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Buckthorn

Contents:

Common Names | Parts Usually Used | Plant(s) & Culture | Where Found | Medicinal Properties | Biochemical Information
Legends, Myths and Stories | Uses | Formulas or Dosages | Warning | Bibliography

Scientific Names

Buckthorn
  • Rhamnus frangula L.
  • Rhamnus cathartica L.
  • Rhamnaceae
  • Buckthorn family

Common Names

  • Alder buckthorn
  • Alder dogwood
  • Arrow-wood
  • Black alder dogwood
  • Black alder tree
  • Black dogwood
  • European black alder
  • European buckthorn
  • Persian berries
  • Rhamnus cathartica L.
  • Common buckthorn
  • Purging buckthorn
  • Waythorn

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Parts Usually Used

Rhamnus frangula L.
Bark, fruit

Rhamnus cathartica L.
Fruit
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Buckthorn

Rhamnus frangula L.
Buckthorn, a shrub to 20 feet, or a tree to 25 feet; the spreading, thornless branches have green bark when young, turning to brownish-gray when older. The light olive-green leaves are alternate, obovate, slightly toothed or entire, and glabrous. The 5-petaled, green flowers grow in axillary clusters, 2-6 flowers per axil. The fruit is a 3-seeded berry-like drupe that turns from green through red to purplish-black and has a greenish-brown pulp.

Rhamnus cathartica L.
Common buckthorn is a deciduous shrub, up to 12 feet high; its branchlets are usually tipped with sharp spines; and its opposite pairs or elliptic, crenate-serrate leaves grow in opposite pairs on the stems and branches. In May and June, small, greenish or yellowish flowers appear in two-to-five-flowered axillary clusters. The fruit is a black, fleshy berry-like drupe.

Another variety: Cascara sagrada (R. purshiana)
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Where Found

Rhamnus frangula L.
Found in Europe, Asia, and eastern United States; in hedges, thickets, at edges of woods.

Rhamnus cathartica L.
Found in swamps and damp places in northern and northeastern United States, as well as Europe.
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Medicinal Properties

Rhamnus frangula L.
Purgative, diuretic, emetic, vermifuge (fruit is purgative)

Rhamnus cathartica L.
Diuretic, purgative, alterative
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Biochemical Information

Rhamnus cathartica L.
Various glycosides, rhamnoemodine and shesterine in the fruits; the bark contains rhamnicoside
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Buckthorn berries are used as dye for different purposes. Picked unripe, the berries, kept dry, are called Sappe berries; steeped in alum water gives a yellow dye (used by painters, bookbinders to color the edges of books, and leather craftsmen.

Picked when they are black make a green dye if they are bruised and put in a brass or copper kettle for 3-4 days, some alum added and mixture heated a little, then dried.

The third color is purple, made from berries ripened on the vine to maturity, usually until the end of November and are ready to drop off.
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Uses

Rhamnus frangula L.
Good for constipation without irritating the system, with no backlash as other purgatives do. Also used for the liver and gallbladder problems, colic, obesity, dropsy, and hemorrhoids. The bark steeped in red or white wine has laxative properties.

Rhamnus cathartica L.
The dried, ripe berries of the common buckthorn were used as a purgative in the 9th century. The dried berries can be eaten or an infusion made from them has a purgative effect, even for chronic constipation. Taken hot, it induces perspiration and lowers fever. Small doses are mild laxative, helps eliminate toxins, treat gallstones, lead poisoning, gout, rheumatism, dropsy, ointment relieves itching, reduces fever if given hot, expels parasites and worms, skin diseases. The ointment is effective for treating warts. Fresh berries may be made into a syrup.
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Formulas or Dosages

Rhamnus frangula L.
The best bark is from branches that are 3-4 years old. Age the bark for at least a year before use; after 3 years it begins to weaken. Fresh bark should not be used.

Decoction: use 1 tsp. bark with 1/2 cup cold water. Bring to a boil. Drink before going to bed. Use no more than 1/2 oz. of bark per day.

Cold extract: use 1 tsp. bark with 1/2 cup cold water. Let stand for 12 hours. Drink in the evening.

Tincture: a dose is from 5-20 drops.

Rhamnus cathartica L.

Berries: adults take 1/10 to 2/10 oz. dried berries; children take 1/2 as much.

Syrup: boil fresh berry juice with sugar to get a syrupy consistency. Adults take 1 to 2 tbsp; children 1/2 tsp.
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Warning

Rhamnus frangula L.
Buckthorn should not be used during pregnancy.
Fresh bark and unripe fruit can cause symptoms of poisoning. Storage for a year or heating to 212 degrees F. will render the bark safe.

Rhamnus cathartica L.
Excessive doses of the berries can produce poisoning.
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Bibliography

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Herbal Recipes, by David C. Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1978, seventh printing, August 1996

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

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