Cascara sagrada is derived from the dried aged bark from a tree that is in the buckhorn family. This tree is native to the Pacific Northwest. Most of these trees grow in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The bark from the tree is harvested then must be aged due to the fact it is much too strong when it is freshly harvested for use. Cascara sagrada needs to be aged for at least a year before it is used. Once it has been aged for a year it can be used as a mild laxative. It also has a component that can be used to induce vomiting.
This supplement has been used for hundreds of years by the Native American of the Pacific Northwest as a laxative. Its name is Spanish and means sacred bark. It has been used here in the United States for over a hundred years in standard medical practice as a mild laxative. It continues to be used today as an over the counter remedy for constipation.
So how does this supplement work? It contains compounds called anthroquinones. These compounds cause the large intestines or colon to contract or move. This causes stool to be moved along the large intestine which is called peristalsis. This triggers the body then to have the urge to have a bowel movement.
This supplement should only be used occasionally. If it is used long term the body can become dependant on laxatives to have a bowel movement. Cascara sagrada should not be used any longer than 5 to 7 days in succession. This should not be used by children. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take this supplement unless directed by a physician. This supplement should not be taken unless it is aged for a year as stated above. Consuming fresh cascara sagrada bark can cause vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This supplement is available in pills, capsules, dried bark, and liquid extract. It can be made into a tea but it is very bitter tasting.
Other people that should refrain from taking this supplement include those who have diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, severe hemorrhoids, congestive heart failure, heart disease, severe anemia, abdominal hernia, liver or kidney disease, recent abdominal surgery or recent colon surgery. This should not be used if someone suspects that they might have appendicitis.
Some side effects that might be noticed when taking cascara sagrada that need to be mentioned here. The biggest problem that people have with any type of laxative preparation is severe abdominal cramping. There can be problems with electrolyte imbalances due to dehydration. There can also be melanosis coli which is an irregular pigmentation of the colon that is noted with long term use of this supplement.
It should also be noted here that there have been reports of some colorectal benign growths and some cancerous tumors that have been linked with long term use of these types of laxatives. There was also a report of hepatitis after long term use of cascara. There is also the high incidence of laxative dependence. This is why it is so important to only use this type of supplement on occasion.
Constipation can be controlled by increasing fiber in the diet, increasing fluids and increasing activity levels. These methods should be incorporated first before considering using laxatives as a relief for constipation. Laxatives should only be used as a last resort not as a regular remedy for constipation as they can become habit forming. Consult a physician prior to using cascara sagrada as there are other laxatives that do not cause dependence that can be used on a regular basis if needed.
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