Cascara sagrada bark is a common ingredient in colon cleansers, often reported to promote ‘detoxification of the colon’. In actuality, cascara sagrada is a powerful stimulant laxative, which initiates fecal elimination by triggering contractions in the colon.
Cascara sagrada bark has numerous side effects and contraindications, all which affect colon, stomach and liver function. This herb is not safe to use if you have a history of any colon or gastrointestinal problems, such as ulcerative colitis or diverticular disease. Pregnant women cannot take cascara sagrada bark because it can put undue stress on the fetus. Long-term use can also cause permanent damage to these organs.
Short-term side effects of cascara sagrada bark include:
* Stomach pain or cramps
* Persistent diarrhea.
* Dizziness, fainting
Long-term side effects associated with cascara sagrada bark include:
* Chronic constipation
* Loss of normal bowel function
* Colon or bowel damage
* Muscle weakness
* Fatigue, pronounced tiredness
* Decrease in bowel movements
* Pigmentation of the colon (melanosis coli)
* Changes in heartbeat
* Electrolyte loss
* Possible liver, kidney or heart damage
Long-term use is also associated with laxative dependency, a condition that causes the colon to become dependent on laxatives in order to have a bowel movement. Using cascara sagrada bark for longer than prescribed, or more than seven days, can increase a person’s risk for these side effects.
There have also been rare reports of hepatitis occurring after long-term use. It can also increase a person’s risk for adenomas, or colorectal growths. This may be a precursor to cancer.
Allergic Side Effects
Cascara sagrada bark can also cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals. The following reactions have been reported:
* Skin rash, excessive itching
* Difficulty breathing
* Chest tightness
* Swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth
* No bowel movement
* Bleeding of the rectal area
If any of these side effects are reported, seek medical treatment immediately. This is a sign of a severe allergic reaction, which can be fatal if left untreated.
This herb can also worsen the severity of certain illnesses. If you have any of the following health conditions below, this herb may be possibly unsafe to take:
* Diverticular disease
* Ulcerative colitis
* Congestive heart failure
* Heart disease
* Liver disease
* Kidney disease
* Crohn’s disease
* General heart problems
* Cancer of the colon or gastrointestinal tract
People who suffer from laxative dependency or who have abused laxatives in the past should not take this herb. People with a history of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, should also avoid using this herb.
The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. Any health concerns or questions should be discussed with your local healthcare provider.