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The bark of this 18 to 25 foot tree has been used in it’s native Europe, Western and Northern Asia and naturalized parts of the eastern United States as a die for fabrics as well it’s effects on peristalsis.* In all cases of it’s use internally it has been used as a dried bark as it has purgative properties if used fresh. The seeds contained in a dark colored berry about ¼ inch in diameter are eaten by birds and it is thought that the purgative properties of the berry assist in the dispersal of the seed to aid in propagation; an example of a possible adaptation the plant has made to insure it’s longevity as a species. The berries have been used historically a bit more than the bark of this species, though the preference among herbalists in North America is to use the aged, dried bark.


The chemicals in aged Buckthorn bark are similar to those in Cascara Sagrada and one of the most researched of those chemicals are the emodin compounds. Emodins are known to be laxative, and have also been researched for their effects on abnormal cell replication.* Buckthorn bark has been recognized traditionally for its digestive tonic and laxative properties.*

Uses of Buckthorn


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Emodins, Catechin, Kaempferol, Rhamninase, Rhamnol

Parts Used

  • Bark

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Brunello, F. The Art of Dyeing in the History of Mankind. AATCC. 1973. pg. 381.

Lin, S.; Chen, H.; Wei, W.; Ye, S.; Liao, W.; Gong, J.; Jiang, Z.; Wang, L.; Lin, S. (2011). Oncology Reports 26 (1): 81-89

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