Cascara sagrada is one of the world's most popular natural laxatives. While this potently medicinal herb has many therapeutic uses, the benefits of cascara sagrada are limited to short-term use. Do not take cascara sagrada on an ongoing basis; like other stimulant-laxatives, it can lead to dependence if it is used over an extended period of time.
The following are among the most recognized cascara sagrada benefits.
Unlike most natural laxatives, cascara sagrada offers near-immediate relief from constipation. Instead of providing fiber, cascara sagrada works by irritating th lining of the bowels and increasing the rate of digestion. Because it can cause cramping, diarrhea and other discomforts, it is best to use cascara sagrada only after non-stimulant methods have failed. If you have chronic constipation, talk to your doctor about using a fiber supplement such as inulin or psyllium husk.
Practitioners of alternative medicine tout cascara sagrada as an effective "detox" product. Proponents of colon cleansing believe that laxatives can flush toxins from the colon and provide relief from diseases that are not directly related to the digestive tract-- including asthma and arthritis. There is not enough evidence to support the use of cascara sagrada to detoxify the colon or any other part of the body, although it can certainly flush matter from the digestive tract.
Before you undergo a medical proceduce, such as colonoscopy of sigmoidoscopy, your health care provider will require that you use a combination of laxatives to eliminate all fecal matter from the digestive tract. Some doctors will recommend combining cascara sagrada with an osmotic or saline laxative to increase the effectiveness of a medical prep. Always follow your health care provider's exact instructions for preparing for a medical procedure.
National Institutes of Health: Cascara SagradaUniversity of Maryland Medical Center: ConstipationMayo Clinic: Colon Cleansing