What You Need to Know About Cascara Sagrada (2022)

Cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana) is a shrub native to western North America whose bark is processed for medicinal purposes. Cascara sagrada contains organic plant compounds called anthraquinones that have powerful laxative effects.

Since the 1890s, Cascara sagrada has been listed on the U.S. Pharmacopeia, which contains standards for medications and supplements. It received initial approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an over-the-counter laxative.

However, the FDA reversed that approval in November 2002. This was due to concerns about the long-term safety and the lack of research on its effectiveness.

Although the FDA gave manufacturers the opportunity to submit research, they declined due to the high cost of clinical trials. Instead, they opted to have their products reclassified as a "dietary supplement" rather than an over-the-counter laxative.

Cascara sagrada should not be confused with cascara. Cascara is the dried skin of coffee cherries that some use to make lattes and other coffee drinks.

This article discusses the benefits and side effects of cascara sagrada. It also covers how to use it and what to look for when buying it.

Cascara sagrada is also known by the names California buckthorn, bearberry, yellow bark, and sacred bark. It's called chittem and chitticum in the Chinook language of the Pacific Northwest.

Health Benefits

Cascara sagrada is primarily used to treat constipation. The anthraquinones contained in the bark slow down the absorption of water and electrolytes in the intestines.

Because of this, stool volume increases as it absorbs the excess water, which increases pressure within the intestine. This stimulates muscle contractions in the colon (peristalsis), speeding the clearance of the bowel.

What You Need to Know About Cascara Sagrada (1)

Cascara sagrada is considered a stimulant laxative, causing intestinal muscle contractions. In this way, it's similar to other natural laxatives like aloe vera and senna. However, unlike these counterparts, the effect of cascara sagrada tends to be gentler, resulting in fewer loose or watery stools.

(Video) The Health Benefits of Cascara and How to Brew It

Cascara sagrada works differently than demulcent laxatives like psyllium. This laxative creates a gel-like substance that helps ease stool from the bowels.

Cascara sagrada is no longer an FDA-approved laxative, but it's still used by people who prefer "natural" laxatives.

Cascara sagrada is believed by some to prevent or treat gallstones, liver problems, hemorrhoids, fissures, and even cancer. However, there is little to no evidence to support these claims.

Benefits and Side Effects of Anthraquinones

Possible Side Effects

Cascara sagrada is intended for short-term use only. If used to treat occasional constipation, it is generally safe and well-tolerated. In some cases, it may cause abdominal pain and cramping (most commonly when used to treat severe constipation).

The long-term use of cascara sagrada is another matter. The concerns stemmed primarily from the evidence that anthraquinones may be harmful if overconsumed. Cascara sagrada can also cause a condition known asmelanosis coli, a discoloration of the lining of the colon.

If taken for more than a week or two, cascara sagrada may cause severe dehydration and the rapid loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals your body needs like sodium, potassium, and chloride. This can trigger an array of potentially serious side effects, including:

  • Severe nausea
  • Loss of energy
  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Skipped heartbeats (palpitations)
  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet (neuropathy)
  • Reduced urine output
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Return of constipation (rebound constipation)

Excessive doses of cascara sagradacan cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and the inability to urinate (acute urinary retention). Call your healthcare provider or seek urgent care if you experience any of these symptoms.

If used regularly, cascara sagrada can lead to laxative dependence. The intestines will begin to adapt to the anthraquinones and become less able to work on their own. The long-term use of anthraquinones has also been linked, albeit weakly, to the development of colorectal growths (adenomas).

(Video) Cascara Sagrada for COLON Cleansing 💩

Contraindications

Cascara sagrada should never be used for weight loss due to the high risk of side effects and complications.

It should also be avoided in people with:

  • Diverticular disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Severe hemorrhoids
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Severe anemia
  • Abdominal hernia
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Recent colon surgery
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Suspected appendicitis

Due to the lack of safety research, cascara sagrada should never be used by children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.

Drug Interactions

Cascara sagrada may interact with a class of drugs called cardiac glycosides used to treat heart failure. These drugs include digoxin, digitoxin, and digitonin. They cause an interaction by depleting the body of the sodium and potassium it needs to stimulate heart contractions.

Cascara sagrada may also reduce the ability of corticosteroids to treat inflammation. These drugs work by decreasing potassium in the body. Taking cascara sagrada with corticosteroids can further this effect, leading to severe hypokalemia or low potassium levels.

Tell your healthcare provider if you take cascara sagrada or any other natural laxative to avoid potentially serious interactions or side effects.

Recap

Cascara sagrada shouldn't be used if you have certain health conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and liver disease. Cascara sagrada can interact with other drugs, including cardiac glycosides and corticosteroids.

Dosage and Preparation

When cascara sagrada bark is processed, It is typically removed, diced, and dried for up to one year. This reduces its potency and makes it easier for your body to digest.

Some manufacturers will heat the bark to speed the process. The dried bark can then be powdered or boiled and distilled for herbal products.

There is no recommended dosage of cascara sagrada. The effects can differ depending on a person's age, weight, health, and co-existing medical conditions.

The herb also comes in a multitude of formulations, including capsules, powders, tinctures, and teas. This can make it difficult to know how much or little of a product you need to achieve the desired effect.

When using cascara sagrada, never exceed the dosage on the label, and don't use it for more than three days.

(Video) CASCARA SAGRADA - The Amazing WASTE CLEANER of Naychur

Recap

There's no recommended dosage for cascara sagrada. However, you shouldn't exceed the dosage listed on the label. Results can differ from person to person based on age, weight, and health conditions.

What to Look For

Herbal supplements like cascara sagrada do not need to undergo the rigorous testing in the United States that pharmaceutical drugs do. The quality of the supplement can vary considerably, particularly if you buy it in its natural "wild-crafted" form.

To ensure quality and safety, only buy supplements that have been certified by an independent body. This includes the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

These agencies help determine the quality of a product and whether it contains the quantity of ingredients listed on its label.

The loose tea usually looks like bark shavings or chips. Avoid teas sold in larger chunks, as they tend to be higher in anthraquinones and may have stronger laxative effects. If buying tea bags, be sure to buy cascara sagrada tea and not cascara tea made from the skins of coffee berries.

Summary

Cascara sagrada is a dietary supplement made from the bark of a shrub in North America. It's used for its laxative effects to treat constipation. It does this by slowing down the water and electrolytes absorbed in the intestines. This allows stool volume to increase with extra water and stimulates muscle contractions in the colon.

However, cascara sagrada has possible 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 with your doctor before taking cascara sagrada, particularly if you have another health condition or medication you're taking. If you take the supplement, don't exceed the dosage on the label, and don't use it for more than three days.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it safe to use fresh cascara sagrada bark?

    No. The amount of anthraquinone in fresh bark will be too high, and it's likely to cause severe cramping, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. The bark needs to age for at least a year to temper the laxative effect.

    (Video) Day 2 | Why Fasting is important | Cascara Sagrada Benefits | 100days challenge 2022
  • Does cascara sagrada interact with other herbs?

    Yes. Herbs that contain natural cardiac glycosides can interact with cascara sagrada in the same way cardiac glycoside medications such as digoxin and digitoxin do, causing a loss of potassium that could lead to heart damage. They include:

    • Black hellebore
    • Canadian hemp roots
    • Digitalis leaf
    • Hedge mustard
    • Figwort
    • Lily of the valley roots
    • Motherwort
    • Oleander leaf
    • Pheasant's eye plant
    • Pleurisy root
    • Squill bulb leaf scales
    • Star of Bethlehem
    • Strophanthus seeds
    • Uzara
  • Can I take cascara sagrada every day?

    Yes, but for no more than eight to 10 days. Take the smallest amount possible to soften your stool and relieve constipation. Drink at least eight 6-ounce glasses of water throughout the day when you're taking cascara sagrada.

FAQs

What does cascara sagrada do to your body? ›

Cascara sagrada is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can cause diarrhea and decrease potassium levels. Taking cascara sagrada with other stimulant laxatives might cause more diarrhea and very low potassium levels.

How long does it take cascara sagrada to work? ›

Generally speaking, cascara sagrada will induce a bowel movement within eight to 12 hours of taking a dose.

Is cascara sagrada a colon cleanse? ›

So cascara sagrada is a very very popular herb used for constipation. And for just detoxing the

How many mg of cascara sagrada is safe? ›

Medically valid uses. Cascara is used to treat constipation. The usual dose is 300 mg taken 1 time a day. Taking cascara at a higher dose or for longer than 6 days is not advised.

Is it safe to take cascara sagrada everyday? ›

Side effects include stomach discomfort and cramps. But cascara sagrada is possibly unsafe when used for more than one week. This could cause more serious side effects, including dehydration, low levels of electrolytes, heart problems, muscle weakness, and others.

Is cascara sagrada good for the liver? ›

Cascara Sagrada is a herbal medication used for short term treatment of constipation, generally well tolerated but is known to cause liver injury when used in higher doses than recommended.

Is cascara sagrada a detox? ›

Because Cascara Sagrada helps to cleanse the colon of damaging toxins and waste products, it is commonly used as an ingredient in many detox and cleanse herbal formulas. Cascara Sagrada together with Psyllium husks are two of the most widely used remedies in colon cleansing programs.

Is cascara the same as Senna? ›

The stimulant class (senna, bisacodyl, cascara) is the most frequently used type of over-the-counter laxative. They promote peristalsis presumably by direct action on the colonic mucosa and by stimulating intraluminal water and electrolyte secretion.

Does cascara sagrada have caffeine? ›

According to one report, even with a longer brew, a cup of hot cascara contains a quarter or less of the caffeine in a cup of black coffee. Cascara sagrada is not known to contain caffeine.

What cascara is good for? ›

Cascara is used as a laxative for constipation, as well as a treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, and cancer. Some people use it as a “bitter tonic.” In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.

How can I reverse chronic constipation? ›

Treatment
  1. Increase your fiber intake. Adding fiber to your diet increases the weight of your stool and speeds its passage through your intestines. ...
  2. Exercise most days of the week. Physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines. ...
  3. Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.
31 Aug 2021

Can cascara sagrada cause constipation? ›

Using cascara sagrada for longer than two weeks can cause you to be unable to have a bowel movement without the help of a laxative. Talk to your doctor before using cascara sagrada.

Is cascara sagrada good for hemorrhoids? ›

Cascara sagrada is derived from the dried bark of the bush or tree Rhamnus purshiana. The plant is indigenous to the western part of North America and is also cultivated in Canada and eastern Africa. Cascara is used for the relief of constipation and hemorrhoids and as a rectoanal postoperative treatment.

What is cascara poison? ›

Introduction. Cascara is a popular herbal medication and over-the-counter therapy of constipation. Cascara is generally safe and well tolerated, but can cause adverse events including clinically apparent liver injury when used in high doses for longer than recommended periods.

What is the scientific name of cascara sagrada? ›

Frangula purshiana (cascara, cascara buckthorn, cascara sagrada, bearberry, and in the Chinook Jargon, chittem stick and chitticum stick; syn. Rhamnus purshiana) is a species of plant in the family Rhamnaceae.

Does senna cause melanosis coli? ›

Melanosis coli usually results from chronic use of laxatives of the anthranoid group5, including senna and rhubarb derivatives7. Animal studies show that extremely high doses of phenolphthalein led to tumors in animals, but it has never been shown to cause cancers in humans2.

What is aged cascara sagrada? ›

The herb is harvested in the form of quills and pieces of bark, allowed to age at least a year before use in laxative preparations. Cascara sagrada is never to be used fresh and must be aged for at least a year to break down its anthrone chemicals. The dried cascara bark offered by Mountain Rose Herbs is aged.

What does cascara taste like? ›

Cascara is most commonly used to make a tisane (herbal tea), and for good reason: its flavor is reminiscent of hibiscus, cider, and orange zest. It's a tangy, refreshing, slightly sweet brew. Cascara also makes a delicious syrup, bringing out rich notes of dried fruit (think raisins and apricots).

Can cascara sagrada cause blood in stool? ›

Taking too much cascara sagrada may also lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, collapse, bloody stools, and in extreme cases, electrolyte abnormalities and heart rhythm disturbances. Cascara sagrada is most often used to treat constipation.

Can you become dependent on cascara sagrada? ›

Stimulant laxatives such as cascara sagrada can lead to dependence. After daily use for years, your digestive tract doesn't function normally. In 2002, the FDA reclassified cascara sagrada as not generally recognized as safe and effective. As a result, it can't be sold as an over-the-counter laxative.

What is in stool softeners? ›

Stool softeners are a type of emollient or surfactant laxative. They work by increasing the amount of water and fat your poop (stool) absorbs. This makes your poop softer and easier to pass. The active ingredients in stool softeners are docusate sodium and docusate calcium.

What does Senna Leaf do? ›

Senna is the fruit (pod) or leaf of the plant Senna alexandrina. It is approved in the US as a laxative for short-term treatment of constipation. Senna contains many chemicals called sennosides. Sennosides irritate the lining of the bowel, which causes a laxative effect.

What is burdock root good for? ›

People take burdock to increase urine flow, kill germs, reduce fever, and “purify” their blood. It is also used to treat colds, cancer, anorexia nervosa, gastrointestinal (GI) complaints, joint pain (rheumatism), gout, bladder infections, complications of syphilis, and skin conditions including acne and psoriasis.

What are the benefits of slippery elm? ›

Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) has been used as an herbal remedy in North America for centuries. Native Americans used slippery elm in healing salves for wounds, boils, ulcers, burns, and skin inflammation. It was also taken orally to relieve coughs, sore throats, diarrhea, and stomach problems.

How do you make cascara? ›

How to Brew Cascara (The Coffee Cherry Tea) - YouTube

Can I take cascara sagrada While Pregnant? ›

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use cascara sagrada. Don't take a higher than recommended dose. There are reports of liver toxicity when taken long term in higher than recommended doses or for more than 6 days in a row.

What is copalquin in English? ›

Elephant Tree, Copalquín, Torote Blanco. ANACARDIACEAE (Sumac Family)

Is cascara legal in the United States? ›

This “not illegal, it's just not legal yet” for sale, lead to “raids” of cafes and roasteries where their cascara was reportedly confiscated by authorities.

Is cascara legal in USA? ›

On May 9, 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule banning the use of aloe (Aloe spp., Aloaceae) and cascara sagrada (Frangula purshiana (DC.) J.G. Cooper, Rhamnaceae; syn. Rhamnus purshiana DC.) as laxative ingredients in over-the-counter (OTC) drug products.

Is Cascara Sagrada coffee? ›

(Note: Cascara, the tea made from coffee cherries, shouldn't be confused with cascara sagrada, which is a dried bark that used to be used in medicines and is today available as a dietary supplement. The two are very different products, coming from different parts of plants and from different plants.)

Where is cascara from? ›

As coffee shrubs migrated from Africa and were eventually planted in Central and South America by the Europeans, the dried coffee cherries became referred to as Cascara – or “husk” in Spanish. Few coffee farmers produce Cascara and even fewer countries export it.

Is psyllium husk good for you? ›

The soluble fiber found in psyllium husks can help lower cholesterol. Psyllium can help relieve both constipation and diarrhea, and is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, and other intestinal problems. Psyllium has also been used to help regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

What is a cascara tree? ›

Rhamnus purshiana. Description: This small native tree boasts small flowers and purple fruit that feed many native birds. While it's frequently overlooked, it's a highly adaptable tree that will work well under power lines or in a smaller yard.

What is safe to take daily for chronic constipation? ›

Bulk-forming fiber supplements include calcium polycarbophil (Equilactin, Fibercon), methylcellulose fiber (Citrucel), and psyllium (Fiber-Lax, Konsyl, Metamucil), and wheat dextrin (Benefiber). Unlike other laxatives, you can take these every day. They make the stool bigger and softer.

Which food avoid in constipation? ›

What should I avoid eating or drinking if I'm constipated?
  • chips.
  • fast food.
  • meat.
  • prepared foods, such as some frozen meals and snack foods.
  • processed foods, such as hot dogs or some microwavable dinners.

What is the best treatment for constipation in adults? ›

Treatment for Constipation
  • Change what you eat and drink. Changing what you eat and drink may make your stools softer and easier to pass. ...
  • Get regular physical activity. ...
  • Try bowel training. ...
  • Stop taking certain medicines or dietary supplements. ...
  • Take over-the-counter medicines. ...
  • Prescription medicines. ...
  • Biofeedback therapy. ...
  • Surgery.

Can stool softeners cause liver damage? ›

Introduction. Docusate is an orally available, over-the-counter laxative and stool softener used to treat or prevent constipation. Docusate has not been linked to serum enzyme elevations during therapy or to clinically apparent liver injury with jaundice.

Which of the following herbal products may be used as a laxative? ›

Of the above herbs, senna is the one most often used as an ingredient in commercial laxative preparations, such as Black Draught, ExLax, Fletcher's, Senexon, SennaGen, and Senokot.

Is cascara sagrada a detox? ›

Because Cascara Sagrada helps to cleanse the colon of damaging toxins and waste products, it is commonly used as an ingredient in many detox and cleanse herbal formulas. Cascara Sagrada together with Psyllium husks are two of the most widely used remedies in colon cleansing programs.

What are the benefits of cascara? ›

Cascara is used as a laxative for constipation, as well as a treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, and cancer. Some people use it as a “bitter tonic.” In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.

Can you become dependent on cascara sagrada? ›

Stimulant laxatives such as cascara sagrada can lead to dependence. After daily use for years, your digestive tract doesn't function normally. In 2002, the FDA reclassified cascara sagrada as not generally recognized as safe and effective. As a result, it can't be sold as an over-the-counter laxative.

Is cascara the same as Senna? ›

The stimulant class (senna, bisacodyl, cascara) is the most frequently used type of over-the-counter laxative. They promote peristalsis presumably by direct action on the colonic mucosa and by stimulating intraluminal water and electrolyte secretion.

How can I reverse chronic constipation? ›

Treatment
  1. Increase your fiber intake. Adding fiber to your diet increases the weight of your stool and speeds its passage through your intestines. ...
  2. Exercise most days of the week. Physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines. ...
  3. Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement.
31 Aug 2021

Does cascara sagrada have caffeine? ›

According to one report, even with a longer brew, a cup of hot cascara contains a quarter or less of the caffeine in a cup of black coffee. Cascara sagrada is not known to contain caffeine.

What is the scientific name of cascara sagrada? ›

Frangula purshiana (cascara, cascara buckthorn, cascara sagrada, bearberry, and in the Chinook Jargon, chittem stick and chitticum stick; syn. Rhamnus purshiana) is a species of plant in the family Rhamnaceae.

What is cascara poison? ›

Introduction. Cascara is a popular herbal medication and over-the-counter therapy of constipation. Cascara is generally safe and well tolerated, but can cause adverse events including clinically apparent liver injury when used in high doses for longer than recommended periods.

Can cascara sagrada cause constipation? ›

Using cascara sagrada for longer than two weeks can cause you to be unable to have a bowel movement without the help of a laxative. Talk to your doctor before using cascara sagrada.

Where is cascara from? ›

As coffee shrubs migrated from Africa and were eventually planted in Central and South America by the Europeans, the dried coffee cherries became referred to as Cascara – or “husk” in Spanish. Few coffee farmers produce Cascara and even fewer countries export it.

What are the benefits of a laxative? ›

Laxatives can have powerful effects on your digestive health, helping relieve constipation and promoting regular bowel movements. They're often used to treat constipation, a condition characterized by infrequent, difficult, and sometimes painful bowel movements.

What does cascara taste like? ›

Cascara is most commonly used to make a tisane (herbal tea), and for good reason: its flavor is reminiscent of hibiscus, cider, and orange zest. It's a tangy, refreshing, slightly sweet brew. Cascara also makes a delicious syrup, bringing out rich notes of dried fruit (think raisins and apricots).

What does senna Leaf do? ›

Senna is the fruit (pod) or leaf of the plant Senna alexandrina. It is approved in the US as a laxative for short-term treatment of constipation. Senna contains many chemicals called sennosides. Sennosides irritate the lining of the bowel, which causes a laxative effect.

How do you make cascara? ›

How to Brew Cascara (The Coffee Cherry Tea) - YouTube

Can I take cascara sagrada While Pregnant? ›

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use cascara sagrada. Don't take a higher than recommended dose. There are reports of liver toxicity when taken long term in higher than recommended doses or for more than 6 days in a row.

What is chittum bark used for? ›

Cascara bark (or “chittum”) has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years as a natural laxative and has been marketed by the pharmaceutical industry since the late 1800s. Many claim it is the most widely used purgative in the world.

Videos

1. Episode 226 -- Stuff We Like: Cascara Sagrada -- Healthy Living
(Aram Hovsepian)
2. Cascara Sagrada Bark Powder for COLON Cleansing & Bawaseer Piles - Najam Mazari
(Chiltan Pure International)
3. Cascara Sagrada BENEFITS vs SIDE EFFECTS | DANGER | LIVER TOXICITY
(Danica Revamped)
4. Cascara Sagrada Magical Properties
(AromaG's Botanica)
5. Cascara Banned!?
(James Hoffmann)
6. Cascara Sagrada Herb & its health Benefits
(fruits & vegetables)

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