Cascara sagrada is a stimulant laxative. The bark comes from a tree called the California buckthorn. This tree grows on the West Coast of the United States and parts of South America. Historically, it was used by Native Americans to treat a host of issues, including:
- digestive problems
- joint and muscle pain
Cascara sagrada is primarily used to treat constipation. The anthraquinones contained in the bark inhibit the absorption of water and electrolytes in the intestines. Because of this, stool volume increases as it absorbs the excess water, which increases pressure within the intestine. This stimulates muscle contractions in the colon (peristalsis), speeding the clearance of the bowel.
As such, cascara sagrada is considered a stimulant laxative alongside other natural laxatives like aloe vera and senna. Unlike these counterparts, the effect of cascara sagrada tends to be gentler, resulting in fewer loose or watery stools.