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Rhamnus purshiana

The Spaniards learnt the uses of this plant in the 16th century from the Native Americans of the West Coast States, where Cascara is at home. The Natives called it 'Sacred Bark', which the Spaniards simply translated into their own tongue and so it became Cascara Sagrada. It is in fact an American cousin of our own Alder Buckthorn tree, though much milder in action. Like Alder Buckthorn bark, Casacara also has to age for at least a year before it can be used. Since 1890 it has been official in the American pharmacopoeia.

Cascara sagrada is an excellent laxative, which gently stimulates the peristaltic movement of the intestines while simultaneously stimulating the bile flow and other digestive juices. It is not cathartic in the dramatic sense of the word, but gentle and resolute, making it suitable even for the elderly. There are many underlying causes that can result in constipation. Cascara can overcome any of them and is particularly useful where bowel tone is lacking. However, although Casacara is extremely gentle in its action and not harmful to the bowels, it is never a good idea to use laxatives continuously for more than a couple of weeks since the body gets habituated to the external stimulation. Cascara sagrada is best mixed with liquorice bark, which does a good job of masking the bitter flavour.

Cascara can be used to move through spiritual blockages. Constipation is often a sign of holding on, bottling up, getting stuck, or being prevented from expressing ourselves, resulting in frustration and pent up anger. Cascara can help us release those blockages, it helps with the process of letting go. Cascara is the plant helper that can turn frustration into action and empowerment.

Bitter Bark, Buckthorn, California Buckthorn, Chittem Bark, Dogwood Bark, Sacred Bark, Sagrada Bark, Yellow Bark.


Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.