Cascara sagrada is a shrub known for its laxative action. The benefits of cascara sagrada can be attributed to its bark, which possesses many medicinal properties. This shrub is native to the western parts of North America. It has been used for ages as a laxative to relieve constipation. Learn more about this shrub and how it can benefit you.

How Does Cascara Sagrada Work?

Cascara sagrada is scientifically called Rhamnus purshiana. Its most important benefit is its use as a laxative. It is also a common ingredient in most OTC (over-the-counter) laxatives.

Cascara sagrada works by stimulating muscle contractions in the intestines. These help move the stool through the bowels, easing constipation.

The compounds that play a role here are the anthraquinones in cascara. They act as irritants to the colon and promote muscle contractions (also called peristalsis) and stool evacuation (1). Anthraquinones achieve this by inhibiting the absorption of water and electrolytes in the intestines.

How Can Cascara Sagrada Benefit You?

The anthraquinones in cascara sagrada help ease constipation. Some sources suggest its efficacy in promoting liver health and preventing cancer – but we need more research on that.

The anthraquinones in cascara deserve the credit here. These compounds have laxative effects and help in gastric emptying. As discussed, these anthraquinones work by triggering muscle contractions in the intestines.

Studies have recognized the strong purgative effects of the bark of cascara. It also helps to treat various forms of dyspepsia (or indigestion) (4).

Cascara can also be used as treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (5).=

2. May Promote Liver Health

Cascara may also benefit the liver. It contains a compound called emodin, which was protective against induced liver damage in rats (6), (7). In the study, rats with acetaminophen-induced liver damage experienced some liver protection after treatment with emodin. Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that cascara may help treat gallstones.

However, there is limited information on this. We suggest you check with your doctor before using cascara for this purpose.

3. Might Prevent Cancer

One study investigated the anticancer effects of aloe-emodin, a component of cascara, on human liver cancer cell lines. The compound was found to stop cancer cell proliferation and even induce cancer cell death (8). The study concludes by stating that cascara might be useful in preventing cancer – especially that of the liver.

Might Promote Weight Loss

Cascara sagrada is a popular ingredient used in weight loss supplements (9). It is used as a laxative and may potentially induce some weight loss.

Might Heal Parasitic Infections

Some sources state that it has antimicrobial properties that might heal parasitic infections. But again, we don’t have concrete research supporting this aspect.

As we saw, a lot of research is still being done, and we are yet to arrive at concrete conclusions. But even with the proven benefits, you need to be careful with the way you use cascara sagrada.

How To Use Cascara Sagrada Safely

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If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, stay away from cascara. Same goes for your kids below the age of 12 years.