When it comes to natural laxatives, Cascara Sagrada is probably the most commonly used worldwide. The name comes from Spanish explorers who, after learning of its healing properties from Native Americans, called it the “sacred bark.” The bark of this tree must be cured for over a year before it is considered safe enough to use as a laxative. Otherwise it will cause severe cramping and vomiting.
Today, Cascara Sagrada can be found in many over the counter laxative preparations in Europe; but in the United States, it is considered too harsh and habit-forming as an ingredient in most non-prescription laxative products. Certainly, precautions must be taken when ingesting such a powerful plant, but as a natural supplement, Cascara Sagrada is available and safe when administered sparingly.
Deemed a “last resort” option by herbalists, Cascara Sagrada should only be considered a short-term solution, as it is less effective the more times it is used, and will often require a larger dose to achieve the same results. Most people can become laxative dependent if they take Cascara Sagrada too often. Habitual use can also lead to potassium deficiency and severe vomiting. To avoid this, the constipated should use for less than a week at a time.
Cascara Sagrada is never safe for those with ulcers or for pregnant and nursing women, especially since it can cause diarrhea in breast-fed babies.