July 25, 2016

Cascara

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What other names is Cascara known by?

Aulne Noir, Bitter Bark, Bois Noir, Bois à Poudre, Borzène, Bourgène, Buckthorn, California Buckthorn, Cáscara, Cascara Sagrada, Chittem Bark, Dogwood Bark, Écorce Sacrée, Frangula purshiana, Nerprun, Pastel Bourd, Purshiana Bark, Rhamni Purshianae Cortex, Rhamnus purshiana, Rhubarbe des Paysans, Sacred Bark, Sagrada Bark, Yellow Bark.

What is Cascara?

Cascara is a shrub. The dried bark is used to make medicine.

Cascara used to be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug for constipation. However, over the years, concerns were raised about cascara's safety and effectiveness. The FDA gave manufacturers the chance to submit safety and effectiveness information to answer these concerns. But the companies decided the cost of conducting safety and effectiveness studies would likely be more than the profit they could expect from sales of cascara. So they didn't comply with the request. As a result, the FDA notified manufacturers to remove or reformulate all OTC laxative products containing cascara from the U.S. market by November 5, 2002. Today, you can buy cascara as a "dietary supplement," but not as a drug. "Dietary supplements" don't have to meet the standards that the FDA applies to OTC or prescription drugs.

Cascara is used as a laxative for constipation, as well as a treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, and cancer. Some people use it as a "bitter tonic."

In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.

In manufacturing, cascara is used in the processing of some sunscreens.

Is Cascara effective?

Cascara is effective as a laxative for constipation.

There isn't enough information to know if cascara is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: gallstones, liver disease, and cancer.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Constipation. Cascara has laxative effects and may help relieve constipation in some people.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Bowel preparation before colonoscopy. Most research shows that taking cascara along with magnesium sulfate or milk of magnesia does not improve bowel cleansing in people who are undergoing a colonoscopy.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Gallstones.
  • Liver disease.
  • Cancer.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of cascara for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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