Cascara Sagrada, also called Sacred bark and Chittem bark, is an herb derived from the year old bark of Rhamnus purshiana. Native American Indians commonly used Cascara sagrada to treat constipation and upset stomachs.
Taken as an extremely bitter tasting tonic, or in tablet or capsule form, Cascara sagrada is regarded to be a safe laxative that is often employed as a remedy for mild and chronic constipation. Modern herbalists also recommend it as a tonic for the digestive system and to stimulate the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and stomach. It is also considered to be useful in the treatment of jaundice, hemorrhoids and colic.
Clinical researchers have isolated several anthraquinone glycosides as the active principles in cascara. These glycosides are hydrolyzed by bacteria in the colon, resulting in its laxative activity. Free anthraquinone and hydroxyanthracene derivative (HAD) are the main active glycosides responsible for the laxative effects of Cascara sagrada. These active substances cause an increased peristalsis locally in the large intestine. HAD also helps by circulating in the bloodstream and stimulating a nerve center to trigger a laxative effect.
Cascara sagrada is considered one of the safest laxatives and can be used to restore tone to the colon, as well as being useful in detoxifying and cleansing programs. Cascara sagrada can also be used in small doses as a liver tonic and a chelating agent to prevent the occurrence of calcium-based urinary stones.
Taken at night or shortly before sleep, Cascara sagrada is an effective agent for treating mild constipation, though it should not be used on a regular basis. While it is normal for Cascara sagrada to temporarily turn urine a reddish color, if diarrhea should result, discontinue use immediately.
Supportive agents commonly used with Cascara sagrada include: Laxative-Butternut root bark, Frangula, Licorice Root, Irish Moss, Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Schisandra and Wild Yam.