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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Alder Dogwood, Arrow wood, Bird Cherry, Black Dogwood
(Rhamnus frangula)

CAUTION NOTE: NEVER USE THE FRESH BARK ! Bark must be aged at least one year before it can be safely used. Purgative! Contains anthraquinone glycosides. Large doses are violently purgative and can cause serious internal inflammation. Long term use can deplete body potassium. Any laxative can reduce body energy and should not be used by anyone in a weak or debilitated condition or used repeatedly over a long period of time. Rare cases of death in children from ingesting the berries are reported.

CONTAINS: Anthraquinone glycosides, flavonoids, bitters, tannins, volatile oil, resins. High in calcium, cobalt and Vitamin A.

A small European tree now naturalized in the USA. Has shiny brown bark with pronounced light colored markings called lenticels. Has no thorns. Leaves are alternate, oval, glabrous. Five-part flowers arise from leaf axils in the upper ends of the branches and are small, greenish-white and hermaphrodite. Found in damp woods, hedgerows, marshes. Prefers acid and light sand or peat soils. The five-part calyx distinguishes it from common buckthorn which has four parts and the berries contain two or three seeds as opposed to four seeds in the common.

HARVEST: Inner yellow bark which tastes sweet then bitter. Take in late spring from cut branches. When the bark is scraped, it shows a thin crimson layer lying over the yellow inner bark. The immature berries are green, turning to red, then finally a glossy black. Store bark for one year before using or alternatively heat to 212 degrees. The best bark is from branches three to four years old. The bark should be aged one to two years but loses its effectiveness after three years.

BUCKTHORN (Rhamnus cartharticus): The bark has been considered bitter, cooling, purgative, and diuretic and has been used for constipation and occasionally combined with other herbs to treat intestinal parasites, gallstones, and skin conditions. A yellow dye is produced from the bark and fruits; the dye was once used to color maps. The fruits have been mixed with gum arabic and limewater to produce a green watercolor paint.


NOTE: When using as a diuretic, always combine with a demulcent. If kidney stones are present, they could be released and the demulcent is needed to sooth the urinary tract.

Should be used only for limited periods of time.
Bark and seeds contain purgative anthracene glycosides that act on the large intestine and may be violently laxative as well as irritate the skin and mucous membranes.
Stimulant, carthartic, purgative.
Was used for jaundice and intestinal worms.
Long used as a safe, non-habit forming laxative and diuretic in tea and capsule form.
Used for constipation, liver congestion and to produce sweat for cleansing
Used in decoction mixed with vinegar for head lice and as a local antiseptic. Also used for pubic lice.
Used secondarily as a bitter in digestive problems and as part of worming formulas.
Used for stomach gas (dyspepsia) and to relieve chronic pattern of blockage of bowel associated with menstrual periods and taken in tincture form for several weeks at 5 to 20 drops daily.
Has a stimulating effect on bile. A postive effect on lower bowels, liver and gallbladder.
Also used for appendicitis, bleeding bowels, chronic constipation, dropsy, fevers, gallstones, gout, hemorrhoids, itching, lead poisoning, liver complaints, parasites, rheumatism, skin diseases (by flushing toxins out of the system), external warts (reference: Jethro Kloss, Back to Eden, 1939) and worms.
Used as a blood cleanser for chronic toxic conditions associated with bowel or digestive problems.
Used as a liver tonic and for enlarged liver.
Used for checking pain as well as decay of dental caries. Also used as a mouthwash for gum disease and mouth infections.
Part of the famous Hoxey Cancer Cure. Research has shown some inhibition of P-388 lymphocytic leukemia in mice by its active principle aloe emodin.
A popular remedy in Europe.
Steeping bark in red or white wine reportedly imparts wine with laxative properties.
Used in folk medicine for jaundice by boiling the bark in ale.
Used in ointment form for itching.
Used in fomentation and poultice form.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
It takes 8-14 hours to act to produce a bowel motion. For adults: a wineglass full of decoction before retiring. Also include a ration of 1:1 of fennel or dill seeds. Should be limited to 2 or 3 days use. For sluggish bowel a mild laxative is made with 1 to 2 tsp of bark to 1 pint of water boiled for at least 15 min then allowed to soak for 4 to 6 hours.
TINCTURE = taken twice daily - 0.5 to 1 milliliter at a time.
DECOCTIONS = 1 to 2 tsp boiled in 1 pint of water for 20 min. Leave to soak for 5 to 6 hours. Used for constipation and taken at bedtime.
Combine decoction with vinegar for head lice and to check the pain of toothache and as a mouthwash. OR: 1 oz. of bark (aged 2 to 3 years) boiled in 1 quart of water. Boil down to 1 pint and take in tablespoon doses.
COLD EXTRACT = Steep 1 tsp bark in 1/2 cup cold water for 12 hours. Drink in evening.
SYRUP = Juice of ripe berries is strained and boiled with sugar to make a syrup. A very strong purgative to which great caution should be applied and used in very small doses. Should NOT be administered to very young children or those in debilitated or weak condition. This warning applies even more so to the berries of the Common Buckthorn (R. carthartica)
Dose is 1 or 2 Tbsp for adults or 1/2 tsp for older children.

Bark and leaves yield yellow which was once much used in Russia. Black is achieved with an iron mordant. The unripe berries give green and shades of blue and gray when ripe.

The wood was once used for making charcoal and was once preferred by makers of gunpowder.

It is said that honey produced from these plants is slightly laxative.

©2001 & 2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH