Cascara

Plant Use(es):Medicinal

Cascara shrub by Jesse Taylor

Cascara shrub – Photo by Jesse Taylor

Other common names: cascara buckthorn, bearberry

Scientific name: Rhamnus purshiana D.C

Family name: Rhamnaceae (buckthorn family)

PLANT DESCRIPTION

Cascara is an erect, tall shrub or small tree that can grow up to 10 meters tall. It has thin, smooth, silver-grey bark that is extremely bitter. The flowers of the shrub are small and umbrella shaped. They are green or yellow and can be found in clusters of 8 to 50 flowers. The fruit is a black-purplish berry.

FOOD AND MEDICINAL USES

The bark can be boiled and made into a tea or syrup that was drunk as a strong laxative. Cascara has been scientifically substantiated as an effective laxative in small concentrations. The bark should be left to age before using it as a laxative in order to avoid the bitter nauseating taste of it. The bark was also used as a medicine for washing sores and swellings.

General disclaimer: It is recommended that individuals seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally. The University of British Columbia is not responsible for any adverse effects that might result from the use of this plant.

INTERESTING POINTS

  • Cascara bark was often collected in the spring or summer and dried for a whole year. The next summer, that same bark was put in cold water for a few days before boiling and using as a laxative.
  • A handful of bark was usually used per serving.

LOCATION IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Cascara can be found everywhere from Northern California to Northern British Columbia. Prefers fairly dry to mildly wet environments and shady sites. Can be found at low to medium elevation.

LOCATION ON CAMPUS

Cascara can be found in the UBC Botanical Garden.

For more information on cascara visit E-flora BC:

http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Rhamnus%20purshiana

 

SOURCES

E-Flora BC. (2013). Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia. Available at: http://www.geog.ubc.ca/biodiversity/eflora/.

Pojar, J., and Mackinnon, A. (1994). Plants of coastal British Columbia: Including Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Publishing.

Photo credits

Jesse Taylor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia commons. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rhamnus_purshiana,_Cascara_–_branch_with_leaves,_flowers_and_buds.JPG

Jesse Taylor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/Rhamnus_purshiana_–_leaves_and_fruits.JPG

Link to e-flora

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