Cascara Sagrada has been used in Native American medicine for thousands of years to cleanse the bowel and relieve constipation.
Considered sacred by Spanish priests, this bitter bark clears stagnation and keeps you clean on the inside.
“Before any disease is reversed, the colon must be cleansed.”
– Dr. Sebi.
The Sacred Bark
Cascara Sagrada means “sacred bark” in Spanish. It was named by priests who compared the bark to the wood used to build the legendary ark of the covenant . The small tree’s botanical name is Frangula purshiana, and it’s a member of the plant family Rhamnaceae.
Cascara Sagrada has a long history of use and over 20 different names:
- Aulne Noir
- Bitter Bark
- Bois Noir
- Bois à Poudre
- California Buckthorn
- Chittem Bark
- Dogwood Bark
- Écorce Sacrée
- Pastel Bourd
- Purshiana Bark
- Rhamni Purshianae Cortex
- Rhubarbe des Paysans
- Sagrada Bark
- Yellow Bark
Cascara Sagrada trees are native to British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington in the US, and Mexico. They grow up to 10 meters tall and their trunks grow up to 50cm in diameter.
You’ll find Cascara Sagrada by streams, in forests and valleys, typically growing under the shadow of bigleaf maple trees. The bark of the Cascara Sagrada tree is brown or greyish in color on the outside and yellow on the inside (it begins to darken when extracted and exposed to sunlight.)
The tree has broad, oval green leaves and for a brief time, between the start and middle of spring, it produces tiny ¼ inch green/yellow flowers. It also produces a small red fleshy fruit with thin skin that turns deep purple or black.
However, it’s Cascara Sagrada’s bark that is used for its medicinal properties, which is harvested in spring or early summer when it’s easier to remove. The bark is dried in shade to preserve its yellow tinge, and has a strongly bitter taste that persists in the mouth for hours after eating.
Profile and Properties
Primarily, Cascara Sagrada was used in Native American traditional medicine as a laxative to treat constipation. This is still the most common use, and Cascara Sagrada is the most widely used cathartic (a substance that speeds up the process of bowel elimination) on the planet.
Fresh Cascara Sagrada bark contains a substance called anthrone which causes vomiting and violent diarrhea. It must be aged for one year for the anthrone to decompose so the bark can be consumed by humans. Cascara Sagrada is rich in phytochemicals, including glycocides and cascarosides.
In 1877 Cascara Sagrada was introduced to the scientific world, and by 1890 it was officially entered into the Pharmacopeia of the United States. By the turn of the 20th century Cascara Sagrada had achieved a worldwide reputation as the most popular laxative on the market, until the FDA withdrew it in 2002 due to ‘safety concerns’. Now it can only be sold as a nutritional supplement rather than a drug.
Cascara Sagrada encourages bowel movements by preventing the large intestine from absorbing water. The extra water increases bowel pressure and lubrication until excretion is possible. It usually causes a bowel movement 6 to 8 hours after it's taken.
The bark is rich in phytochemicals, called anthraquinones, that stimulate bowel movements and support the gut. They increase digestive secretions from the liver, stomach and pancreas while causing the intestines to contract and push out their contents.
"When she went to the bathroom upon taking the Cascara Sagrada extract she looked in the commode and she saw some berries that she ate 12 years prior.” - Dr. Sebi.
Cascara Sagrada is used to trigger the “bitter reflex” - when the tongue senses the bitter taste it signals for the brain to release a hormone called gastrin. This starts a series of biological processes that aid digestion and excretion, including:
- Stimulating appetite.
- Releasing digestive enzymes.
- Increasing the stomach’s ability to empty.
- Assisting liver detoxification.
- Increasing bile production.
- Regulating metabolic hormones.
- Repairing the gut lining.
Facts and Friction
Some things you probably don’t know about Cascara Sagrada:
- It’s so in demand that it has been over-harvested in some areas.
- Its leaves are a source of food for black bears, deer, elk, gray foxes and ring-tailed cats
- Its fruits are eaten by bears, birds and raccoons.
- Humans may also consume the fruit (but it’s also a laxative).
- It's used in the food industry to flavor baked goods, ice cream, liquor and soft drinks.
- People have applied Cascara Sagrada to their fingernails so that the bitter taste prevents biting.
Cascara Sagrada has been used traditionally to treat many different conditions related to the gut and our digestive tract, including:
- Bacteria (including E coli, Helicobacter pylori, and various strains of Staphylococcus aureus).
- Liver issues
A huge body of collected knowledge (known in the herbal word as Materia Medica) has reported the helpful properties of this sacred bark for countless generations. Dr. Sebi chose it as a critical component of his most powerful cleansing compounds:
- Dr. Sebi’s Bio Ferro capsules cleanse and nourish the blood while supporting the immune system. Powerful phytochemicals encourage detoxification, and enhance cellular oxygenation.
- Dr. Sebi’s Chelation 1 & 2 are exclusive to Dr. Sebi’s therapeutic packages and rapidly remove toxins and mucus, eliminating deep-rooted issues and resolving stagnation.
- Therapeutic Packages provide a unique opportunity to cleanse and nourish your body. Start your healing journey with any of these packages that are sure to get things moving.
Nature provides all the elements we need to survive, heal and thrive in our environment. Just as Cascara Sagrada improves our digestive system and eliminates constipation, many other herbs offer unique solutions to humankind’s most ‘popular’ diseases and health problems. What herbs are in your personal Materia Medica?