Image for Buckthorn ( spp.,  spp.)
Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp., Frangula spp.)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • 3'-O-acetylfrangulin, aglycones, Alaternus buckthorn, alder buckthorn, alder-leaf buckthorn, alderleaf buckthorn, alizarin, anthranoids, anthraquinone, aglycones, Asian Chinese buckthorn, Avignon buckthorn, birchleaf buckthorn, California buckthorn, Carolina buckthorn, cascara, Cascara buckthorn, cascara sagrada, chitticum, coffeeberry, common buckthorn, coyotillo, Dahurian buckthorn, dichloromethanes, dimeric anthracenone, dogwood, Dyer's buckthorn, emodin, flavonols, Frangula alnus, Frangula azorica, Frangula betulifolia, Frangula californica, Frangula caroliniana, Frangula purshiana, Frangula rubra, Frangula sphaerosperma, gesho, hartsthorn, highwaythorn, hollyleaf buckthorn, hollyleaf redberry, Hoxsey formula, Island redberry buckthorn, Italian buckthorn, Japanese buckthorn, Karwinskia humboldtiana, lanceleaf buckthorn, Lokao buckthorn, methanol, Persian berry, prinoidin bianthrones, prinoidin-emodin bianthrones, purging buckthorn, Pursh's buckthorn, R. alaternus, R. alnifolia, R. cathartica, R. crocea, R. glandulosa, R. infectoria, R. prinoides, R. utilis, R. (F.) californica, R. (F.) caroliniana, R. (F.) purshiana, ramsthorn, red buckthorn, redberry buckthorn, Rhamnaceae (family), rhamnepalins, rhamnosylanthraquinone, rhamnosylanthrones, Rhamnus alaternus, Rhamnus alnifolia, Rhamnus arguta, Rhamnus betulaefolia, Rhamnus californica, Rhamnus caroliniana, Rhamnus cathartica, Rhamnus cathartica L., Rhamnus crocea, Rhamnus davurica, Rhamnus diffuses, Rhamnus frangula, Rhamnus glandulosa, Rhamnus globosa, Rhamnus ilicifolia, Rhamnus infectoria, Rhamnus japonica, Rhamnus lanceolata, Rhamnus latifolia, Rhamnus libanotica, Rhamnus lycioides, Rhamnus nepalensis, Rhamnus petiolaris, Rhamnus pirifolia, Rhamnus prinoides, Rhamnus purshiana, Rhamnus rubra, Rhamnus saxatilis, Rhamnus serrata, Rhamnus smithii, Rhamnus sphaerosperma, Rhamnus staddo, Rhamnus tinctoria, Rhamnus utilis, rock buckthorn, Sanguinho, sawleaf buckthorn, sharp-tooth buckthorn, shiny-leaf buckthorn, Smith's buckthorn, Staddo, toxin T-514, tullidora, waythorn, West Indian buckthorn.

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • Species of buckthorns, shrubs or trees that grow to a height usually of 1-10 meters, are widely spread in temperate and subtropical parts of the world. They are classified as belonging to the family Rhamnaceae. Most taxonomists classify the numerous species into one genus, Rhamnus, but some segregate Frangula as a distinct genus.
  • Buckthorn, especially its bark, is known as a purgative and laxative in animals and people. The bark of the largest buckthorn, Rhamnus purshiana, is often called cascara sagrada or chitticum bark (1;2;3). The berries, harvested when fully ripe, may be cathartic, depurative, diuretic, laxative and violently purgative. They may have their effect by producing active aglycones, which damage epithelial cells in the colon (4;5;6). In vitro and animal studies suggest that anthranoid laxatives are associated with tumorigenesis. Therefore, it is suggested that such laxatives, including buckthorn, not be used over a long time (6;7).
  • Current research is investigating antimutagenic properties of buckthorn (8) and its selective toxicity against neoplastic cells (9;10).
  • Note: This monograph does not cover sea buckthorn, which belongs to a different plant family.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.