CHARACTERISTICS OF CASCARA SAGRADA
Common English name: Cascara, Buckthorn, Cascara sagrada, Bearberry
Common name in other languages
- Dutch: Cascara
Scientific name: Rhamnus purshiana (= Frangula purshiana), Rhamnus purshianus D)
Habitat: Coniferous forests of the temperate zones of the northwest coast of the United States and the Pacific coast of Canada. Cultivated in some parts of central Africa. It prefers open sunny places with moist soils, especially in periods of low rainfall.
Description of cascara sagrada
Drawing of the plant
Deciduous tree of the ramnaceae family up to 12 m; 3 meters wide.
Erect stems with rounded branches reddish brown bark.
Alternate leaves till 8 cm long and 2 cm wide, with abundant hairs when young, bright green at maturity and with a patent venation.
Flowers gathered in inflorescences (umbels) appearing before the leaves, greenish-white.
Drupe fruit , with two or three seeds inside it .
Components of cascara sagrada
TRADITIONAL MEDICINAL USES OF CASCARA SAGRADA
When Spanish explorers realized the properties of this plant, called it "cascara sagrada" = "sacred bark." They themselves also used it to combat sleeplessness , by means of leaving a piece of dried bark in water overnight, and drinking the resulting liquid the next morning.
Although they did not know, there were some organic compounds in the bark of this plant, called anthraquinones, that gave this plant all these properties.
PROPERTIES OF ANTHRAQUINONES
Anthraquinones are used in herbal medicine as cathartic remedies, that's to say, they accelerate defecation, but they also have laxative properties (they soften the stool) when given in smaller amounts.
They are very different in action to other laxatives obtained from other plants such as those of psyllium (Plantago psyllium) that belongs to the category of the so-called "mechanical laxatives", These are much less aggressive than cathartic ones.
Anthraquinones are cathartics that are used to stimulate the intestine leading to the evacuation of feces, so they are therefore considered as stimulant laxatives (when given in small amounts) or purgative (when given in larger quantities).
Some plants, such as cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana), alder buckhorn (Rhamnus frangula), senna leaves (Cassia angustifolia, Cassia senna), rhubarb (Rheum spp.), aloes (Aloe spp.), including Aloe vera, are very rich in anthraquinones.
The action of these products is done because anthraquinones act on the nerve endings causing further bowel movement (peristalsis). On the other hand, they are believed to also act on cells in the walls of the small intestine, increasing the production of fluids and minerals (especially potassium) and decreasing the absorption of certain minerals (sodium and chlorine) and intestinal fluids in the large intestine.
By increasing the volume of liquids in the large intestine, the pressure exerted on the intestinal wall causes a need to expel the stool.
Anthraquinones are used to increase depositions, though it should be noted that the usual use of these products is very risky.
Negative efects of anthraquinones
Among the possible negative effects of anthraquinones, we can mention the following:
Is cascara sagrada good for constipation?
In case of constipation, because all these problems, most specialists suggest to choose other resources to deal with it. An adequate diet for constipation or other less aggressive laxatives such as psyllium, flaxseed or mallow, are preferred instead of using cathartics.
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This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.