Cascara - Rhamnus Purshiana

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This Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana) monograph is an excerpt from the 1999, first edition of Dr. Sharol's book "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth." You can purchase the 2020, third edition of this book with an expanded materia medica/monograph section, herbal formulas and directions on making herbal products in Dr. Sharol's Book Store. You receive free shipping in the USA.

Cascara - Rhamnus purshiana in the Rhamnaceae or Buckthorn family

Part used: Bark that has been aged a minimum of one year.

Taste/smell: Bitter.

Tendencies: Cooling and drying.

Dosage: Decoction: 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of water; or 1:5 dry liquid extract: 20 - 70 drops 1-4 times per day in a little water.

Use: (a) Laxative, (b) Cholagogue.

Most uses are due to cascara's laxative effect. It acts on the large intestine to stimulate peristalsis and increase secretion of water into the large intestine lumen. It is used for constipation, anal fissures, hemorrhoids, after rectal operations and is specific for chronic constipation with hepatic sluggishness.

Contraindications: Do not use this herb for extended periods of time. Chronic use of Cascara or other herbs with anthraquinones can cause serious issues.

Anthraquinones will deplete electrolytes, especially potassium, bringing about muscle weakness and increased constipation. Potassium loss can disturb cardiac rhythm and potentiate cardiac glycoside toxicity, as found in digitalis usage. Individuals who consume formulas with anthraquinones while taking cardiac glycosides should have their medication monitored by their physicians to assure the dosage of cardiac glycosides is not toxic. Herbs with cardiac glycosides include Pheasant’s eye - Adonis vernalis,  Lily of the valley - Convallaria majalis, Fox glove - Digitalis purpurea, False hellebore - Veratrum (various species), Ouabain - Strophanthus gratus and Squill - Urginea maritima/indica. Potassium depletion can lead to paralysis of intestinal musculature, making the laxative less effective. Additionally there may be damage to the mesenteric plexus.  Therefore this herb should not be used for more than 8 - 10 consecutive days. An overdose or over-usage of anthraquinones may cause vomiting, intestinal spasms and bloody diarrhea. Anthraquinone-containing herbs should not be consumed by pregnant women or nursing mothers, due to the  possibility of the herb being passed to the baby through breast milk.  An overdose can cause kidney inflammation. These herb, as with all laxatives, should not be used for cases of intestinal obstruction when there is danger of an intestinal rupture. Additionally it is contraindicated in ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and inflamed hemorrhoids. It is contraindicated for children under age twelve due to loss of water and electrolytes and in abdominal pain of unknown origin. Emodin has also been reported to be a mutagen in a few experiments, although since 2001 many studies have shown it to have an antitumor effect.

If you are looking for directions on making teas or tinctures, please see our "Making Herbal Products" page.

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Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.

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