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Buckthorn

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  • Botanical: Rhamnus cathartica
  • Family: Rhamnaceae
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Buckthorn

Botanical

Rhamnus cathartica

Family

Rhamnaceae

Known as

Buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula, Alder Dogwood, Arrow Wood, Black Dogwood, Purgierkreuzdorn, Echter Kreuzdorn, Amselbeere, Chelgerli, Färberbeere, Hexendorn, Hirschdorn, Kreuzbeere, Purgierdorn, Schyssbeeri, Wegdorn

Old Use

medicinal

Collection Times

October

Parts Used

bark, berries, fruit

Medicinal

bleeding, blood cleansing, circulation, constipation, eczema, gastrointestinal, gout, rheumatism, skin rashes

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bowel cleansing, constipation, digestion, flatulence, gastrointestinal, laxative

Properties

depurative, diuretic, stimulant

Description

Rhamnus cathartica is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing up to 10 m tall, with grey-brown bark and spiny branches. The leaves are elliptic to oval, 2.5–9 cm long and 1.2–3.5 cm broad; they are green, turning yellow in autumn, and are arranged somewhat variably in opposite to subopposite pairs or alternately. The flowers are yellowish-green, with four petals; they are dioecious and insect pollinated. The fruit is a globose black drupe 6–10 mm diameter containing two to four seeds; it is mildly poisonous for people, but readily eaten by birds, which disperse the seeds in their droppings.

Properties & Uses

Both the bark and the fruit of common buckthorn have been used for their purgative effect upon the body, however they can be rather violent in their action and so are rarely used in human medicines. The berries, harvested when fully ripe, are cathartic, depurative, diuretic, laxative and violently purgative. About 8 - 15 of the mature fruits, chewed before breakfast, are a strong and effective laxative for adults, they should not be used by children. An infusion of the not quite mature fruits is gentler in its action. Use with caution, in large doses the fruit can cause vomiting and violent diarrhoea. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Rhamnus cathartica for constipation.


Other Uses

A green dye is obtained from the immature fruit. Mixed with gum arabic and limewater, it makes a green pigment used in watercolour painting. Yellow, orange and brownish dyes can also be obtained. The colours are rich but fugitive. A yellow dye is obtained from the bark. It has been used to colour paper and maps. Often grown as an informal hedge, it is also amenable to trimming. Wood - hard, handsome with a marble-like grain. Used for small turnery.

Cautions

 The fruit is purgative but not seriously poisonous[186]. Other parts of the plant may also be poisonous[10, 19, 76, 186]. Adverse effects: Diarrhoea, weakness. Urine may turn dark yellow or red which is harmless. Possible body potassium loss if used for more than 10 consecutive days

Distribution

Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa and W. Asia.

Constituents

Anthrachinon-Verbindungen, Glykoside, Flavonglykoside

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.