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Medicinal Plants, Pacific Northwest

Cascara, BC Coastal Region
Cascara, Photo By Bud Logan

The Cascara tree grows all over the BC coastal region.  People have used it for centuries, primarily to relieve constipation. First peoples used it to relieve the condition and probably passed the knowledge down to Spanish and Mexican priests who arrived in the Americas in the 1800s.

It is still used in herbal medicine for the same purpose, as well as to cleanse the bowels. In modern herbal medicine, it is considered a stimulant laxative and has the potential for abuse.

No one is entirely sure how it relieves constipation and cleanses the bowels but Many people believe the herb may irritate the bowel tissue and draw fluid into the intestines. By drawing this fluid in, it produces a bowel movement.

There is some debate over the proper preparation of cascara for medicinal use. Some people believe you scrape the bark off the tree and dry it for 1 to 2 years. Others believe it is prepared by scraping the bark in the spring or summer, dry it till winter and then let age for 2 years. We think its best to scrape the inner bark when the sap runs, March to October and then dry it for a year. It is available today in capsule, tea or tincture form.

Cascara, BC Coastal Region
Cascara, Photo By Bud Logan

Those who are allergic to any ingredient in cascara preparations should not use it, nor should those with appendicitis, rectal bleeding, a history of stomach or intestinal problems such as blockage, inflammation, Crohns disease, ulcers, severe constipation or bleeding or those who have recently had abdominal surgery.

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