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What is cascara sagrada? What is
it used for?
Cascara sagrada is a tall, thin plant native to the western
part of the United States, with grayish branches and oblong
shaped leaves. The plant has a variety of names, including
sacred bark, dogwood bark and California buckthorn. The bark
is used in herbal remedies and medicinal preparations.
The most common use of cascara sagrada bark is as a laxative.
The plant contains compounds known as anthracene derivatives,
which work in conjunction with intestinal bacteria to produce
intestinal peristalsis. Clinical trials conducted in 1989
and 1991 have shown that cascara sagrada also relieves acute
and chronic constipation and can be used to aid in digestion.
How much cascara sagrada should
The amount of cascara sagrada to be taken depends on the
form being administered. As a capsule, dosages are available
from between 425-850 mg. As a tea, many herbal practitioners
recommend two cups (one in the morning, one in the evening).
As part of a homeopathic formula, up to five drops may be
taken every hour, or 1-3 times daily depending on the level
of constipation. Individually, however, the correct dosage
is the smallest dosage necessary to produce a softening of
What forms of cascara sagrada are
Cascara sagrada is available in capsule, extract and powder
forms. Dry extracts may be used for infusions, decoctions
or elixirs. A cascara sagrada tea can also be made using extracts
What can happen if I take too much
cascara sagrada? Are there any interactions I should be aware
of? What precautions should I take?
Prolonged use of cascara sagrada may result in a variety
of side-effects, including spastic colon, heart arrythmias,
nepropathy and edema. Long-term use can lead to loss of electrolytes,
particularly potassium ions. Conditions such as hematuria,
muscle weakness and albuminuria may result from long-term
cascara use. In addition, cascara may interact negatively
with a number of pharmaceuticals, including thiazide diuretics,
corticoadrenal steroids, antiarrythmics, digitalis and indomethacin.
Cascara sagrada should not be taken by patients with intestinal
obstructions, colitis, Crohns disease, appendicitis
or unknown abdominal pain. It should not be administered to
children under the age of 12.
Other Resources :
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- Mereto E, Ghia M, Brambilla G. Evaluation
of the potential carcinogenic activity of senna and cascara
glycosides for the rat colon. Cancer Letter March
- Manitto P, et al. Studies on cascara,
part II. Structure of cascarosides E and F. JNP 1995;58(3):419-423.
- Siegers CP, Siemers J, Baretton G. Sennosides
and aloin do not promote dimethylhydrazine-induced colorectal
tumors in mice. Pharmacology 1993a Oct;47 Suppl 1:205-8.
- Siegers CP, von Hertzberg-Lottin E, Otte
M, et al. Anthranoid laxative abuse a risk for colorectal
cancer? Gut 1993b Aug;34(8):1099-1101.