Cascara Sagrada Research

Cascara Sagrada Research

Cascara Sagrada Research

Colon-Cleanse-Constipation Resource Center 

Literally hundreds of products utilize the herbal ingredient Cascara sagrada and are marketed primarily for providing constipation relief or sometimes as dietary supplements. Nevertheless, Cascara sagrada has been demonstrated through scientific processes to actually cause serious digestive problems, including worsening symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation rather than relieving them. A recent search utilizing the search-engine at revealed nearly 300 products containing this harmful, potentially toxic substance. Other health conditions you can develop by using Cascara sagrada include:

  • Hepatitis
  • Liver damage
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Lesions in the colon

Cascara is one of a group of herbal plants classified as Anthraquinones—known carcinogens. In other words, when lab animals are introduced to this herb in sufficient quantities, tumors or colon cancer is often the result. Remember—there is only a fractional amount of DNA differentiating human beings from many other mammals such as rats, primates, or even a household fly . . . so what can kill one animal can probably kill most. Therefore, before you consider using a common laxative to relieve constipation, make sure you read the label thoroughly. You obviously don’t want to ingest this herb or any of its derivatives. Take the time to seek out a product supporting your body’s ability to cleanse and heal itself, rather than forcing a biological function to occur with harsh chemicals causing more harm than good.

The article abstracts below, summarizing scientific reports published in peer-reviewed journals, describe some of the negative effects of taking this herb over an extended period of time or in large doses. Although written in scientific language, read as much as you can and especially glance at the summaries. You may discover something quite beneficial. After all, just because something is available on your supermarket or pharmacy shelf doesn’t guarantee it’s 100% safe. Think about any recent health alerts or even recalls of other, presumably “safe” products you’ve seen or purchased. You can learn more about Cascara sagrada and other potentially unsafe herbs (such as Psyllium and Senna) by reading the following abstracts and other articles within the Colon Cleansing and Constipation Resource Center archives. Don’t forget—you must take a proactive approach to protecting your health and that of your loved ones!

Cascara sagrada-induced intrahepatic cholestasis causing portal hypertension: case report and review of herbal hepatotoxicity

Summary: Though commonly used in herbal products, Cascara sagrada has demonstrated toxicity for human consumption including an association with hepatitis and subsequent liver damage.

"Herbal medicines are gaining widespread popularity. Much of the public believes that botanical herbs are both harmless and useful for the treatment of a variety of symptoms. This belief stands in contrast with the fact that many herbal therapies have been shown to be toxic. In the present case report, cascara sagrada (CS) has been associated with the development of cholestatic hepatitis, complicated by portal hypertension. CS is a mixture of ingredients, among which is anthracene glycoside–an herbal agent that previously has been associated with chronic hepatitis. The liver injury in the case herein reported is believed to be related to either anthracene glycoside or one of the other constituents of CS."[1]

Division of Gastroenterology, Texas Tech University Health Science Center, USA
[1] Nadir, A., Reddy, D. and D. H. Van Thiel.  “Cascara sagrada-induced intrahepatic cholestasis causing portal hypertension: case report and review of herbal hepatotoxicity.”  The American journal of gastroenterology.  Vol. 95, Issue 12.  pp. 3634-7.  Pub. 2000 Dec.  Online.  Accessed: 24 Jan 2007.  (Emphasis by Colon Cleanse and Constipation Resource Center).
Available:  PubMed PMID: 11151906 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE].

Evaluation of the potential carcinogenic activity of Senna and Cascara glycosides for the rat colon

Summary: A possible link between consumption of high amounts of Cascara and factors leading to colon cancer was demonstrated in lab rats.

"Anthraquinone glycosides of Senna and Cascara were investigated for their ability to induce aberrant crypt foci (ACF) in the rat colon mucosa, which are considered putative preneoplastic lesions. Dietary exposure to high doses of these glycosides for 56 successive days did not cause the appearance of ACF or increase in incidence of ACF induced by 1, 2-dimethyl-hydrazine (DMH). However, in rats treated with both DMH and the highest dose of glycosides, the average number of aberrant crypts per focus, considered a consistent predictor of tumor outcome, was higher than in rats given DMH alone. These findings suggest that Senna and Cascara glycoside might behave as weak promoters in rat colon carcinogenesis."[2]

Istituto de Farmacologia dell'Universita, Genova, Italy.
[2] Mereto, E., Ghia, M. and G. Brambilla.  “Evaluation of the potential carcinogenic activity of Senna and Cascara glycosides for the rat colon.”  Cancer letters.  Vol. 101, Issue 1.  pp. 79-83.  Pub. 1996 Mar 19.  Online.  Accessed: 24 Jan 2007.  (Emphasis by Colon Cleanse and Constipation Resource Center).
Available:  PubMed PMID: 8625286 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE].

Anthranoid laxative abuse–a risk for colorectal cancer?

Summary: Commercially available laxatives containing Cascara can lead to colorectal cancer–indicated by increased prevalence of Pseudomelanosis coli bacteria in individuals whom had abused the products.

"Anthranoid-containing laxatives–aloe, cascara, frangula, and rheum–may play a role in colorectal cancer. This risk is particularly important in view of the wide abuse of self administered laxatives for chronic constipation. There are data on the genotoxic potential of anthranoids and there is evidence of a tumourigenic potential in rodents. A case report and clinical-epidemiological studies have evaluated the cancer risk in patients who have abused anthranoid laxatives over a long period. Pseudomelanosis coli is a reliable parameter of chronic laxative abuse (> 9-12 months) and is specific for anthranoid drugs. In a retrospective study of 3049 patients who underwent diagnostic colorectal endoscopy the incidence of pseudomelanosis coli was 3.13% in patients without pathological changes. In those with colorectal adenomas, the incidence increased to 8.64% (p < 0.01), and in those with colorectal carcinomas it was 3.29%. This lower rate was probably caused by incomplete documentation of pseudomelanosis coli in those with carcinoma. In a prospective study of 1095 patients, the incidence of pseudomelanosis coli was 6.9% for patients with no abnormality seen on endoscopy, 9.8% (p = 0.068) for patients with adenomas, and 18.6% for patients with colorectal carcinomas. From these data a relative risk of 3.04 (1.18, 4.90; 95% confidence interval) can be calculated for colorectal cancer as a result of anthranoid laxative abuse."[3]

Institute of Toxicology, Medical University of Lubeck, Germany.
[3] Siegers, C. P., von Hertzberg-Lottin, E., Otte, M. and B. Schneider.  “Anthranoid laxative abuse–a risk for colorectal cancer?”  Gut.  Vol. 34, Issue 8.  pp. 1099-101.  Pub. 1993 Aug.  Online.  Accessed: 24 Jan 2007.  (Emphasis by Colon Cleanse and Constipation Resource Center).
Available:  PubMed PMID: 8174962 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE].

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