Other names: European Buckthorn, Black Alder, Black Dogwood, Arrow Wood

Scientific name: Rhamnus cathartica (Buckthorn),  Rhamnus frangula

Common names:

Ayurvedic names:

Chinese names: Rhamnus utilis Decne

Bangladesh names:

Arabic names:    النبق المسهل (annabiqu’lmus-hil)

Rain Forest names:

Family: Rhamnaceae

Approximate number of species known:

Common parts used: Leaf, fruit, bark


Annual/Perennial: Perennial

Height: 3 feet

Actions: Cathartic, diuretic, alterative

Known Constituents: Anthraquinones including rhamnocarthin, vitamin C

Constituents Explained:


A relative of Cascara Sagrada (rhamnus purshiana??) safe and strong herb that causes the lower bowel to begin to empty its contents.  It stregnths the peristaltic action, without being addictive.

Its never the fresh bark that should be used in the rhamnus species, it should always be aged for one to two years before being used.  You must ensure that Cascara is ethanol extracted in order to obtain the anthraquinone derivatives that help open peoples bowels.

It is a remedy for appendicitis1 as well as for the stomach.

Externally it has been used to stop itching and to remove warts.1

Traditional Use: 

Clinical Studies:

The anthraquinone profile, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities as well as the total phenol and total flavonoid contents were determined in methanol extracts of the barks of Rhamnus catharticus L. and R. orbiculatus Bornm.

The most abundant anthraquinone derivatives in R. catharticus were physcion (67.8%) and emodin (26.2%), while R. orbiculatus contained mostly physcion (81.3%) and chrysophanol (14.6%). R. catharticus displayed better activity in the beta-carotene-linoleic acid assay, as well as chelating activity, whereas its activity in the reducing power assay was significantly lower than that of R. orbiculatus. 

Both methanol extracts showed antimicrobial activity against all microbial species tested (Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, Microsporum gypseum).

R. catharticus and R. orbiculatus contained several anthranoid aglycones and their bark extracts demonstrated notable antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. The results obtained indicate the medicinal potential of these two species.


Locatelli M, Epifano F, Genovese S, Carlucci G, Koncic MZ, Kosalec I, Kremer D. “Anthraquinone Profile, Antioxidant And Antimicrobial Properties Of Bark Extracts Of Rhamnus Catharticus And R. Orbiculatus.” 2011 September http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21941897

Source material:


Herb Name: Buckthorn

Other names: Highwaythorn. Waythorn. Hartsthorn. Ramsthorn. 

Latin name: Rhamnus

Family: N.O. Rhamnaceae

Common part used: Berries.

Buckthorns, of the genus Rhamnus, comprise a group of over one hundred shrubs and small trees. The plants of this species usually grow between one and ten meters tall, with a few rare species that can even touch fifteen meters. They are found throughout the temperate regions and subtropics of the Northern Hemisphere, as well as in the southern regions of Africa and South America. A few species have spread beyond these regions as well.

The species of this genus can be either evergreen or deciduous – a distinct aspect of these plants being their smooth bark of a dark brown or almost black color, whereas the branches are the color of ash.

The leaves are simple, and from three to fifteen centimeters long, and can be either alternate or opposite. They grow in small bunches, and are usually opposite near the base of the shoots and then grow to be alternate towards the top. The leaves are oval and possess a toothed edge, with the smallest leaves being covered with a sort of down. The veins curve up to the tip of the leaves, while flowers are arranged in closely packed bunches in the axils of densely growing leaves.

The flowers range in shade from almost green to almost yellow, with shades ranging in between the two colors. They are just one fifth of an inch across, and over time develop into round berries that are only slightly bigger, and which turn black and glossy as they ripen. Each berry usually contains four seeds.

There is a woody thorn located on the end of each branch, and this is what originally gave these plants their name.

Most grazing animals eat these plants, but for some reason cows do not. Bees are very fond of the flowers, while some Lepidoptera in the larval stage are known to feed on the plants themselves.

Humans use the berries of these plants in medicine. These are only used after they have ripened. They are collected and pressed, and a pungently smelling juice is extracted from them. The juice is so bitter and foul smelling that it can only be used after adding sugar and aromatic essences. This resulting mixture is the well known syrup of Buckthorn.