Free Nutritional Health Information and Tools

HERBS: Cascara


Overview of Herbs | Alfalfa | Aloe Vera | Burdock | Capsaicin | Cascara | Chamomile | Chaparral | Comfrey | Echinacea | Garlic | Ginger | Ginseng (Asian) | Ginseng (American) | Gotu Kola | Hawthorn | Licorice | Ephedra | Milk Thistle | Sassafras | Blue-Green Algae

PreviousNext

Cascara

Cascara

Scientific name

Rhamnus Purshiana

Other names

Cascara Sagrada, Sacred Bark

Food sources

Food flavoring agent

Purported uses

  • As a laxative to relieve constipation: Scientific evidence supports this use, but prolonged use is not recommended because it can lead to dangerous blood electrolyte imbalances. The F.D.A. warns that cascara is not safe to use as a laxative.
  • To treat cancer: Laboratory studies show that one compound found in cascara, aloe-emodin, has anticancer activity, but laboratory results are often not transferable to the human body. There is no proof from clinical trials that cascara has anticancer activity.

Warnings

Chronic use may cause electrolyte imbalance, especially hypokalemia.

Contraindications

  • Cascara should not be used by patients with intestinal obstruction or undiagnosed abdominal symptoms. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease should use caution with this supplement.
  • Anthraquinone-containing laxatives like cascara should not be used by pregnant or nursing mothers.

Adverse reactions

  • Reported: Fresh cascara contains anthrones, which may cause vomiting and intestinal cramps.
  • Toxicity: Excessive use can cause diarrhea and weakness.
  • Rare: Cascara has been associated with cholestatic hepatitis.

Drug interactions

  • Diuretics: Cascara can cause excessive loss of potassium.
  • Digoxin: Cascara may potentiate cardiac effects.

References

1. Barnes J, et al. Herbal Medicines. Second Ed. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.

2. DerMarderosian A, editor. The Review of Natural Products. St. Louis: Facts and Comparisons; 1999.

3. Gruenwald J, et al. PDR for Herbal medicines, Montvale (NJ): Medical Economics Company; 1998.

4. Borrelli F, et al. Effect of bisacodyl and cascara on growth of aberrant crypt foci and malignant tumors in the rat colon. Life Sci 2001;69:1871-7.

5. Wang H, et al. Induction of cytochromes P450 1A1 and 1B1 by emodin in human lung adenocarcinoma cell line CL5. Drug Metab Dispos 2001;29:1229-35.

6. Mereto E, et al. Evaluation of the potential carcinogenic activity of Senna and Cascara glycosides for the rat colon. Cancer Lett 1996;101:79-83.

7. Nadir A, et al. Cascara sagrada-induced intrahepatic cholestasis causing portal hypertension: case report and review of herbal hepatotoxicity. Am J Gastroenterol 2000;95:3634-7.

8. Kuo P, et al. The antiproliferative activity of aloe-emodin is through p53-dependent and p21-dependent apoptotic pathway in human hepatoma cell lines. Life Sci 2002;71:1879-92.

9. DeWitte P, et al. Bicascarosides in fluid extracts of cascara. Planta Med 1991;57:440-3.

10. Koyama J, et al. Chemopreventive effects of emodin and cassiamin B in mouse skin carcinogenesis. Cancer Lett 2002;182:135-9.

Top of PagePreviousNext

Overview of Herbs | Alfalfa | Aloe Vera | Burdock | Capsaicin | Cascara | Chamomile | Chaparral | Comfrey | Echinacea | Garlic | Ginger | Ginseng (Asian) | Ginseng (American) | Gotu Kola | Hawthorn | Licorice | Ephedra | Milk Thistle | Sassafras | Blue-Green Algae