« back to list of herbs


Treats certain cancers, relieves constipation

Buckthorn became popular in European herbal medicine about 1,000 years ago. At the time, little was known about the body. Doctors believed the key to curing disease lay in purging "foul humours." Not surprisingly, strong laxatives were prescribed for dozens of ailments. Buckthorn was a favorite because it produced reliable results, although it also sometimes caused severe gastrointestinal irritation and cramping when people took too much.

Buckthorn's laxative action is the result of chemicals in the plant called anthraquinones. They stimulate the colonic muscle contractions we experience as "the urge." Several other laxative herbs — aloe, cascara sagrada and senna — also contain anthraquinones.

"Buckthorn is about as powerful as cascara sagrada, and less potent than aloe and senna," says Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D., director of the American Phytotherapy Research Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah, and author of The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. (Some experts feel that aloe and senna are too powerful to use as laxatives.)

Buckthorn has also been used fairly extensively around the world among traditional herbalists as a cancer treatment. And there is apparently something to this use for the herb.

"Buckthorn has shown some anti-tumor action," says James A. Duke, PhD, a botanist retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,and author of The CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. According to Duke, "It deserves more research."

Putting the herb to work

In Germany, where herbal healing is more mainstream than it is in the United States, some physicians prescribe a laxative tea containing 1/2 teaspoon each of buckthorn, fennel seed and chamomile flowers (fennel and chamomile soothe the stomach) per cup of boiling water, steeped for ten minutes. If you try this, drink no more than one cup. It's best to take it before bed.

If you gather your own buckthorn, make sure it has been dried thoroughly before you use it as a laxative. Poorly dried buckthorn can cause vomiting, severe abdominal pain and violent diarrhea.

If you're constipated, you should consider anthraquinone laxatives only as a last resort. Doctors recommend eating a high-fiber diet and getting more exercise as the first line of treatment for constipation. If that doesn't work, the next thing to try, they say, is a bulk-forming laxative, such as psyllium (Metamucil). Only after you've given all these a shot should you even consider moving on to an anthraquinone laxative such as buckthorn.

Pregnant women and those with chronic gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers, colitis or hemorrhoids should not use buckthorn at all.

And buckthorn should never be used for more than two weeks, because over time it can cause "lazy bowel syndrome," an inability to move stool without chemical stimulation.

Buckthorn is still a long way from being an accepted cancer treatment. If you have cancer and would like to try this herb in addition to standard therapy, discuss it with your physician.

Like this page? Please link to us and let the world know!

^ back to top

© 2014 OrganicFoodee.com All Rights Reserved. Website by: Get Lucas