Sacred Cascara: find out what it is for and if you really lose weight

This content is part of the Alternative Medicine category and may contain information that lacks scientific studies and/or medical consensus.

Rhamnus purshiana , popularly known as the sacred cascara, is on the list of herbal medicines by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa). The reason? It is a natural laxative for occasional constipation. ( 1 )

And contrary to what many might think, it is not new that the plant began to be used for this purpose, since the North American Indians were already taking advantage of the herb’s purgative effect. Currently, scientists are looking to find other benefits associated with the dry bark of this tree.

Weight loss and regular menstruation are some of the popular effects related to cascara. However, there is still little scientific knowledge to prove these actions.

See below for the proven benefits and find out how best to take this natural remedy.

To serve cascara sagrada?

The laxative action of this plant is ideal for treating constipation due to two factors. The first one is the transformation of substances present in the shell, the hydroxyanthracenes and the free anthraquinones. They are absorbed from the large intestine and transformed into active metabolites.

When in this form, they stimulate neurons in the enteric nervous system causing an increase in peristalsis. For those who don’t know, peristaltic movements are present in several organs, such as the esophagus and intestine. They occur involuntarily and are responsible for pushing food along the digestive tract, also facilitating evacuation. In other words, the plant causes an intestinal irritation.

Associated with this mechanism, there is also an increase in water secretion in the intestine. Therefore, this liquid helps in the formation and expulsion of feces. ( 2 , 3 ) According to nutritionist and orthomolecular specialist, Leone Gonçalves, constipation can be resolved with the use of natural laxatives, as is the case with cascara sacred tea.

In addition to it, the professional recommends other foods that help loosen the bowel. “Increasing the intake of fiber, fluids and probiotic foods helps a lot. The best remedy for constipation will always be healthy habits”, warns the nutritionist.

Does it lose weight or regulate menstruation?

For a long time, the bark of this tree was considered to be slimming , because when the intestine is released, the body also ends up losing large amounts of water and nutrients, giving the patient a feeling of weight loss.

However, according to researcher Clariane Ramos Lôbo, from Universidade Paulista, this feeling of weight loss is false, since the slimming effect is not confirmed in the plant in question. ( 3 )

As for menstruation, it is true that the anthraquinone compounds present in the cascara can cause an increase in the intensity of bleeding during this period. However, this does not mean that tea and other forms of using this natural medicine are capable of regulating menstruation. It is even contraindicated to use it during the flow, which can cause an increase in bleeding. ( 4 )

How to take?

It is common to take this medication in two ways, such as tea or capsules. To make the decoction, it is necessary to buy the dry peels that can be found in natural food stores (online or physical) or in street markets. Capsules can be found in pharmacies.

In both cases, it is recommended to follow the treatment for a maximum of one week. Longer than this can cause diarrhea , loss of electrolytes and addiction. It is also worth mentioning that after ingesting this natural remedy, the estimated time for the beginning of its action is 8 to 10 hours. ( 1 , 5 )

Sacred Cascara Tea

Making a decoction is no mystery, just boil 150 ml of water with a spoon (coffee) of dry husks. Once ready, just strain and wait for it to cool. It is recommended to drink half to a cup of tea a day, preferably before bedtime. ( 1 )


It is advised to take up to two capsules a day of this medication, in the middle of the afternoon or before bedtime. And this version of the sacred shell can be purchased without a prescription. ( 5 )


“It should not be used by people with intestinal obstruction, reflux, acute intestinal inflammation (Crohn’s disease), colitis, appendicitis or abdominal pain of unknown origin, patients with a history of intestinal polyps”, advises the Ministry of Health. , pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under 12 should also avoid taking this natural medicine. ( 1 )

Side Effects of the Holy Shell

Adverse effects may arise due to excess of the recommended dose. Even though it is a natural laxative, cascara can cause discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, especially in patients with a chronic problem in the organs of the digestive system.

Other symptoms likely to occur are: change in urine color, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. ( 1 )

Finally, one more precaution when consuming this plant: drug interactions. Laxative herbs, such as this one and senna, can disrupt medications absorbed in the intestine. Therefore, if prescription drugs are used, it is important to consult a doctor before starting treatment with Rhamnus purshiana. 6 )

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.