A native to northwestern North America, cascara sagrada’s name is derived from the Spanish for “holy bark” in homage to the tree’s medicinal efficacy.
The main active ingredients in cascara sagrada are quinine compounds: most notably two separate types of anthraquinones and four closely related types of cascarosides. These compounds work by irritating the colon and thus triggering stronger and quicker movements in the intestine. A strong bowel movement will theoretically follow soon after. In addition, aloe-emodin seems to relax smooth muscles slightly, making the bowels more sensitive.
It may help in preventing the formation of gallstones, although this has not been fully studied.
Cascara sagrada belongs to the Rhamnaceae family and is also referred to as bearberry, chittem bark, and sacred bark.
American folk lore tells us that good luck in legal matters can be brought about if one wears a mojo bag filled with cascara sagrada and chews on a root of galangal, spitting the juice on the court room floor. Common logic, however, would dictate that spitting on a court room floor is probably not very wise.