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Search Health Information    Buckthorn

Buckthorn

Uses

Botanical names:
Rhamnus catharicus

Parts Used & Where Grown

Buckthorn is a tall shrub native to northern Europe. The dried berries and dried bark are used medicinally. The bark is allowed to dry for up to a year before being used, which reduces the potential of buckthorn to cause vomiting.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
2 Stars
Constipation
20 to 30 mg of anthraquinone glycosides (calculated as glucofrangulin A) daily
Buckthorn is considered a stimulant laxative because it stimulates bowel muscle contractions.

Only the dried form of buckthorn berries and bark should be used. Capsules providing 20 to 30 mg of anthraquinone glycosides (calculated as glucofrangulin A) per day can be used; however, the smallest amount necessary to maintain regular bowel movements should be used.3 As a tincture, 5 ml once at bedtime is generally taken. Usually buckthorn is taken at bedtime, so it will have time to act and by morning a bowel movement is induced. It is important to drink eight six-ounce glasses of water throughout the day while taking buckthorn, and to consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Buckthorn should be taken for a maximum of eight to ten days consecutively or else it can lead to dependence on it to have a bowel movement.4 Some people take peppermint tea or capsules with buckthorn to prevent griping, an unpleasant sensation of strong contractions in the colon sometimes induced by buckthorn.

The laxatives most frequently used world-wide come from plants. Herbal laxatives are either bulk-forming or stimulating.

Stimulant laxatives are high in anthraquinone glycosides, which stimulate bowel muscle contraction. The most frequently used stimulant laxatives are senna leaves, cascara bark, and aloe latex. While senna is the most popular, cascara has a somewhat milder action. Aloe is very potent and should be used with caution. Other stimulant laxatives include buckthorn , alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula), and rhubarb (Rheum officinale, R. palmatum).

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Buckthorn has been used as a cathartic laxative in northern and central Europe, including England, for centuries.1 While its importance declined when the similar shrub Rhamnus purshiana or cascara sagrada was discovered in America,2 buckthorn is still used, particularly in Europe.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Rhamnus catharicus

How It Works

Buckthorn bark and berries are high in anthraquinone glycosides. Resins, tannins, and lipids make up the bulk of the bark’s other ingredients. Buckthorn berries also contain flavonoids. Anthraquinone glycosides have a cathartic action, inducing the large intestine to increase its muscular contraction (peristalsis) and increasing water movement from the cells of the colon into the feces, resulting in strong, soft bowel movement.5 It takes six to ten hours for buckthorn to act after taking it by mouth.

How to Use It

Only the dried form of buckthorn berries and bark should be used. Capsules providing 20 to 30 mg of anthraquinone glycosides (calculated as glucofrangulin A) per day can be used; however, the smallest amount necessary to maintain regular bowel movements should be used.6 As a tincture, 5 ml once at bedtime is generally taken. Usually buckthorn is taken at bedtime, so it will have time to act and by morning a bowel movement is induced. It is important to drink eight six-ounce glasses of water throughout the day while taking buckthorn, and to consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Buckthorn should be taken for a maximum of eight to ten days consecutively or else it can lead to dependence on it to have a bowel movement.7 Some people take peppermint tea or capsules with buckthorn to prevent griping, an unpleasant sensation of strong contractions in the colon sometimes induced by buckthorn.

Interactions

Botanical names:
Rhamnus catharicus

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

Certain medicines interact with this supplement.

Types of interactions: Beneficial Adverse Check

Replenish Depleted Nutrients

  • none

Reduce Side Effects

  • none

Support Medicine

  • none

Reduces Effectiveness

  • none

Potential Negative Interaction

  • none

Explanation Required

  • Acetazolamide

    Use buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Medications that also cause potassium loss, such as some diuretics, should be used with caution when taking buckthorn or alder buckthorn.8

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Amiloride-Hydrochlorothiazide

    Use buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Medications that also cause potassium loss, such as some diuretics, should be used with caution when taking buckthorn or alder buckthorn.9

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Cortisone

    Use of buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula), for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Because corticosteroids also cause potassium loss, buckthorn or alder buckthorn should be used with caution if corticosteroids are being taken.10

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Dichlorphenamide

    Use buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Medications that also cause potassium loss, such as some diuretics, should be used with caution when taking buckthorn or alder buckthorn.11

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Digoxin

    Use of buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Loss of potassium may increase the toxicity of digitalis-like medications with potentially fatal consequences.12

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Methazolamide

    Use buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Medications that also cause potassium loss, such as some diuretics, should be used with caution when taking buckthorn or alder buckthorn.13

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Methylprednisolone

    Use of buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula), for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Because corticosteroids also cause potassium loss, buckthorn or alder buckthorn should be used with caution if corticosteroids are being taken.14

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Prednisolone

    Use of buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula), for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Because corticosteroids also cause potassium loss, buckthorn or alder buckthorn should be used with caution if corticosteroids are being taken.15

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Prednisone

    Use of buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula), for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Because corticosteroids also cause potassium loss, buckthorn or alder buckthorn should be used with caution if corticosteroids are being taken.16

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Spironolacton-Hydrochlorothiazide

    Use buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Medications that also cause potassium loss, such as some diuretics, should be used with caution when taking buckthorn or alder buckthorn.17

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
  • Triamterene-Hydrochlorothiazide

    Use buckthorn (Rhamnus catartica, Rhamnus frangula, Frangula alnus) or alder buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium). Medications that also cause potassium loss, such as some diuretics, should be used with caution when taking buckthorn or alder buckthorn.18

    The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Rhamnus catharicus

Side Effects

Buckthorn may turn the urine dark yellow or red, but this is harmless. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding and children under the age of 12 should not use buckthorn without the advice of a physician. Those with an intestinal obstruction, Crohn’s disease or any other acute inflammatory problem in the intestines, diarrhea , appendicitis, or abdominal pain should not use this herb.19 Use or abuse of buckthorn for more than ten days consecutively may cause a loss of electrolytes (especially the mineral potassium) or may weaken the colon. Long-term use can also cause kidney damage.20

References

1. Lust J. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books, 1974:138-40.

2. Evans WC. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy, 13th ed. London: Baillière Tindall, 1989:408.

3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95-8.

4. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95-8.

5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95-8.

6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95-8.

7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al, eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998:95-8.

8. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

9. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

10. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

11. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

12. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

13. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

14. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

15. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

16. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

17. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

18. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

19. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

20. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP). Frangulae cortex, frangula bark. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, Centre for Complementary Health Studies, 1997.

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