Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus Purshiana) was traditionally used by American Indians as a laxative. Cascara is unlike other more common laxatives in that it energises the smooth muscles of the small intestine and bowel to contract, rather than irritating them, and it provides other impressive benefits beyond bowel stimulation.
Cascara increases bowel regularity
We should move and empty our bowels at least once a day. Slowed bowel transit time (constipation) leads to increased estrogen levels, accelerated ageing, skin breakouts, and is detrimental to overall health. High-quality Cascara (along with an anti-septic, indigestible fiber such as raw carrot, bamboo shoots and well-cooked mushrooms) helps to shorten and regulate bowel transit time and encourage complete and regular emptying of the bowels, without the negatives associated with most other laxatives.
Cascara a source of Emodin
Relief from constipation is not the only benefit of Cascara.
"An amount slightly less than a laxative dose has beneficial systemic effects." – Ray Peat PhD
Emodin, the main active compound in Cascara, belongs to a family of compounds called anthraquinones. It has been demonstrated to possess multiple biological activities including being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-viral.
It's a potent selective 11β-HSD1 inhibitor, the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of cortisol, which is closely associated with the development of metabolic disorders including insulin resistance, central obesity and hyperglycaemia. - Source
Emodin inhibits the formation of Nitric Oxide (mitochondrial poison) and prevents the reabsorption of Endotoxin, promoting (among many other things) clear and youthful skin.
Also, emodin has been shown to block the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Coronavirus spike protein and ACE2 interaction, suggesting that emodin may be considered as a potential lead therapeutic agent in the treatment of SARS. - Source
So even if bowel regularity isn’t an issue for you, Cascara can still provide many other important health benefits.
Cascara must be very well-aged
It’s very important that Cascara is properly aged for at least a year (yielding a very dark colour) for it to provide maximum benefits with least irritation.
"The bulk powder from Farmalabor in Italy is the kind I like best." – Ray Peat PhD
Saturée Well Aged Cascara is true Italian U.S.P. sourced from Farmalabor; the very best available.
Quotes about Cascara and Emodin
"I think cascara's most important effect is the reduction of the pro-inflammatory nitric oxide, which poisons mitochondrial energy production. Raw carrot or bamboo shoots can sometimes have a similar effect by reducing NO synthesis." – Ray Peat PhD
"... there were several publications reporting that emodin, the main active factor in cascara, a traditional laxative, had some remarkable antiviral and anticancer activities. Other studies were reporting that it protected against some known mutagens and carcinogens." – Ray Peat PhD
"… emodin can produce to some degree all of the effects that he (Koch) believed could be achieved by correcting the cellular respiratory apparatus: Antiinflammatory, antifibrotic (Wang, et al., 2007) antiviral, antidepressant, heart protective, antioxidant, memory enhancing, anticancer, anxiolytic and possibly antipsychotic." – Ray Peat PhD
"Besides endotoxin, estrogen, vibrational injury, radiation, aging, cold, and hypoosmolarity, increase Nitric Oxide synthesis and release, and increase cellular permeabilities throughout the body.
Estrogen excess (relative to progesterone and androgens), as in pregnancy, stress, and aging, reduces intestinal motility, probably by increasing nitric oxide production. The anthraquinones inhibit the formation of nitric oxide, which is constantly being promoted by endotoxin." – Ray Peat PhD
"Serotonin slows metabolism, reduces oxygen consumption, and increases free radicals such as superoxide and nitric oxide; the production of reactive oxygen species is probably an essential part of its normal function. Emodin has an opposing effect, increasing the metabolic rate. It increases mitochondrial oxygen consumption and ATP synthesis, while decreasing oxidative damage (Du and Ko, 2005, 2006; Huang, et al., 1995)." – Ray Peat PhD
"Emodin inhibits the formation of nitric oxide, increases mitochondrial respiration, inhibits angiogenesis and invasiveness, inhibits fatty acid synthase (Zhang, et al., 2002), inhibits HER-2 neu and tyrosine phosphorylases (Zhang, et al., 1995, 1999), and promotes cellular differentiation in cancer cells (Zhang, et al., 1995).
All of these are basic antistress mechanisms, suggesting that emodin and the antiinflammatory anthraquinones are providing something central to the life process itself." – Ray Peat PhD
"Being quinones, both emodin and beta-lapachone (ie; Pau D’Arco) are intimately involved in the proper functioning of the electron transport chain, the recycling of NADH back to NAD and protecting from the systemic effects of stress and aging. In addition to these metabolic / systemic effects, both quinones have been shown to have a staggering array of effects including protecting from radiation, hypoxia, inflammation, endotoxin, diabetes, cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen, prolactin, serotonin, histamine, nitric oxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO), viruses, bacteria, fungi, and even the aging process in general. Given their profoundly systemic effects, it is very likely that these two quinones can contribute to improved well-being and resistance to stress, aging and fragility." Source – Georgi Dinkov, IdeaLabs.
Start with a scant 1/8tsp, dissolved in some hot water. Allow it to cool or add a dash of cold. A word of warning: it tastes bitter ... some might even describe it as disgusting! Just shoot it down fast and follow up with some plain water.
It’s best to have some milk or other food in the stomach when it’s taken. If no improvement to bowel motions the next day at this dose, increase gradually to 1/4tsp (620mg) at once or split in 2 doses through day. If bowel motions become too loose, discontinue for a day or two, and take a lesser dose thereafter when needed.
* Not suitable for children under 15 years of age, pregnant or breastfeeding women. Also not to be used by people with gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Should only be used under medical or dietic supervision.
References and further reading:
Estrogen and Bowel Transit Time
Cascara, Energy, Cancer and the FDA's Laxative Abuse
Protective Cascara Sagrada and Emodin
Bowel Toxins Accelerate Aging
Endotoxin: Poisoning from the Inside Out
Ray Peat on Cascara
Ray Peat PhD on Endotoxin
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog should not be used to treat or diagnose disease or health problems and is provided for your information only.