Learn about Cascara Sagrada Side Effects

Learn about Cascara Sagrada Side Effects
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Cascara Sagrada

Cascara sagrada has been used by the Native Americans many years ago to treat constipation. Today, it is one of the most well known herbal laxatives. Not only does it promote peristalsis (wavelike muscle contractions that move food/stool along the digestive tract), it can help improve muscle tone of the bowel walls. If used correctly, cascara sagrada side effects normally do not occur.

Side Effects

Cascara sagrada should be aged for at least a year before taking. This allows the compounds responsible for the laxative effects to become milder. Freshly dried bark (the part of the plant used medicinally) can produce too strong of an effect such as severe diarrhea and vomiting. To prevent this, buy only products from reputable companies.

Short term side effects of cascara sagrada may cause abdominal cramps, bloating, or nausea. If this occurs, you can take a little fennel or ginger to neutralize these effects.

Long term side effects can cause a condition called melanosis coli (a dark pigmentation in the large intestine). When cascara sagrada changes into its active form in the large intestine it causes damage to the cells in the lining of the large intestine, leading to a form of cell death and discoloration (dark brown to black) of the bowel wall. There are no symptoms and no evidence of it causing polyps or tumors. This condition can be reversed after discontinuing use.

Large doses can cause diarrhea and vomiting which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. If untreated, serious complications can occur.


Cascara sagrada comes in various forms, including dried bark, liquid extracts, and capsules. Dried bark is used to make tea and although it tastes bitter, it has a gentler laxative action.

To make tea, pour boiling water in a 1 quart jar with 4 teaspoons of dried bark and let it sit for at least 1 hour before drinking. To help mask the bitter taste, add some honey or stevia. Drink up to 2 cups a day on an empty stomach.

If this is your first time taking cascara sagrada, start out with low doses.

Effects normally occur 6-12 hours after taking.


Children under the age of 12 and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take it because its safety is unknown for these people.

Individuals with chronic intestinal conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease), people who recently had colon surgery, and those with a history of colon cancer, liver disease, or kidney disease should avoid taking cascara sagrada.

People with any type of medical condition or taking medications should consult with their health care provider before taking.

To avoid cascara sagrada side effects, take as directed and for no more than seven days in a row.

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