It is a tree of the Rhamnaceae family that grows wild in the Pacific coast of America, from the North of the United States to Colombia. The dried bark from the trunk and branches of this tree is commonly used. It contains hydroxanthracenic derivatives (anthraquinone derivatives), where cascarosides A and B, aloin and free hydroxyanthracenes (crisofanol, aloe-emodin, emodol) predominate. It contains tannins, minerals and bitter compounds, as well. Hydroxyanthracene derivatives have a marked laxative effect.
These compounds act as pro-drugs, since they are not absorbed at the level of the intestine, only acting after hydrolysis by glucosidases of the intestinal flora, mainly at the level of the colon with oxidation in antrones. The main mechanisms of action are: release or increase of the synthesis of histamine and other mediators (prostaglandins) capable of increasing the contraction of the smooth muscle of the intestine; Inactivation of the Na + / K + – ATPase pump and inhibition of chlorine channels, leading to a decrease in water reabsorption, a proven effect for other anthracene compounds.
Buckthorn is traditionally used in occasional constipation, as a purgative for intestinal cleansing.
Cunha AP, Silva AP, Roque OR (2012). Plantas e Produtos Vegetais em Fitoterapia, 4ª Edição, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian Serviço de Educação e Bolsas, 204-205.
Cunha AP, Roque OR (2011). Plantas Medicinais da Farmacopeia Portuguesa, 2ª Edição, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian Serviço de Educação e Bolsas, 196-200.
Physicians Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines (2000), 2nd Edition, Thomson Medical Economics, 153-156.