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

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

The Buckthorn is native to Europe and the Mediterranean, including North Africa and Northwest Asia. The material is medically usable and comes from wild Eastern Europe and Russia collections.

Buckthorn in herbal medicine

The dried bark of the stems and branches (Frangulae cortex) is used in herbal medicine. The fresh bark has to age before it can be used. This can be achieved by storing for about a year or heat treatment.


Alder buckthorn and its characteristics

The alder buckthorn is a 3-5 m tall shrub or small thornless tree with alternate, ovate, broad leaves.

The shrub’s name refers to the brittle branches: Frangula is derived from the Latin “frangere”, meaning “to break”. The German name Faulbaum is based on the unpleasant smell that the shrub spreads.

The alder buckthorn bears small, inconspicuous flowers that stand in cymes and develop into small fruits. These are green to red when unripe, turning black when ripe.

Drug material: features of the bark

The cut drug material consists of flat or inwardly curved pieces of bark, the outside of which is reddish to grey-brown, shiny or dull. If you carefully scratch the surface, reddish tissue becomes visible.

Inside, the pieces of bark are orange-yellow to brown and show a clear longitudinal furrow.


Buckthorn: smell and taste

Buckthorn bark gives off a peculiar, unpleasant smell. The taste of the bark is slimy-sweet, slightly bitter and astringent.

Alder Buckthorn – Application

Buckthorn bark is used as a laxative for constipation. Experience has also shown that the bark is well suited for illnesses and situations where it is necessary to pass stool easily with soft stools. These can include haemorrhoids, anal fissures or surgical interventions on the rectum or anus.

Buckthorn bark is often combined with antispasmodic plants and bulking drugs.

Alder buckthorn in folk medicine and homeopathy

In folk medicine, buckthorn bark is also used for gallbladder and liver diseases and treating rheumatism, chlorosis, and haemorrhoids.

In homoeopathy, the fresh bark of the stems and branches is used for digestive weaknesses with a tendency to diarrhoea.


Ingredients of Alder Buckthorn

The ingredients are present in the fresh bark, such as anthrone or dianthrone glycosides. Long-term storage or artificial ageing through heat treatment transforms them into oxidized anthraquinone glycosides, primarily into glucofrangulin A and B and frangulin A and B. The bark should have at least 6% hydroxyanthracene derivatives, calculated as glucofrangulin A, to achieve a therapeutic effect.

Buckthorn: Typical indications

Indications for which Buckthorn is typically used are:

  • constipation
  • hemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures

Alder Buckthorn – dosage

The cut or powdered buckthorn bark and the dry extract can be taken in liquid or solid dosage forms and as a tea or cold macerate. Today, the bark is only found in a few tea preparations, including filter bags.

Average daily dose

Unless otherwise prescribed, the average daily dose is 20-30 mg of hydroxy anthracene derivatives, calculated as glucofrangulin A. Individually. However, the lowest dose required for a soft-formed stool should be selected.


Buckthorn: preparation

To prepare a tea from buckthorn bark, pour boiling water over 2 g of the finely chopped bark (1 teaspoon corresponds to about 2.4 g) and strain after 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, buckthorn bark can be mixed with cold water and left to stand at room temperature for about 12 hours. However, taking buckthorn bark as tea is hardly every day today.

When should you not use Buckthorn?

Buckthorn bark should not be used for intestinal obstruction, appendicitis, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s diseaseulcerative colitis and abdominal pain of unknown cause. Children under the age of 12, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should also not take alder buckthorn preparations due to insufficient research and empirical values.


Notes on the use of alder buckthorn

  • Please note that buckthorn bark takes effect after 8-10 hours.
  • Laxatives should be taken for at most 1-2 weeks at a time without medical advice. Prolonged use can increase constipation.
  • Buckthorn bark should not be the remedy of choice for constipation. Before doing so, you should always try eliminating constipation by changing your diet or using bulking agent preparations.
  • Buckthorn bark should be stored dry, cool and protected from light.
  • Fresh bark should be stored or heat-treated for at least a year before use.

Faulbaum – Synonyme

German plant name: Faulbaum

German synonyms of the plant: Alder buckthorn, common alder buckthorn, blackberry, blackbird, yellowwood, crushed Buckthorn, Buckthorn, witch’s thorn, groundwood, powdered wood, spill tree, asparagus tree, pinewood, teakwood, cobbler’s wood, bursting belly, bucks talk, Else tree, stink tree, stinker, stink bush, goutweed, dogberry, inkberry, physic berry, devil berry, rowan berry

Latin plant name: Rhamnus frangula L.

Latin synonyms of the plant: Frangula alnus, Frangula frangula, Frangula vulgaris, Rhamnus korolkowii, Rhamnus nemoralis, Rhamnus pentapetala, Rhamnus sanguine

German drug name: Buckthorn bark

German synonyms of the drug: Yellowwood Bark, Powderwood Bark, Grindwood Bark, Purpose Tree Bark

Latin drug name: Crispy crust

Latin synonyms of the drug: Bark of Frangula, Bark of Rhamno frangula, Bark of Avorn, Bark of Black Alder

English name: Frangula bark, Buckthorn bark, Black alder bark (Droge); Buckthorn, Glossy buckthorn, Alder buckthorn, Berry-bearing Alder, Black Alder, Black aldertree Arrowwood, Black dogwood, Rhamnus frangula (Pflanze)

Plant family Latin: Rhamnaceae

Plant family German: buckthorn family


Buckthorn – effect

Alder buckthorn bark is one of the so-called anthracoid drugs, in which the laxative effect, in contrast to the source drugs, is biochemical and not physical. The free anthraquinones and anthracoid glycosides are broken down by bacteria in the intestine and lead to reduced transport of water into the blood and, at the same time, to an increased secretion of chloride and water into the intestine.

The increase in volume in the bowel stimulates bowel movement and speeds up emptying.

Buckthorn: side effects

When taking buckthorn preparations, spasmodic gastrointestinal complaints can occur in individual cases, which makes it necessary to reduce the dose.

If buckthorn bark is taken too long or in too high a dose, electrolyte disturbances, especially potassium losses, are possible. The loss of potassium can result in cardiac arrhythmia and muscle weakness.

Harmless pigment deposits in the intestinal mucosa can also occur, but these disappear again after the drug is stopped.

Chronic use of alder buckthorn preparations can lead to potassium deficiency and, as a result, cardiac arrhythmia.


Interactions of Buckthorn

Medicines for functional heart problems, such as cardiac glycosides and antiarrhythmics, should, therefore, not be taken together with alder buckthorn preparations, as the effect of the medicine can otherwise be influenced. Combining various diuretics (thiazide diuretics), adrenal cortex steroids, and liquorice root can increase potassium loss.


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