While there are many species of buckthorn, only the Northwest United States native produces the medicinal properties found in commercial preparations as a gentle, non-habit forming way to relieve constipation. The bark is harvested and sold for use in several forms, teas, pills and liquid extract. It also acts as a bitter digestive tonic that improves liver function.
The bark is so potent that, after harvesting, it must be heated to promote oxidation or stored for one year to weaken it. Buckthorn will then work to cause the stool to better absorb water, gently softening it for elimination with less irritation than some of the other natural laxatives, such as aloe and senna.
The anthraquinone glycosides in buckthorn tea have both laxative and diuretic effects. These substances bind water in the intestines, gently soften the stool and at the same time stimulate intestinal motion. Continued use, however, will cause the body to shed not only water but also potassium, which can lead to a serious deficiency. Buckthorn’s laxative effect also disrupts the absorption of electrolytes. Because of this, buckthorn alone should not be taken for more than a few days in a row. When mixed with other herbs it can be used for one week.
Buckthorn Healing Tea Mixtures And It’s Applications
For dermatitis and eczema this tea blend helps remove toxins from the skin quickly. Combine 1/2 teaspoon buckthorn bark, ½ teaspoon birch leaves and ½ teaspoon of licorice root. Simmer the herbs in 3 cups of water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Drink 2 cups a day for 3 days.
This blend of herbs may reduce back pain associated with constipation. Simmer 1 ½ buckthorn bark in 3 cups of water for about 5 minutes. Take off heat and add 1 teaspoon St. John’s wort flower tops. Steep an additional 10 minutes. Strain and drink 2 cups a day for no more than 1 week.
For a dependable laxative tea, simmer 1 teaspoon burdock root and 1 ½ teaspoon buckthorn bark in 4 cups of water for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon elder flowers and steep again for 10 minutes. Strain and drink 2 cups a day for about a week. This combination of medicinal plants will also aid liver function and help reduce skin problems.
A Word Of Caution
Do not exceed the recommended dosages of buckthorn. If you experience intestinal cramping or diarrhea, discontinue using the tea altogether. Pregnant or nursing women should not drink it either.
Herbal Remedies, Chevallier, Andrew, DK Adult 2007