Cascara Sagrada is widely known for its laxative effects. A non-habit-forming and mild nature have made cascara a popular treatment worldwide for chronic constipation. Cascara’s gentle action can even be used with small children and the elderly. Cascara is also helpful for treating hemorrhoids and piles, as it causes large, soft and painless bowel movements.The active ingredients in cascara are known as anthraquinones. Free-anthraquinones such as aloe-emodin, permeate the intestines causing a cleansing, laxative effect and stimulate mucus secretion by irritating intestinal walls. Anthraquinones which are sugar derivatives, also called glycosides, are primarily absorbed in the small intestine and stimulate a nerve center in the lower portion of the intestine to produce peristaltic action in about 6 to 8 hours. Such actions contribute to the elimination of accumulated toxic waste in the colon. Cascara’s laxative effect has not been shown to decline with repeated use. Furthermore, cascara has been used to relieve chronic constipation. This ability is believed to be due to the herb’s effect on restoring healthy form and tone to the colon.Cascara has been shown to stimulate bile production and is beneficial for digestive and liver problems, particularly enlarged liver. Studies have confirmed cascara’s benefit for treating liver disease. Individuals with cases of dyspepsia, commonly referred to as gas in the stomach, have found relief using cascara. This herb has also been used with success with colitis, diverticulosis, gallstones, intestinal parasites, jaundice, skin diseases, sluggish gallbladder function, and worms.
Research indicates cascara contains active substances which demonstrate a chelating ability against the formation of calcium-containing urinary stones.
Aqueous extracts of cascara have been shown to exhibit antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus II (genital herpes) and vaccinia virus (cowpox) in cell cultures.
Cascara contains vitamins A, B2, and B6, as well as the minerals calcium, manganese, and potassium.
Nursing mothers can take cascara and pass this laxative action to their children if constipated. However, excessive use of cascara can result in chronic diarrhea and weakness due to potassium loss, hypokalemia and urine discoloration.