Discovering Herbs: Frangula
Frangula, or Buckthorn, has sometimes been called Purging Buckthorn, which gives you some idea of its traditional use. The purging in question is from the lower rather than the upper part of the body, and centres on the bowel.
Due to the dilatory nature of many people's bowels these days, it is a remedy that has had no opportunity to go out of fashion.
Frangula grows in many countries: Europe, Asia and Africa. The bark is the part used for treating sluggish bowels, but it must be kept for a year after harvesting rather than used fresh, as the fresh bark is rather too effective! The anthraquinone glycoside and tannin content of the dried bark ensures that it produces better bowel movements without causing irritation.
The dried bark can actually calm an irritated gut, as well as encouraging it to move regularly. Many people don't appreciate that a constipated bowel will eventually become an irritated bowel, as old faecal matter adheres to the bowel wall and causes inflammation and irritation. Getting your bowel to move daily will often remove problems such as occasional diarrhoea, general bloating and 'bubbling and boiling' sensations in the lower abdomen that can sometimes be painful.
It is always interesting to the naturopathic practitioner to note just how many ailments benefit from improved bowel function. Conditions such as gallstones and worms may benefit from efficiently moving bowels. Frangula tends to soften faecal matter, thus making bowel movements easier and improving haemorrhoids (piles).
Those suffering from long term constipation may dread bowel movements as faecal matter becomes harder and drier the longer it is retained inside the gut. Frangula, however, is productive of a movement that is easy to pass. It is a mild to moderate laxative, with the 'purging' referred to earlier being of a mild rather than violent type.
Those with chronic constipation may need to use Frangula for a relatively long period of time to re-establish regular bowel movements, but fortunately the herb is quite suitable for long term use.
Traditionally, Frangula bark was used with other herbs in many conditions that required the removal of toxins, such as parasitic infestation and skin conditions.
Anyone wishing to experience the improved health that comes with a regular bowel movement will positively enjoy the benefits of this long-used and extremely practical herb.