxiety and other conditions related to the nervous system. Studies done in the laboratory as well as a few animal studies suggest that emodin may exert an action on the brain’s receptor signaling mechanism.
Animal models have demonstrated that it might posses serotonin and can protect against amnesia in induced animals. (5)
How to Use Cascara Sagrada
As with most herbal remedies, there are several ways of taking cascara sagrada. It is usually taken in liquid extract form or in tablets and capsules made from the dry herb extract.
Typical doses are one gram of bark, between two and six ml of liquid extract. The dosage recommendations for the dried extract is 325 mg.
Laxative action can usually be felt within 6 or 8 hours after administering the remedy. Do not take more than the recommended dose and avoid taking the herb for more than 2 weeks at a time.
How to Make Cascara Sagrada Tea
First of all, it is important that you buy from a reputable company. The bark needs to have been properly aged for a year or more before it is safe to use. Look out for the label – ‘Casgara Sagrada Bark U.S.P’ which ensures that the product is genuine and has been aged sufficiently.
If the bark has not been correctly aged, it may expose you to certain chemicals that have nasty effects like stomach cramps, vomiting and severe diarrhea.
Once you have the right product, it is very simple to make a tea with the bark.
Simply add a teaspoon of cascara sagrada bark to three cups of distilled water and bring the liquid to the boil. Simmer for around 30 minutes to ensure you are getting all the medicinal benefits of the herb. Strain and allow to cool before drinking.
You can drink one or two cups of your cascara sagrada tea each night before bed. Do not drink the tea for more than 2 weeks at at a time.
Precautions and Side Effects
As is the case with many herbal remedies, the simple fact that it is a natural product does not guarantee its safety. There are certain potential side effects that you should be aware of and you must always consult a doctor before taking the herb.
- There is documented evidence that cascara sagrada is UNSAFE for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Studies have demonstrated that the herb has both emmenagogue effects which can stimulate menstruation. It also has abortifacient properties that may stimulate miscarriage.
- As regards nursing mothers, anthranoid metabolites contained in the herb might get excreted in a mother’s breast milk causing harm to the child.
- Casgara sagrada should not be used on children under the age of 10.
- Long term use of the herb may result in certain adverse side effects. These include chronic diarrhea with resultant complications caused by an electrolyte imbalance.
- Overdoses of anthraquinone laxative products can result in severe diarrhea and severe intestinal pain. It can also lead to subsequent dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance.
- In November of 2002, the US FDA ruled that over the counter cascara sagrada preparations were not recognized as being safe and effective.