Turkish rhubarb with botanical name Rheum Palmatum belongs to rhubarb family. The root helps to stimulate activity in various body systems. It is used for at least 2000 years in Chinese traditional and alternative medicine. Rhubarb root was mentioned in Chinese medical text Divine Husbandman’s Classic of Materia Medica nearly two centuries before Christ. The herb is inherent to Western China, Northern Tibet and the Mongolian Plateau which is also cultivated extensively in other parts of the world. Roots are harvested in September-October and only when the plants are at least 6 years old for effectiveness.
Root is a remedy that promotes activity of stomach, bowels and liver by promoting the flow of digestive juices including bile. It is used for treating various health problems such as gastrointestinal problems, cancer, high cholesterol, hypertension, burns and peptic ulcers. As it acts as a purgative, it is found in herbal colon cleansing formulas. It is well known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant activities.
It is rich in various vitamins and minerals containing Vitamin A, Vitamin C and some of the B complex vitamins. Minerals are chlorine, calcium, iodine, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, manganese, sodium, silicon, potassium, zinc and sulfur. The active principles are anthraquinones with purgative properties and bitters as well as tannins with opposite effect.
Blessed thistle is a plant. People use the flowering tops, leaves, and upper stems to make medicine. Blessed thistle was commonly used during the Middle Ages to treat the bubonic plague and as a tonic for monks.
Today, blessed thistle is prepared as a tea and used for loss of appetite and indigestion; and to treat colds, cough, cancer, fever, bacterial infections, and diarrhea. It is also used as a diuretic for increasing urine output, and for promoting the flow of breast milk in new mothers.
Some people soak gauze in blessed thistle and apply it to the skin for treating boils, wounds, and ulcers.
In manufacturing, blessed thistle is used as a flavoring in alcoholic beverages.
Don't confuse blessed thistle with milk thistle (Silybum marianum).
How does it work?
Blessed thistle contains tannins which might help diarrhea, coughs, and inflammation. However, there isn't enough information to know how well blessed thistle might work for many of its uses.
Constipation is said to effect at least 14 percent of the adult world population. This common health concern can be the result of lifestyle choice (such as poor diet) or medication side effects, or it can be related to a medical condition.
Constipation relief is cascara sagrada’s best known possible benefit. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Cascara is generally safe and well tolerated, but can cause adverse events including clinically apparent liver injury when used in high doses for longer than recommended periods … Liver injury from long term cascara use is rare and most cases have been self-limited and rapidly reversible upon stopping the laxative. However, severe cases with acute liver failure and development of ascites and portal hypertension have been described.”
This is exactly why cascara sagrada supplements are typically only considered safe for a one week maximum of usage and recommended dosages should not be exceeded.
Cascara is considered a botanical stimulant laxative and as such it works by causing increased peristalsis (muscle contractions) in the intestines, which helps to move stool through the bowels to produce a bowel movement. Cascara’s ability to act as a laxative is attributed in scientific research to its content of anthraquinone glycosides. Cascara bark also contains resins, tannins and lipids. While senna is said to be a popular choice for constipation relief in the Middle East, cascara is most popular in North America.
2. Cancer -Several studies have been performed to investigate cascara’s possible anticancer ability. A 2002 study published in Life Sciences researched the effects of aloe-emodin, a component of cascara, on two human liver cancer cell lines, Hep G2 and Hep 3B. The researchers found that aloe-emodin inhibited cancer cell proliferation and induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in both cell lines, concluding that aloe-emodin “may be useful in liver cancer prevention.”
In terms of its possible anticancer ability, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center points out, “Laboratory studies show that a compound found in cascara, aloe-emodin, has anticancer activity, but laboratory results are often not transferable to the human body. Clinical trials have not yet been conducted.” (9) So for right now, the possibility for cascara to help fight cancer exists, but has not been confirmed by clinical human studies.
3. Liver Health and Gallstones
In addition to cancer, other possible uses for cascara are often said to include the treatment of gallstones and liver disease, but there are currently limited clinical studies to support these uses.
One animal study published in 2010 did find that cascara’s emodin did appear to help with liver damage. Rat subjects with histological liver damage due to acetaminophen administration experienced some degree of liver protection after emodin therapy in a dose-dependent manner. Specifically, 30 mg/kg and 40 mg/kg doses of emodin effectively reversed toxic liver events caused by the acetaminophen. Some traditional medicine practitioners are known to use cascara sagrada and garlic/castile enemas along with olive oiland lemon juice treatment as part of a gall bladder flush to promote the passage of gallstones.
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