Species of buckthorn, which are shrubs or trees that usually grow to a height of 1-10 meters, are widely spread in temperate and subtropical parts of the world. They are classified as belonging to the family Rhamnaceae but may be subclassified into either Rhamnus or Frangula genera.
Traditionally, the berries and bark of buckthorn species have been used for stomach disorders. Buckthorn, especially its bark, is known to increase bowel movements in animals and people. The bark of the largest buckthorn, Rhamnus purshiana, is often called cascara sagrada or chitticum bark. The berries, harvested when fully ripe, may increase urine production or cause violent laxative properties.
The laxative effect of buckthorn may be caused by chemicals that also damage cells that line the colon and may promote tumor formation. Therefore, it is suggested that such laxatives, including buckthorn, be used only for short time periods.
Current research is investigating of the ability of buckthorn to prevent mutations and cause toxic effects against cancer cells. More recently, limited studies have investigated the ability of buckthorn to prevent cell growth, prevent mutations, and cause antioxidant effects.
Buckthorn is not generally recognized as safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Related Terms

3'-O-acetylfrangulin, aglycones, Alaternus buckthorn, alder buckthorn, alder-leaf buckthorn, alderleaf buckthorn, alizarin, anthranoids, anthraquinone, 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. (F.) californica, R. (F.) caroliniana, R. (F.) purshiana, R. glandulosa, R. infectoria, R. prinoides, R. utilis, 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.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Intestinal blockage (Grade: C)
Preliminary evidence suggests that buckthorn may be effective in treating intestinal blockage. Further research is required with buckthorn alone before a firm conclusion may be made.