From the year 1890 until 2002, this herb was approved by the FDA and listed in the Pharmacopeia as an over-the-counter, natural laxative. Due to lack of clinical trials to document the effects of long-term use, manufactures began listing cascara sagrada as a dietary supplement. Native Americans have used this sacred tree bark for centuries; which should not be confused with cascara powder used to make some coffee drinks.
Cascara sagrada is native to North America. The bark of the tree is used primarily to treat constipation. Once, it is removed from the tree, it is dried for up to one year to reduce its potency. You should not use this herb for more than 3 days and consult a physician if you have any gastrointestinal issues. If taken for longer than a week cascara sagrada can cause severe dehydration and laxative dependency.
The anthraquinones found in the bark absorb water and electrolytes in the intestines stimulating muscle contraction in the colon. Once consumed, it usually takes about 8 to 12 hours to work and is more gentle than synthetic laxatives. The effects of this herbal remedy has also proven to be more gentle than other natural laxatives causing less watery stools. Fresh cascara sagrada should not be used because the laxative properties are too high before aging and can cause cramping, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea.
Cascara sagrada is also believed to treat gallstones. If the gallstones are at the initial stage, the increased bile secretion can help to pass the gallstone. It can also help with liver issues adding in digestion and assisting in detoxifying the liver. Other issues cascara sagrada has been known help heal are hemorrhoids, fissures, and colon cancer. Antioxidants in cascara sagrada help to fight free radicals, kills cancer cells, and enhances chemotherapy.
To prepare the natural tree bark, you can ground it into a powder and take it in capsules or use the shaved bark to make tinctures or teas. The tinctures made from cascara sagrada can be used to make hair conditioners or used as a skin treatment for acne, blemish removal, and anti-aging treatments. Some manufactures use will infuse it into sunscreen lotions.