Cascara used to be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug for constipation. However, over the years, concerns were raised about cascara's safety and effectiveness. The FDA gave manufacturers the chance to submit safety and effectiveness information to answer these concerns. But the companies decided the cost of conducting safety and effectiveness studies would likely be more than the profit they could expect from sales of cascara. So they didn't comply with the request. As a result, the FDA notified manufacturers to remove or reformulate all OTC laxative products containing cascara from the U.S. market by November 5, 2002. Today, you can buy cascara as a "dietary supplement," but not as a drug. "Dietary supplements" don't have to meet the standards that the FDA applies to OTC or prescription drugs.
Cascara is used as a laxative for constipation, as well as a treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, and cancer. Some people use it as a "bitter tonic."
In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.
In manufacturing, cascara is used in the processing of some sunscreens.
There isn't enough information to know if cascara is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: gallstones, liver disease, and cancer.
Possibly Effective for...
Possibly Ineffective for...
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
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