Cascara Sagrada

General Information

Common Name:

Cascara Sagrada

Latin Name:

Rhaminus purshiana



Other Names:

  • Shittim
  • Wahoo

Indications & Historical Uses

Constipation – Cascara Sagrada is the best herbal stimulant available. Cascara is probably the mildest of the anthraquinone stimulant laxatives, producing only minor effects on the small intestine. Because of its relatively mild action, Cascara is the least likely of the stimulant laxatives to cause undesirable side effects such as griping or dependence.

Contraindications & Precautions


Nursing mothers and pregnant women should avoid taking cascara as it is secreted in mother’s milk.

Should not be used by people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and any kind of intestinal obstruction.

Same as above (See Caution).

Side Effects:
None known at present. (See Caution).

Drug Interaction:
None known at present.

Dosage Information


50 – 100 mg of 25% hydroxy-anthracone derivatives depending on the degree of constipation. Children and the elderly should use half to a quarter of the normal dose.


Active principles consist largely of cascarosides A,B,C and D with anthroquinone glycosides in minor amounts. These active substances stimulate peristalsis locally in the large intestine and also act indirectly by circulating in the blood stream and stimulating a nerve center to trigger a laxative effect. Cascara also helps restore tone to the colon and thereby overcome laxative dependence in the elderly. It is also safe and effective for detoxifying and cleansing programs, as opposed to harsher laxatives e.g. senna. Cascara can be used as an effective chelating agent to prevent the occurrence of calcium based kidney stones .

Active Ingredients:

  • Free anthroquinone and its sugar derivatives.
  • Hydroxy anthracene derivatives (HAD).


It is a small to medium-sized tree native to the American Northwest. It has thin and pointy dark green leaves that fall in autumn, small purplish -black fruits, and a reddish brown bark with gray or white lichen patches The bark is used medicinally.


The bark should be aged at least one year before being processed in order to allow the reduced glycosides (Anthrones) with their harsh laxative action to be converted to milder oxidized forms. The Aged dried bark is then pulverized. Standard amount of the active ingredient should be 20-30% hydroxyanthracene derivatives (HAD).

Scientific References

Mowrey, D (1990) – Guaranteed Potency Herbs. A compilation of writings on the subject.

Brunton, L.L.: Chapter 38 in Goodman and Gillman’s – The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics 8th ed. A.L. Gilman et al. Eds. Pergamon Press, New York. 1990 pp 914-932.

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