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Cascara Sagrada bark or Copalquin Crotan

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*Cascara Sagrada bark or Copalquin Crotan

Botanical Name: Frangula purshiana

                                            Rhaminus Purshiana

Origin: Mexico

Cascara sagrada or Copalquin is an herbal remedy that used to be a common ingredient in some over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives.

Other names it has been called by include bitter bark, buckthorn, and chitem bark, California buckthorn, bearberry, yellow bark and sacred bark.

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. It works by causing muscle contractions in the intestines. These muscle contractions help move stool through the bowels. The bark contains chemicals called anthraquinones that give it its color and its laxative effect. These chemicals react with bacteria in the intestines to stimulate the bowels.

How It Works

The main active ingredients in cascara sagrada are quinine compounds: most notably two separate types of anthraquinones and four closely related types of cascarosides. These compounds work by irritating the colon and thus triggering stronger and quicker movements in the intestine. A strong bowel movement will theoretically follow soon after. In addition, aloe-emodin seems to relax smooth muscles slightly, making the bowels more sensitive. Finally, although the full chemical profile of cascara sagrada has not yet been detailed, some studies report that the bark contains different sugar-derived compounds.

Cascara Sagrada Side Effects

The main potential side effects of cascara sagrada are stomach cramps and abdominal pain.


This herb should not be consumed for more than 14 consecutive days at most - though no more than one week is recommended - as the bowels can become dependent on its anthraquinones for evacuation. Additionally, long-term consumption of anthraquinones may result in liver damage or have a carcinogenic effect. As with all herbal supplements, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not consume cascara. This herb can interact with medications, other herbs, and certain conditions, so consulting a doctor before taking it is strongly advised.

Natural Forms

  • Infusion. Two grams of cascara sagrada bark, steeped in 150 mL of boiling water for about 10 - 15 minutes, make a warm infusion that can be taken for constipation relief.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Liquid extract. Cascara sagrada liquid extract is typically taken in 2 - 5 mL doses three times a day for no more than a week. The smallest dose that still stimulates bowel movements should be taken.

  • Capsules. Cascara sagrada capsules should contain 20 - 30 mg of anthraquinones. Dosage varies by manufacturer.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

*Herbs are very powerful and if they are misused, they can be harmful. Herbs can also cause allergic reactions, interfere with traditional medications by blocking their effectiveness, increasing their effectiveness, or reacting with them in a harmful way. Always check with your health care professional before using herbs or herbal products! Do not use herbal products of any kind if you are nursing, pregnant, taking medications or undergoing treatment for any medical condition without first consulting your health care professional. Do not try self-diagnosis or attempt self-treatment for serious or long-term problems without consulting a health care professional. Do not undertake any self-treatment while undergoing a prescribed course of medical treatment without first seeking professional advice. The information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease nor have not been evaluated by the FDA. Please do not ask to diagnose, recommend herbs for specific problems, recommend a treatment program or in any other way prescribe treatment of any kind.