cascara sanctuary (buckthorn) is a shrub native to western North America whose bark is processed for medicinal purposes. Cascara sagrada contains organic plant compounds called Anthraquinones Has a powerful laxative effect.
Since the 1890s, Cascara sagrada has been listed in the United States Pharmacopeia, which contains standards for drugs and supplements. It has preliminary approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an over-the-counter laxative.
However, the FDA revoked the approval in November 2002. This is due to concerns about long-term safety and a lack of research on its effectiveness.
Although the FDA gave manufacturers the opportunity to submit studies, they declined due to the high cost of clinical trials. Instead, they chose to reclassify their products as “dietary supplements” rather than over-the-counter laxatives.
Cascara sagrada should not be confused with cascara. Cascara is the dried skin of coffee cherries that some people use to make lattes and other coffee drinks.
This article discusses the benefits and side effects of cascara sagrada. It also explains how to use it and what to look for when buying it.
Cascara sagrada is also known as California sea buckthorn, bearberry, yellow bark and sacred bark.It is called Chitten and chili in the Chinook language of the Pacific Northwest.
Cascara sagrada is mainly used to treat constipation. The anthraquinones contained in the bark slow down the absorption of water and electrolytes in the gut.
Because of this, stool volume increases as excess water is absorbed, increasing the pressure in the gut. This stimulates muscle contractions (peristalsis) in the colon, which speeds up bowel clearance.
Cascara sagrada is considered a stimulant laxative that causes intestinal muscle contractions. In this way, it is similar to other natural laxatives like aloe vera and senna. Unlike these counterparts, however, the effects of cascara sagrada tend to be milder, resulting in less loose or watery stools.
Cascara sagrada works differently from analgesic laxatives like psyllium. This laxative produces a gel-like substance that helps ease stool in the intestines.
Cascara sagrada is no longer an FDA-approved laxative, but it is still used by people who prefer “natural” laxatives.
Generally, cascara sagrada will cause a bowel movement within 8 to 12 hours of taking the medicine.
Some people believe that Cascara sagrada can prevent or treat gallstones, liver problems, hemorrhoids, fissures and even cancer. However, there is little evidence to support these claims.
Anthraquinone benefits and side effects
possible side effects
Cascara sagrada is for short-term use only. It is generally safe and well tolerated if used to treat occasional constipation. In some cases, it may cause abdominal pain and cramping (most commonly used to treat severe constipation).
Long-term use of cascara sagrada is another story. These concerns stem primarily from evidence that anthraquinones can be harmful if consumed in excess. Cascara sagrada can also cause a disease called E. coli melanosis, a discoloration of the lining of the colon.
If taken for more than a week or two, cascara sagrada may cause severe dehydration and rapid loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals your body needs, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. This can cause a range of potentially serious side effects, including:
- severe nausea
- energy loss
- muscle weakness, cramping, or cramping
- arrhythmia (Arrhythmia)
- skipping heartbeats (palpitations)
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet (neuropathy)
- decreased urine output
- Recurrence of constipation (rebound constipation)
An overdose of cascara sagrada can cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and the inability to urinate (acute urinary retention). If you experience any of these symptoms, call your healthcare provider or seek emergency care.
Cascara sagrada can lead to laxative dependence if used regularly. The gut will begin to adapt to the anthraquinones and will not be able to work on its own. Long-term anthraquinone use has also been associated with the development of colorectal growths (adenomas), although this link is weak.
Cascara sagrada should not be used for weight loss due to the high risk of side effects and complications.
It should also be avoided in the following groups of people:
- ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- severe hemorrhoids
- congestive heart failure
- Cardiovascular diseases
- severe anemia
- ventral hernia
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- recent colon surgery
- liver disease
- kidney disease
- Suspected appendicitis
Due to lack of safety research, Cascara sagrada should not be used by children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.
Cascara sagrada may interact with a class of drugs called cardiac glycosides used to treat heart failure. These drugs include digoxin, digoxigenin, and digitonin. They cause the interaction by depleting the sodium and potassium that the body needs to stimulate the heart to contract.
Cascara sagrada may also decrease the ability of corticosteroids to treat inflammation. These drugs work by reducing potassium in the body.Taking cascara sagrada with corticosteroids can further this effect, causing severe Hypokalemia or low potassium levels.
Tell your healthcare provider if you take cascara sagrada or any other natural laxative to avoid potential serious interactions or side effects.
You should not use Cascara sagrada if you have certain medical conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and liver disease. Cascara sagrada can interact with other medications, including cardiac glycosides and corticosteroids.
Dosage and Preparation
When the cascara sagrada bark is processed, it is usually removed, diced and dried for up to a year. This reduces its potency and makes it easier for your body to digest.
Some manufacturers heat the bark to speed up the process. The dried bark can then be powdered or boiled and distilled to make herbal products.
There is no recommended dose of cascara sagrada. Effects may vary depending on a person’s age, weight, health, and co-existing medical conditions.
This herb is also available in a variety of formulations, including capsules, powders, tinctures, and teas. This can make it difficult to know how much or how much product you need to achieve the desired effect.
When using cascara sagrada, never exceed the dosage on the label and do not use it for more than three days.
There is no recommended dosage for cascara sagrada. However, you should not exceed the dose listed on the label. Results may vary from person to person based on age, weight and health.
what to look for
Herbal supplements like cascara sagrada do not require the same rigorous testing in the United States as drugs. The quality of supplements can vary widely, especially if you buy it in its natural “wild” form.
To ensure quality and safety, only buy supplements that have been certified by an independent agency. This includes the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International or ConsumerLab.
These agencies help determine the quality of a product and whether it contains the amount of ingredients listed on the label.
Loose tea usually looks like bark chips or potato chips. Avoid teas sold in bulk, as they tend to be higher in anthraquinones and may have a stronger laxative effect. If buying tea bags, be sure to buy cascara sagrada tea, not cascara tea made with coffee berry peels.
Cascara sagrada is a dietary supplement made from the bark of the North American shrub. It is used to treat constipation for its laxative effect. It does this by slowing down the absorption of water and electrolytes in the gut. This increases stool volume with additional water and stimulates muscle contractions in the colon.
However, cascara sagrada may have side effects, especially if taken long-term. It can cause dehydration and loss of electrolytes (minerals), which can lead to serious side effects and complications.
Talk to your doctor before taking cascara sagrada, especially if you have other medical conditions or are taking medications. If you take a supplement, do not exceed the dosage on the label and do not use it for more than three days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to use fresh cascara sagrada bark?
Will not. High levels of anthraquinone in fresh bark can easily cause severe cramps, vomiting and blood in the stool. The bark needs to be aged for at least a year to moderate the effects of the laxative.
Does cascara sagrada interact with other herbs?
Yes. Herbs containing natural cardiac glycosides can interact with cascara sagrada, like cardiac glycoside drugs like digoxin and digoxigenin, causing a loss of potassium that can lead to heart damage. They include:
- black hellebore
- cannabis root
- digitalis leaf
- root of lily of the valley
- oleander leaf
- Pheasant eye plant
- pleurisy root
- bulb bulb leaf scale
- star of bethlehem
- Daughter Seeds
Can I take cascara sagrada every day?
Yes, but no more than 8 to 10 days. Take the smallest amount possible to soften stools and relieve constipation. Drink at least 8 6-ounce glasses of water throughout the day while taking cascara sagrada.
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