Botanical: Rhamnus frangula (also known as Frangula alnus)
Family: Rhamnaceae (buckthorn)
Other common names: Alder Buckthorn, Frangula Bark, Black Alder, Glossy Buckthorn, Black Dogwood, European Alder Buckthorn
Buckthorn Bark is known as a mild, but effective, laxative that efficiently and thoroughly evacuates the intestines and bowel, relieving both chronic and atonic constipation. It also stimulates the production of bile secretions, which promote healthy gallbladder and liver functions, helping to relieve jaundice and hepatitis.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
The alder Buckthorn is a small, deciduous tree or coarse shrub that is native to Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia, but was introduced to North America before 1800, invading native habitats by the early 1900s. In Gray's Manual of Botany (8th edition), Buckthorn Bark was described as "recently and rapidly spreading; likely to become obnoxious." Buckthorn generally reaches a height of twenty feet, bearing oblong, feather-veined and alternately-growing leaves, yellow-green flowers that bloom from May to September, and fruits that change from red to black as they ripen in July and August. The shiny leaves are dark green (in the summer) and turn greenish-yellow to yellow in the autumn, remaining on the plant when most other species have already lost their foliage. Buckthorn may be found in abandoned fields, forest edges, pastures, gardens or vacant lots, thriving in well-drained, neutral-to-acid soil in sun or partial shade. The bark, which is nearly inodorous and has a sweetish and slightly bitter taste, is stripped from young plants in spring and early summer and dried for one or (preferably) two years before being used in herbal medicines as a mild (but highly effective) and agreeable laxative. The longer the bark is dried, the milder its cathartic actions. Buckthorn Bark was listed in both the British Pharmacopoeia and the United States Pharmacopoeia for its cathartic properties. The ripe berries and unripe berries yield dyes of varying colors that were widely used for woolens in Europe. Buckthorn Bark (Frangula alnus) and Rhamnus cathartica (Common Buckthorn) are similar species of the Buckthorn family, with similar properties (although Frangula alnus/Rhamnus frangula is considered milder in its cathartic actions than its cousin) and is distinguished by its lack of thorns. Another species is the California Buckthorn, Rhamnus purshiana, better known as Cascara Sagrada, which has somewhat overshadowed its cousin, Buckthorn Bark, but its actions are considered similar. Some of the constituents in Buckthorn Bark include a crystalline glucoside (frangulin), anthraquinones (including emodin, Aloe-emodin, rhamnicoside, frangula-emodin, alaterin, chrysophanol, rein, etc.) flavonoid glycosides, resins and tannic acid.
Buckthorn Bark is mainly used as an aperient that acts as an herbal laxative without the harsh purging actions often associated with laxatives. It is mild, but effectively causes rapid evacuation of the bowels. The basis of the herb's efficacy is thought to be the presence of anthraquinones - either free (i.e., aloe-emodin) that remain in the intestines and irritate the intestinal wall to stimulate elimination - or as sugar derivatives (glycosides), which are absorbed into the intestines and bloodstream and go on to stimulate the nerve center in the lower part of the intestine. As such, Buckthorn Bark is said to be effective in cases of chronic constipation and atonic constipation, which is caused by inadequate intake of fluids, poor diet or overuse of purgatives that result in loss of natural reflexes. It is also thought to ease abdominal bloating.
The tannins in Buckthorn Bark are believed to have herbal astringent properties and have been used to treat hemorrhoids.
Buckthorn Bark is believed to stimulate the liver and gallbladder. The herb is said to be beneficial as a treatment for liver disorders, such as jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis, etc. It is also thought to help a sluggish gallbladder by increasing the flow of bile and has been said to help the body rid itself of gallstones.
Used externally, Buckthorn Bark is considered an antiseptic that alleviates gum disease and scalp infestation.
Pregnant and nursing women should not use Buckthorn Bark Herbal Supplement, nor should those who suffer from colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis or appendicitis. Excessive use (more than ten days) is not recommended, as it may cause electrolyte and potassium loss.