Rhamnus Purshiana, De Candolle. The dried bark, collected at least one year before before being used for making medicinal preparations.

Habitat. N. Idaho, west to the Pacific (N. California).

Syn. Casc. Sagr., Rhamnus Purshiana, U.S.P., 1900, Chittem Bark, Sacred-, Persian-, Persiana or Purchiana Bark, Bearberry, Bear (Shittim) Wood; Rhamni Purshiani Cortex.

Rham'nus. L. see etymology, above, of Rhamnaceae.

Pur-shi-a'na. L. of Pursh, after Frederick Pursh (L. Purshia), author of Flora Americae Septentrionalis, 1817.

Cas'ca-ra Sa-gra'da. L. Sp. cascara, bark, + sagrada, sacred -- holy bark -- i.e., so considered by many natives, on account of its medicinal properties.


Small tree, 4.5-6 M. (15-20 degrees) high; twigs pubescent; leaves 5-15 Cm. (2-6') long, 2.5-7.5 Cm. (1-3') wide, thin, elliptic, apex obtuse, base rounded, pubescent beneath, dull green, dentate, petioles short, downy; flowers large umbellate cymes; fruit drupe, black, obovoid, 8 Mm. (1/3') long, 3-lobed, 3-seeded. BARK, usually flattened, transversely curved pieces, occasionally quills, 1-5 Mm. (1/25-1/5') thick; dark brown, brownish-red, longitudinally ridged, grayish or whitish lichen patches, sometimes numerous lenticels, occasionally moss; inner surface longitudinally striate, light yellow, dark reddish-brown, dark brown (old matured bark); fracture short with projections of bast-bundles in inner bark; odor distinct; taste bitter, slightly acrid.


light brown, olive-brown -- broken bast-bundles, crystal-fibers containing calcium oxalate monoclinic prisms; stone cells, more or less adhering; fragments reddish-brown cork; masses of parenchyma and medullary ray cells, red upon addition of alkali; starch grains spheroidal, .003-.008 Mm. (1/8325-1/8125') broad. Tests: 1. Shake .1 Gm. + hot water (10) occasionally until cold, filtrate + ammonia T.S. (10) -- orange-yellow. 2. Macerate .1 Gm. + alcohol (10 drops), boil with water (10 cc.), cool, filter; shake filtrate + ether (10 cc.) -- yellow ethereal layer separates; of this shake 3 cc. + ammonia T.S. 3 cc. -- separated ammoniacal solution + water (20 cc.) -- retains distinct yellowish-red. Solvent: diluted alcohol. Dose, gr. 15-60 (1-4 Gm.).


Barks of allied species: Formerly the smaller quills of R. californica, with medullary rays irregularly curved and grouped; in powder often find R. Frangula, which, owing to absence of stone cells and its longer bast-fibers, may be recognized; to this latter ammonia imparts deeper color.


Obtain bark in the spring from young trunks and large branches, dry carefully; should not be taken from old trunks, as that has different taste and characteristics. The emetic action of green bark is due to a hydrolytic ferment, which is destroyed either by aging or moderately heating (38 degrees C. (100 degrees F.) for 48 hours.


Emodin (non-laxative), isoemodin, resin, tannin 2 p.c., glucose, volatile oil (yellowish-green, odorous), fixed oil (rhamnol arachidate, glycerides of linolic and myristic acids) 2 p.c., rhamnol (alcohol identical with quebrachol), CHO, , hydrolytic ferment (non-griping), syringic acid (not preexisting in the bark, but from a substance of unknown nature by the action of acids), ash 6-8 p.c.  The active principle, undetermined chemically, but possibly a glucosidal derivative, is obtained by precipitating aqueous solution of the alcoholic extract with lead subacetate, treating precipitate with ethyl-acetate, thereby yielding a non-crystalline, sticky mass containing laxative constituent.  The "cascarin" and "purshianin" of previous investigators are regarded now simply as emodin with impurities, these latter constituting the medicinal entity, as purshianin gr. 1/5 (.013 Gm.) is purgative.  The constituents of fresh (1-year) and matured (3-year) bark seem not to differ.


1. Extractum Cascarae Sagradae.  Extract of Cascara Sagrada.  (Syn., Ext. Casc. Sagr., Extract of Rhamnus Purshiana, Powdered Extract of Cascara Sagrade; Br. Extractum Cascarae Sagradae Siccum; Fr. Extrait de Cascara Sagrada; Ger. Amerikanisch Faulbaumrindenextrakt.)


Macerate 3 hours 90 Gm. with boiling water 400 cc., percolate until exhausted (500 cc.), evapurate to dryness, pulverize, add dried starch q.s. 30 Gm. (to preserve powdered condition); mix powders thoroughly, pass through fine sieve and transfer it to small, wide-mouthed bottles and stopper them tightly.  Dose, gr. 2-8 (.13-.5 Gm.).

2. Fluidextractum Cascarae Sagradae.  Fluidextract of Cascara Sagrada.  (Syn., Fldext. Casc. Sagr., Fluidextract of Rhamnus Purshiana; Br. Extractum Cascarae Sagradfae Liquidum; Fr. Extrait fluide de Cascara Sagrada; Ger. Cascara Sagradafluidextrakt.)


Similar to Fluidextractum Glycyrrhizae, page 317; evaporate to 75 cc., cool, add gradually alcohol 25 cc., and, if necessary, water q.s. 100 cc.  Dose, mx-30 (.6-2 cc.).

3. Fluidextractum Cascarae Sagradae Aromaticum.  Aromatic Fluidextract of Cascara Sagrada.  (Syn., Fldext. Casc. Sagr. Arom., Aromatic (tasteless) Fluidextract of Rhamnus Purshiana; Fr. Extrait fluide aromatique de Cascara Sagrada; Ger. Bitterloses Cascara Sagradafluidextrakt.)


Slake lime 6 Gm. with water q.s., mix it with cascara sagrada 100 Gm. + magnesiium oxide 6 Gm. (to remove bitterness), moisten uniformly with boiling water 200 cc., macerate in shallow dish for 48 hours, percolate with boiling water until exhausted, evaporate to 50 cc.; while warm dissolve in it pure extract of glycyrrhiza 4 Gm., cool, add glycerin 20 cc., alcohol 20 cc. in which have been dissolved gluside, .1 Gm., oil of anise .25 cc., oil of cinnamon .02 cc., oil of coriander .01 cc., methyl salicylate .02 cc., and water q.s. 100 cc.  Here the magnesium oxide forms with the bitter principle (acid resin) a magnesium salt, insoluble in the menstruum, while the oxymethylanthraquinone is soluble.  Dose, mx -30 (.6-2 cc.).

Preps.: 1. Elixir Cascarae Sagradae, N.F., 50 p.c. + elix. Glycyrrh. Aq. 50.  2. Elixir Cascarae Sagradae Compositum, N.F., 12.5 p.c., + fldext. senn. 7.5, fldext, jugland, 6.5, elix. arom. q.s. 100.  Dose, each 3j-2 (4-8 cc.).

4. Fluidglyceratum Cascarae Sagradae, N.F., 100 p.c.  Dose, mxv-30 (1-2 cc.).  5. Fluidglyceratum Cascarae Sagradae Aromaticum, N.F., 75 p.c. + fldglycer. glycyrrhiz. 25, lime 2, mag. oxid. pond. 2, +.  Dose, mxv-30 (1-2 cc.).

Unoff. Preps.: Aromatic Syrup of Cascara (Br.), 40 p.c., 3ss-2 (2-8 cc.), Cordial, 3j-2 (4-8 cc.), Tincture, 15 p.c., 3ss-2 (2-8 cc.)


Purgative, tonic, febrifuge, increases secretions of stomach, liver, pancreas; not usually given as a single cathartic, but where frequent repetition is required; it operates in 6-10 hours, and wears well, as generally increased quantities are not needed when habitually used; it regulates action of the bowels, and acts best when given on empty stomach in concentrated form.  Fresh bark nauseates and gripes, owing to a ferment which in time changes so that matured official bark and its preparations should be without these properties.  The purgative action is claimed by some to be due largely to resins, tonic to bitter principle.


Habitual constipation due to torpor of the colon, dyspepsia, hemorrhoids.