Cascara sagrada: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about cascara sagrada

Rhamnus purshiana is an evergreen tree of the Rhamnaceae family growing to 10 m (32ft) by 6 m (19ft). It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in October. Leaves are borne in an alternate fashion at the ends of the limbs. Leaves are simple and elliptic to oblong in shape. Mature leaves can be up to 6" long. They have 10-15 parallel veins and a pointed tip. During the growing season the leaves are dark green on their upper surfaces and lighter below. Fall foliage can become a very intense yellow, with shades of orange and red possible. In May small green-white flowers appear. Flowers have sepals, petals, and stamens in clusters. Flowers are classified as umbels. Flowers morph to small black berries (drupes). They are obtusely 3-angled, about the size of a large pea, and contain 3 black, shining seeds. Immature berries are red but mature to deep purple to black.

common names & nomenclature
The common name Cascara Sagrada means "sacred bark" in Spanish.

Also known as:
chittim wahoo, sacred bark, cascara sagrada, holy bark, persian bark, puchiana bark, christ's thorn, bear wood, california buckthorn, purchiana bark, chittam bark, cascara buckthorn, cascara, bearberry, chittem, chitticum, frangula purshiana, rhamnus purshianus

Cascara Sagrada, botanical that contains emodin
Cascara sagrada: Where in the World
habitat and range for cascara sagrada

Cascara sagrada is native from northern California to British Columbia and east to the Rocky Mountains in Montana.

Cascara sagrada: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting cascara sagrada

Cascara sagrada is found along stream sides in the mixed deciduous-coniferous forests of valleys, and in moist mountain forests. Cascara is common in the understory of big leaf maple forest, alongside red osier dogwood and red alder. Prefers sun to part shade.

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings.

Sow seeds in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed will require 1 - 2 months cold stratification at about 5° and should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame or outdoor area. Transplant out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Take cuttings of half-ripe wood in July/August, or cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth in Autumn, plant cuttings in a cold frame. Can propagate by layering in early spring.

The bark is collected in the spring or early summer, when it easily peels from the tree. Once stripped from the tree, the bark must be aged for at least 1 year before use.

The dried bark is cut into small pieces or ground into powder. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Cascara bark must be stored for at least a year before use. The fresh herb contains chemicals that can cause violent catharsis and severe intestinal cramps. Drying changes these chemicals and gives the herb a milder action. Fresh bark may also be artificially dried by baking at 250°F for several hours.