Aulne Noir, Bitter Bark, Bois Noir, Bois à Poudre, Borzène, Bourgène, Buckthorn, California Buckthorn, Cáscara, Cascara Sagrada, Chittem Bark, Dogwood Bark, Écorce Sacrée, Frangula purshiana, Nerprun, Pastel Bourd, Purshiana Bark, Rhamni Purshianae Cortex, Rhamnus purshiana, Rhubarbe des Paysans, Sacred Bark, Sagrada Bark, Yellow Bark.


Overview Information

Cascara sagrada is a shrub. The dried bark is used to make medicine.

Cascara sagrada used to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug for constipation. However, over the years, concerns were raised about cascara sagrada's safety and effectiveness. The FDA gave manufacturers the chance to submit safety and effectiveness information to answer these concerns. But the companies decided the cost of conducting safety and effectiveness studies would likely be more than the profit they could expect from sales of cascara sagrada. So they didn't comply with the request. As a result, the FDA notified manufacturers to remove or reformulate all OTC laxative products containing cascara sagrada from the U.S. market by November 5, 2002. Today, you can buy cascara sagrada as a "dietary supplement", but not as a drug. "Dietary supplements" don't have to meet the standards that the FDA applies to OTC or prescription drugs.

Cascara sagrada is commonly used by mouth as a laxative for constipation.

In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara sagrada is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.

In manufacturing, cascara sagrada is used in the processing of some sunscreens.

How does it work?

Cascara sagrada contains chemicals that stimulate the bowel and have a laxative effect.


Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Effective for

  • Constipation. Cascara sagrada has laxative effects and may help relieve constipation in some people.

Possibly Ineffective for

Insufficient Evidence for

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of cascara sagrada for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Cascara sagrada is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken for less than one week. Side effects include stomach discomfort and cramps.

Cascara sagrada is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used for more than one week. This could cause more serious side effects including dehydration; low levels of potassium, sodium, chloride, and other "electrolytes" in the blood; heart problems; muscle weakness; and others.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if cascara sagrada is safe to use when pregnant. Stay on the safe side and avoid use. Cascara sagrada is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth while breast-feeding. Cascara sagrada can cross into breast milk and might cause diarrhea in a nursing infant.

Children: Cascara sagrada is POSSIBLY UNSAFE in children when taken by mouth. Don't give cascara sagrada to children. They are more likely than adults to become dehydrated and also harmed by the loss of electrolytes, especially potassium.

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as intestinal obstruction, Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, stomach ulcers, or unexplained stomach pain: People with any of these conditions should not use cascara sagrada.



Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

  • Digoxin (Lanoxin) interacts with CASCARA SAGRADA

    Cascara is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the risk of side effects of digoxin (Lanoxin).

  • Medications for inflammation (Corticosteroids) interacts with CASCARA SAGRADA

    Some medications for inflammation can decrease potassium in the body. Cascara is a type of laxative that might also decrease potassium in the body. Taking cascara along with some medications for inflammation might decrease potassium in the body too much.

    Some medications for inflammation include dexamethasone (Decadron), hydrocortisone (Cortef), methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisone (Deltasone), and others.

  • Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs) interacts with CASCARA SAGRADA

    Cascara is a laxative. Laxatives can decrease how much medicine your body absorbs. Decreasing how much medicine your body absorbs can decrease the effectiveness of your medication.

  • Stimulant laxatives interacts with CASCARA SAGRADA

    Cascara is a type of laxative called a stimulant laxative. Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. Taking cascara along with other stimulant laxatives could speed up the bowels too much and cause dehydration and low minerals in the body.

    Some stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl (Correctol, Dulcolax), castor oil (Purge), senna (Senokot), and others.

  • Warfarin (Coumadin) interacts with CASCARA SAGRADA

    Cascara can work as a laxative. In some people cascara can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin do not to take excessive amounts of cascara.

  • Water pills (Diuretic drugs) interacts with CASCARA SAGRADA

    Cascara is a laxative. Some laxatives can decrease potassium in the body. "Water pills" can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking cascara along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.

    Some "water pills" that can decrease potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.



The appropriate dose of cascara sagrada depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for cascara sagrada. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

View References


  • Borkje, B., Pedersen, R., Lund, G. M., Enehaug, J. S., and Berstad, A. Effectiveness and acceptability of three bowel cleansing regimens. Scand J Gastroenterol 1991;26(2):162-166. View abstract.
  • Chang, C. J., Ashendel, C. L., Geahlen, R. L., McLaughlin, J. L., and Waters, D. J. Oncogene signal transduction inhibitors from medicinal plants. In Vivo 1996;10(2):185-190.
  • Chang, L. C., Sheu, H. M., Huang, Y. S., Tsai, T. R., and Kuo, K. W. A novel function of emodin: enhancement of the nucleotide excision repair of UV- and cisplatin-induced DNA damage in human cells. Biochem Pharmacol 1999;58(1):49-57.
  • Chen, H. C., Hsieh, W. T., Chang, W. C., and Chung, J. G. Aloe-emodin induced in vitro G2/M arrest of cell cycle in human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells. Food Chem Toxicol 2004;42(8):1251-1257.
  • Chen, Y. C., Shen, S. C., Lee, W. R., Hsu, F. L., Lin, H. Y., Ko, C. H., and Tseng, S. W. Emodin induces apoptosis in human promyeloleukemic HL-60 cells accompanied by activation of caspase 3 cascade but independent of reactive oxygen species production. Biochem Pharmacol 12-15-2002;64(12):1713-1724. View abstract.
  • Fork, F. T., Ekberg, O., Nilsson, G., Rerup, C., and Skinhoj, A. Colon cleansing regimens. A clinical study in 1200 patients. Gastrointest.Radiol. 1982;7(4):383-389. View abstract.
  • Hangartner, P. J., Munch, R., Meier, J., Ammann, R., and Buhler, H. Comparison of three colon cleansing methods: evaluation of a randomized clinical trial with 300 ambulatory patients. Endoscopy 1989;21(6):272-275. View abstract.
  • Huang, Q., Shen, H. M., and Ong, C. N. Inhibitory effect of emodin on tumor invasion through suppression of activator protein-1 and nuclear factor-kappaB. Biochem Pharmacol 7-15-2004;68(2):361-371. View abstract.
  • Koyama, J., Morita, I., Tagahara, K., Nobukuni, Y., Mukainaka, T., Kuchide, M., Tokuda, H., and Nishino, H. Chemopreventive effects of emodin and cassiamin B in mouse skin carcinogenesis. Cancer Lett 8-28-2002;182(2):135-139. View abstract.
  • Kuo, P. L., Lin, T. C., and Lin, C. C. The antiproliferative activity of aloe-emodin is through p53-dependent and p21-dependent apoptotic pathway in human hepatoma cell lines. Life Sci 9-6-2002;71(16):1879-1892. View abstract.
  • Lai, G. H., Zhang, Z., and Sirica, A. E. Celecoxib acts in a cyclooxygenase-2-independent manner and in synergy with emodin to suppress rat cholangiocarcinoma growth in vitro through a mechanism involving enhanced Akt inactivation and increased activation of caspases-9 and -3. Mol.Cancer Ther 2003;2(3):265-271. View abstract.
  • Lee, H. Z. Effects and mechanisms of emodin on cell death in human lung squamous cell carcinoma. Br J Pharmacol 2001;134(1):11-20. View abstract.
  • Lee, H. Z. Protein kinase C involvement in aloe-emodin- and emodin-induced apoptosis in lung carcinoma cell. Br J Pharmacol 2001;134(5):1093-1103. View abstract.
  • Lee, H. Z., Hsu, S. L., Liu, M. C., and Wu, C. H. Effects and mechanisms of aloe-emodin on cell death in human lung squamous cell carcinoma. Eur J Pharmacol 11-23-2001;431(3):287-295. View abstract.
  • Liu, J. B., Gao, X. G., Lian, T., Zhao, A. Z., and Li, K. Z. [Apoptosis of human hepatoma HepG2 cells induced by emodin in vitro]. Ai.Zheng. 2003;22(12):1280-1283. View abstract.
  • Marchesi, M., Marcato, M., and Silvestrini, C. [Clinical experience with a preparation containing cascara sagrada and boldo in the therapy of simple constipation in the elderly]. G.Clin.Med. 1982;63(11-12):850-863. View abstract.
  • Mereto, E., Ghia, M., and Brambilla, G. Evaluation of the potential carcinogenic activity of Senna and Cascara glycosides for the rat colon. Cancer Lett 3-19-1996;101(1):79-83. View abstract.
  • Muller, S. O., Eckert, I., Lutz, W. K., and Stopper, H. Genotoxicity of the laxative drug components emodin, aloe-emodin and danthron in mammalian cells: topoisomerase II mediated? Mutat.Res 12-20-1996;371(3-4):165-173. View abstract.
  • Novetsky, G. J., Turner, D. A., Ali, A., Raynor, W. J., Jr., and Fordham, E. W. Cleansing the colon in gallium-67 scintigraphy: a prospective comparison of regimens. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1981;137(5):979-981. View abstract.
  • Petticrew, M., Watt, I., and Sheldon, T. Systematic review of the effectiveness of laxatives in the elderly. Health Technol Assess. 1997;1(13):i-52. View abstract.
  • Phillip, J., Schubert, G. E., Thiel, A., and Wolters, U. [Preparation for colonoscopy using Golytely--a sure method? Comparative histological and clinical study between lavage and saline laxatives]. Med Klin (Munich) 7-15-1990;85(7):415-420. View abstract.
  • Rosengren, J. E. and Aberg, T. Cleansing of the colon without enemas. Radiologe 1975;15(11):421-426. View abstract.
  • Silberstein, E. B., Fernandez-Ulloa, M., and Hall, J. Are oral cathartics of value in optimizing the gallium scan? Concise communication. J Nucl.Med 1981;22(5):424-427. View abstract.
  • Stern, F. H. Constipation--an omnipresent symptom: effect of a preparation containing prune concentrate and cascarin. J Am Geriatr Soc 1966;14(11):1153-1155. View abstract.
  • Tramonte, S. M., Brand, M. B., Mulrow, C. D., Amato, M. G., O'Keefe, M. E., and Ramirez, G. The treatment of chronic constipation in adults. A systematic review. J Gen.Intern.Med 1997;12(1):15-24. View abstract.
  • Cascara sagrada, aloe laxatives, O-9 contraceptives are category II-FDA. The Tan Sheet May 13, 2002.
  • Choice of laxatives for constipation. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter 2002;18(6):180614.
  • Cirillo C, Capasso R. Constipation and botanical medicines: an overview. Phytother Res 2015;29(10):1488-93. View abstract.
  • Covington TR, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 11th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmaceutical Association, 1996.
  • Food and Drug Administration, HHS. Status of certain additional over-the counter drug category II and III active ingredients. Final rule. Fed Regist 2002;67:31125-7. View abstract.
  • Nadir A, Reddy D, Van Thiel DH. Cascara-sagrada induced intrahepatic cholestasis causing portal hypertension: case report and review of herbal hepatotoxicity. Am J Gastroenterol 2000;95:3634-7. View abstract.
  • Nakasone ES, Tokeshi J. A serendipitous find: a case of cholangiocarcinoma identified incidentally after acute liver injury due to cascara sagrada ingestion. Hawaii J Med Public Health 2015;74(6):200-2. View abstract.
  • Nusko G, Schneider B, Schneider I, et al. Anthranoid laxative use is not a risk factor for colorectal neoplasia: results of a prospective case control study. Gut 2000;46:651-5. View abstract.
  • Young DS. Effects of Drugs on Clinical Laboratory Tests 4th ed. Washington: AACC Press, 1995.

Vitamins Survey

Have you ever purchased CASCARA SAGRADA?

Did you or will you purchase this product in-store or online?

Where did you or where do you plan to purchase this product?

Where did you or where do you plan to purchase this product?

What factors influenced or will influence your purchase? (check all that apply)

Vitamins Survey

Where did you or where do you plan to purchase this product?

Do you buy vitamins online or instore?

What factors are most important to you? (check all that apply)

This survey is being conducted by the WebMD marketing sciences department.Read More

More Resources for CASCARA SAGRADA

CONDITIONS OF USE AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
© Therapeutic Research Faculty .