cascara Cascara bark

Cascara bark | Rhamnus purshiana

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include cascara bark, cascara sagrada, sacred bark, Califorian buckthorn, brittle wood, Chittem bark.


Cascara sagrada is another plant much prized by native Americans and introduced to the early white settlers who eagerly adopted it.


It reaches anywhere from 15-30 feet in height. The bark is brownish with a purple tinge that reddens as it matures. It has oval dark green leaves and small whitish green flowers in early summer are followed by black drupe like fruit in autumn.



Cascara bark in both its dried form and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.







harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

 The bark is harvested in Spring and Summer and dried and stored for at least a year before using as a medicine. Fresh and non-aged bark is nauseating and unpleasant to taste and produces more violent purging of the bowels, that is why the ageing of the bark is important as the purging action softens and mellows with age. Many experts suggest that it only gets better and better with age up to around 6 years or so.


The bark should never be removed in a ring around the entire tree as this would kill the tree, any tree for that matter.



Cascara bark in both its dried form and tincture are available to buy in our herbal shop.







therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

Cacsara is famed for its gentle yet stimulating tonic laxative action. It can also be described as a bitter tonic, tonic to the spleen, liver and bowel and as a pancreatic stimulant.

It is mostly used as a laxative in chronic constipation and as a lower bowel tonic for use in conditions such as mucous colitis and colonic torpor. It is safe to use regularly - for short periods of up to a month perhaps - (not permanently however, unless there is no other way!) without making the bowel lazy and exacerbating constipation in the long term like many laxatives do. It has been shown to produce permanent positive effects to the entire digestive system. In fact with regular use over a period of time it will encourage proper and normal functioning to a lazy or under-functioning bowel.

It increases secretions in the digestive system throughout its entirety including the stomach, pancreas, liver and bowel and encourages peristalsis (the wave like contractions of the intestines and bowel) by irritating the lining of the digestive system. It softens the stools and encourages bowel movements by toning over-relaxed or lazy bowel muscles.


Its cleansing and stimulating action on the liver and bowel make it applicable in some chronic and stubborn skin diseases also.


Is often used in formulas for diabetes and blood sugar problems.


It can also be useful in the treatment of haemorrhoids when caused by straining.


Promotes healthy digestion and helps aid indigestion and ease a gassy stomach, sweetens bad breath and also stimulates appetite so could be applicable to eating disorders such as anorexia.


Jaundice and liver problems such as cirrhosis.


Cascara also has a positive effect on the nerves, particularly the nerves in the digestive system.


It may also prove helpful in cases of recurrent cold sores.


It is also somewhat antiseptic and astringent so can be used for dressing or washing wounds and as a wash/gargle for the gums and teeth.


It is a major component in Dr Christopher's lower bowel tonic formula that is commonly used in the bowel cleanse and when all round health needs to be improved.


It has also been used successfully in eliminating certain parasites from the digestive tract.




dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

*As with any laxative, habitual and continual use can easily result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, mainly lowered blood potassium levels. It is possible to become dependent on cascara so be careful when using it as a pure laxative, read the section on constipation for other ideas.

*Do not use if you have diarrhoea.

*Avoid during pregnancy (due to its stimulation of the womb muscles) or breast feeding.

*Avoid use in any cases of inflammatory conditions in the stomach, intestines or bowel such as Crohns disease, IBS (though some find relief using cascara for IBS, experiment with small doses initially perhaps), etc. or in obstructive conditions such as stenosis or strictures.



Tincture of root: 1-2 ml, once daily at bedtime.

Dried bark as a decoction: 1-2 teaspoon per cup, once daily before bed (it takes a minimum of 8 hours to work). Simmer the teaspoon of bark in just over a mug full of water for 15-20 mins, strain off the liquid and drink.

Dried bark as a powder:  0.3-5g daily.


*Take the smallest dose possible that is needed to achieve the desired results when using as a laxative. The bigger the dose, the more explosive the results!

*Combines well with aromatic seeds such as fennel, dill and cumin to help ease any griping pains that may accompany the use of this herb.



Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
* Personally, I would not use cascara in young children (under 12 say) unless it was an extreme case of constipation.






Child watering plants




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