Buckhorn: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Buckthorn: Uses, medicine, Synonyms, Effects, and Side Effects

Buckthorn is native to Europe, North Africa, Pakistan, India and Indonesia. The drug material is imported from wild collections in Russia. The ripe, dried buckthorn berries (Rhamni cathartici fructus) are used medicinally.

Buckthorn: Special features

Buckthorn is a shrub up to 3 m tall with opposite, finely serrated leaves and thorny branches. The small, inconspicuous, yellow-green flowers grow in cymes in the leaf axils.

The plant also has about 6 mm large stone fruits that are shiny black when ripe. Two crossing furrows can be seen at the apex of the fruit, from which the German name of the plant is derived.

Buckhornberries as medicine

Buckthorn berries are about the size of a pea, shiny black and spherical, or somewhat shriveled when dried and the surface sunken. Often the fruits are still hanging on the thin and slightly curved fruit stalk.

Inside the  berries  are four compartments, each containing a hard seed.

The drug does not emit a particularly characteristic odor. The  taste  of buckthorn berries is sweet at first and then turns bitter and slightly pungent.

Buckthorn– application

Buckthorn berries are used as a  laxative  – whenever a particularly soft stool is desired. This can be the case, for example, with haemorrhoids, anal fissures, after operations in the rectal or anal area and in preparation for diagnostic interventions in the gastrointestinal tract.

Furthermore, the drug is also suitable for short-term use in  constipation  (constipation).

Folk medicine and homeopathic use

Folk medicine uses buckthorn berries as a diuretic and blood purifier.

In homeopathy, the fresh, ripe fruits of the buckthorn are used for diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and the supporting and musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, etc.).

Constituents of Buckthorn

Buckthorn berries contain 4-7% anthraquinone glycosides, with glucofrangulin A, frangulaemodin and diacetylglucofrangulin being the main components. The berries also contain 3-4% tannins, flavonoids, pectins, mono- and oligosaccharides and vitamin C.

Buckthorn: For which indication?

Buckthorn berries are used in:

  • constipation
  • constipation
  • constipation

Buckthorn– dosage

Buckthorn berries are primarily consumed in the form of tea. However, there are currently neither ready-made tea preparations nor herbal medicinal products on the market. In Central Europe, extracts from the drug are hardly used anymore.

Buckthorn: the right dose

The average daily dose should not exceed 30 mg of hydroxyanthracene derivatives. This dosage is reached by drinking a cup of the tea with 2 g of buckthorn berries twice a day.

If necessary, one cup can be enough – the correct, individual dosage is the lowest with which you get a softly formed stool.

Preparation of Buckthorn tea

To prepare tea from buckthorn berries, pour boiling water over 4 g of the chopped fruit (1 teaspoon corresponds to about 3.8 g) and strain after 10-15 minutes. One cup of the tea should be drunk in the evening and possibly also in the morning and at noon.

Alternatively, the drug can also be mixed with cold water, boiled for 2-3 minutes and then poured through a tea strainer.

When not to use Buckthorn berries?

Contraindications for taking buckthorn berries are intestinal blockages (ileus), inflammatory bowel diseases such as  ulcerative colitisCrohn’s disease  and appendicitis and abdominal pain of unknown cause.

Due to insufficient toxicological studies, children under the age of 10, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are also advised not to use it.

4 Notes on Using Buckthorn

  • Stimulant  laxatives  should not be taken for more than 1-2 weeks at a time without medical advice.
  • It is only recommended to take it if the  constipation does not improve as a result of a change in diet and the use of bulking agents  .
  • In particular, use in the form of tea is not recommended, since cramp-like symptoms can occur even at low doses.
  • Please keep buckthorn berries in a dry and light-protected place.

Buckthorn– Synonyme

German plant name: Kreuzdorn
German synonyms of the plant: Common buckthorn, real buckthorn, physic buckthorn, physic buckthorn, physic buckthorn, buckthorn, witch’s thorn, stag’s thorn, buckthorn, dye tree, wild berry tree
Latin plant name: Rhamnus catharticus L.
Latin synonyms of the plant: Rhamnus cathartica Linnaeus, Cervispina cathartica, Rhamnus cathartica, Rhamnus wicklia, Rhamnus wikkor, Rhamnus willdenowiana
German drug name: Kreuzdornbeeren
German synonyms of the drug: Blackberries, yellowberries, blackberries, purging berries, buckthorn berries, dye berries
Latin drug name: Rhamni cathartic fruits
Latin synonyms of the drug: Cathartic fruits of Rhamni, Cathartic fruits of Rhamni, Buckthorn berries
English name: Buckthorn, Common buckthorn, European buckthorn, Purging buckthorn, Hart’s thorn
Plant family Latin: Rhamnaceae
Plant family German: buckthorn family


Buckthorn – effect

Buckthorn berries are a typical anthranoid drug. Some of the substances contained are broken down by bacteria in the intestine. The breakdown products lead to reduced absorption of liquid, which means more liquid is transported from the intestine into the blood.

At the same time, the breakdown products increase the secretion of chloride and subsequently water into the intestine. As a result, the intestinal contents are more liquid and the intestinal volume increases, which in turn leads to an increase in intestinal movement and accelerated emptying of the intestine.

Buckthorn: Possible side effects

When taking buckthorn berries, cramp-like symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract can occur, which must result in a dose reduction. Long-term use can lead to  blood in the urine  (hematuria) and loss of electrolytes (especially  potassium ). Potassium losses can result in muscle weakness and cardiac dysfunction such as  cardiac arrhythmias  .

In individual cases, harmless deposits of pigment in the intestinal mucosa (pseudomelanosis coli) were observed, but these regress after the drug is discontinued. Using buckthorn berries for too long can also lead to worsening of constipation.

Interactions with other agents

The potassium losses already mentioned and the corresponding consequences (disorders of the heart function) with chronic use can be increased if various other drugs are taken at the same time. These include various water tablets (thiazide diuretics), adrenal cortex steroids, drugs that increase heart strength (cardiac glycosides), and licorice root preparations.

The effect of antiarrhythmics, i.e. drugs against cardiac arrhythmia, can also be influenced.


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