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Buckthorn

Buckthorn

Botanical Description & Habitat

Rhamnus frangula

Family
Rhamnaceae

Common Names

Alder buckthornAlder dogwood
ArrowwoodBlack alder
Black alder treeBlack dogwood
DogwoodEuropean black alder
European buckthornPersian berries



Habitat
Europe, Siberia, the Mediterranean coast of Africa, and the northeastern regions of the United States; it is found in swamps and along riverbanks.

Description
As a tree, buckthorn may reach 25 feet in height; as a shrub, it may reach 20 feet in height. Its long, slender branches have a green bark when young, later turning to a brownish-gray. The green, oval leaves, slightly toothed and glabrous, appear in April; then small, greenish-white flowers appear in axillary clusters in May and June. Its fruit, a 3-seeded berry, is green in summer, later turning red and then a glossy bluish-black.

Medicinal Parts
Bark - dried

Historical Properties & Uses

Buckthorn is one of the best herbal stimulant laxatives; it is non-habituating, yet very effective. It is similar to cascara sagrada in action since both contain anthraquinones.

Judging from clinical observations of the accomplished herbalist, buckthorn is also a very good cholagogue and choleretic. Refer to Cascara Sagrada for a full account of the anthraquinone laxatives.

Both Buckthorn bark and berry are approved by the German Commission E for use with constipation.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Buckthorn is a good laxative
The cathartic, laxative and purgative effects of buckthorn are due to anthraquinones, and follow the same mechanism of action as cascara sagrada. It is purported to be the mildest of all anthraquinone laxatives.

One observer reported experiments in which buckthorn increased the manufacture and secretion of bile and increased the activity of glands in the walls of the intestinal tract. Glucofrangulin and frangulin are primarily responsible for the laxative action.

The emetic principles of the fresh bark are believed to be anthrones and anthone glycosides. Aloe emodin, another important constituent, possesses some anticancer properties (against P-388 leukemia in mice).

For a full account of anthraquinone laxatives, refer to Cascara Sagrada.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions

Buckthorn laxative-induced diarrhea may result in decreased absorption of isoniazid. The same is true with sulfisoxazole, however, this appears to be a clinically unimportant interaction effect.

Additionally, the tannin in buckthorn may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. However, the tannin in tea made from the herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.

Increased loss of potassium can potentiate cardiac glycosides and antiarrhythmic agents.

Comments

Laxatives, such as buckthorn, induce an increased speed of intestinal emptying. This may result in a decreased absorption of vitamin K and/or anticoagulants.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

The fresh bark should never be used, as fresh anthraquinines can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea.

With long use it can lead to hyperkalemia because it inhibits the reabsorption of potassium.

This herb (both bark and berry) has approval status by the German Commission E.

The German Commission E recommends a limited duration for the use of this herb of not more than 1 - 2 weeks without medical advice.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 2-5 ml three times a day

Both Buckthorn bark and berry are approved by the German Commission E for use with constipation.

Dosages are calculated for glucofrangulin 20 - 30 mg.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

References

Am Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Bressler, R., M.D. Bogdonoff & G.J. Subak-Sharpe. 1981. The Physicians Drug Manual. Doubleday & Co, Inc. Garden City, NY. 1213 pp.

Committee on Pharmocopaeia of the Am Institute of Homeopathy, The Homeopathic Pharmacopaeia of the United States. 8th ed., Vol 1. Otis Clapp and Son, Agents, Boston, l981.

Cresseri, A., Peruto, I. & Longo, R. Biological determination of the value of the laxative action of polyhydroxyanthraquinone from the bark of rhamnus frangula. Archiv. Pharm., 299(7), 615-618, 1966.

Culbreath, David M. R. A manual of Materia Medica and Pharmocology. Eclectic Medical Publications, Portland, Or, l983.

Felter, H.W. The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology And Therapeutics. Eclectic Medical Publications, Portland, Oregon, 1983.

Fleisher, N., et.al. 1969. Chronic laxative-induced hyperaldosteronism and hypokalemia stimulating Bartter's syndrome. Annals of Internal Medicine, 70(4). pp. 791-798.

Goldfinger, p. 1969. Hypkalemia, metabolic acidosis, and hypocalcemic tetany is a patient taking laxatives. Journal of the Mount Sinai Hospital, 36(3-4). pp. 113-116.

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. Macmillan, NY.

Hansten, P.D. 1969. Oral anticoagulant drug interactions. Hospital Form. Management, 4(1). pp. 20-22.

Hansten, P.D. 1979. Drug Interactions, 4th ed. Lea & Febiger, Phila. Hyde, F.F. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. British Herbal Medicine Assoc: West Yorks, England, 1983

Kastrup, E.K., ed. 1981. Drug Facts and Comparisons, 1982 edition. Facts and Comparisions Division, J.P. Lippincott Co, Phila(St. Louis).

Kupchan, S.M. & Karim, A. Lloydia, 39, 223, 1976.

List, P. & L. Hoerhammer. 1969-1976. Hagers Hanbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, vols. 2-5. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Martin, E.W. 1978. Drug Interactions Index, 1978/79. J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Mattila, M.J., et.al. 1974. Effect of sodium sulphate and castor oil on drug absorbtion from the human intestine. Ann of Clin Rsrch, 6.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Van Os, F.H.L. Pharmacology, 14, (Suppl. 1), 73, 1976.

Vincent, D. & G. Segonzac. 1953. Comptes Rendus des Seances de la Societe de Biologie et de ses Filiales, 147. pp. 1776-1779.