Medicinal properties: upset stomach ( native americans ); laxative [3]


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          Cascara sagrada is also scientifically known as Rhamnus purshiana. It has also been refereed to as buckthorn. The name is Spanish for "sacred bark". Traditionally, it was known as "chittem" or "chitticum". For centuries dried Cascara bark has been used as a natural laxative. The Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest used it for this, as well as the European and U.S. colonizers. The chemicals found within it that are responsible for the laxative effects are the hydroxyanthracene glycosides, and emodin. These naturally occurring chemicals are made by the plant. Emodin in particular excites smooth muscle cells in the large intestine. This is only the beginning of the pharmacological actions that it can induce.[1]


It's important to know that herbal remedies are used in a similar fashion to pharmaceutical drugs. What I mean by this is that the dosage is very important. Consuming large and endless amounts of an herb is not necessarily a good idea. When you are prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, you don't consume the entire script at once, and there is a reason for this. Dosage is important and makes medicine either effective, or leads to adverse effects. If you are planning on using it, consult a health care provider before use and stick to a limited dosage. They will inform you of proper dosages.


How Does It Work?

If you think that herbal remedies are all some ridiculous fairy-tales, think again. Cascara sagrada and many others have been used by drug companies for a reason. It appears nature has its own pharmacy that produces more chemicals than any drug company could ever compete with. This science is called phytochemistry, and it literally backs up the theraputic use of these herbs. It's also very interesting that certain plant alkaloids are found in many species.


Cascara Chemistry

There are many medicinally active substances found in the organic matter of this species. Multiple quinoid substances are found in the plant. It contains approximately 8% anthranoids by mass. Around two-thirds are cascarosides. The hydroxyanthracene glycosides are what excite the peristalsis in the colon. These chemicals actually inhibit the absorption of water and electrolytes in the large intestine, which increases the volume of the bowel's contents. This action leads to increased pressure which causes bowel movements. Studies have shown that an emodin extract may have anti-cancer effects. This Emodin compound is also responsible for some of the laxative effects brought on by the herb.[1]


Preparations
Over the years I have learned that barks and roots are generally made into decoctions. Sense Cascara is a bark it should be prepared this way. A decoction is basically when you boil the roots for a certain amount of time. How I do it is I add a drop of oil to the water to prevent it from boiling over. Then, I put a lid on top of it. I let the water boil and then reduce the heat to the lowest option. Certain alkaloids are oils are volitile, which means they easily evaporate. That's the point behind leaving the lid on it, to save these constituents. I cook it for about 20 minutes.




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