Alder Buckthorn - Properties, Uses, Applications and Benefits

Alder Buckthorn - Properties, Uses, Applications and Benefits

The history of alder buckthorn's use around the world is deeply rooted in traditional herbal medicine practices that date back centuries. While its use has varied across cultures and regions, alder buckthorn has been valued for its medicinal properties and, in some cases, its magical or spiritual significance.



In Europe, alder buckthorn has a long history of use in herbal medicine. It was traditionally employed as a remedy for constipation and other digestive ailments due to its laxative properties. In medieval Europe, alder buckthorn was included in herbal remedies and preparations, often recommended by herbalists and healers for its gastrointestinal benefits. The plant's bark, rich in anthraquinones such as emodin and frangulin, was particularly prized for its laxative effects.

 


Similarly, indigenous peoples of North America also utilized alder buckthorn for medicinal purposes. The bark was sometimes used in traditional Native American medicine to treat constipation and promote bowel regularity. While not as widely used as in Europe, alder buckthorn was recognized for its therapeutic properties by various indigenous cultures across North America.

 

 

In addition to its medicinal applications, alder buckthorn holds significance in folklore and magical traditions. It has been associated with protection, purification, and divination in some cultures. Certain magical practitioners believed that alder buckthorn could ward off negative energies, enhance psychic abilities, or aid in spiritual purification rituals. The plant's association with water magic, divination, and psychic insight has led to its inclusion in various magical practices and rituals.

Overall, the history of alder buckthorn's use around the world highlights its longstanding reputation as a medicinal plant with diverse applications in traditional healing systems and spiritual practices. While its popularity as a medicinal herb has declined with the advent of modern pharmaceuticals, alder buckthorn continues to hold cultural significance and is sometimes still used in herbal remedies and alternative medicine practices.

Native to western Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. Alder Buckthorn has been introduced into North America and other regions, where it is often cultivated as an ornamental and is now seen as an invasive species. It is a deciduous tree that grows up to 7 m (30 ft), it has ovoid, smooth leaves that grow in an alternate pattern. It has white blossom which can be seen flowering between May and June. The fruits are pea-sized berries that are first red and black in the fall. The fruits still hang on the bush in winter. The bark of the branches is brown-reddish. and turns black with age. It needs strongly acidic to alkaline soil with plenty of depth for it's deep-rooting, suckering and sparsely branched roots. It prefers sun to half-shade and is happy planted in groups, or as an embankment plant. In some countries, it is illegal to harvest Alder Buckthorn for medicinal use due to its potential toxicity, although Alder buckthorn charcoal is prized in the manufacture of gunpowder, known for its even burn rate.

Alder Buckthorn must be avoided during pregnancy due to it's stimulant laxative effect and potential effects on hydration and potassium. As such, it is also unsafe to pass to baby during breastfeeding, and in fact, must not be used at all by children under the age of twelve.

Taking alder buckthorn by mouth for more than 8-10 days is possibly unsafe. It might cause low potassium, heart problems, stomach problems, muscle weakness, blood in the urine, and other side effects. It should be used for short term only.

Some people get uncomfortable cramps from alder buckthorn. If you experience diarrhoea or watery stools while using alder buckthorn, stop taking it. Some medications can decrease potassium in the body. Alder buckthorn is a type of laxative that might also decrease potassium in the body. Taking alder buckthorn along with some medications such as those for inflammation, diuretics and additional stimulant laxatives might decrease potassium in the body too much. Alder buckthorn can work as a laxative. In some people alder buckthorn can cause diarrhoea. Diarrhoea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin do not to take excessive amounts of alder buckthorn. People with intestinal disorders, including intestinal blockage, appendicitis, Crohn disease, or ulcerative colitis must not take alder buckthorn. Likewise, you should avoid it if you have a bowel obstruction; appendicitis; unexplained stomach pain; or inflammatory conditions of the intestines including Crohn disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Name:  Rhamnus frangula

Pseudo and nick-names: Frangula alnus, Black Dogwood, Glossy Buckthorn, Alder Dogwood, Alderwood, Breaking Buckthorn, Glossy Frangula.
Interesting Facts:
  • There is no actual difference between Frangula alnus and Rhamnus frangula; they represent the same species of plant, commonly known as alder buckthorn. Frangula alnus:is the botanical name used when the plant was classified under the genus Frangula. It is commonly known as alder buckthorn. Rhamnus frangula is the botanical name used when the plant was classified under the genus Rhamnus. It is also commonly known as alder buckthorn. The change in classification occurred due to revisions in botanical taxonomy. In the past, many plants that were placed in the genus Rhamnus were reclassified into the genus Frangula based on genetic and morphological studies. As a result, Frangula alnus and Rhamnus frangula are synonymous terms for the same plant species.
  •  Rhamnus cathartica however, is a different plant and get's its common name of Purging Buckthorn from its spiny stems Don't confuse alder buckthorn with European buckthorn, sea buckthorn, or cascara.
  • In some countries, it is illegal to harvest Alder Buckthorn for medicinal use due to its potential toxicity
  • Alder buckthorn charcoal is prized in the manufacture of gunpowder, known for its even burn rate

Parts used: Bark

Plant descriptive: A deciduous tree that grows up to 7 m (30 ft), it has ovoid, smooth leaves that grow in an alternate pattern. It has white blossom which can be seen flowering between May and June. The fruits are pea-sized berries that are first red and black in the fall. The fruits still hang on the bush in winter. The bark of the branches is brown-reddish. and turns black with age. 

Growing: It needs strongly acidic to alkaline soil with plenty of depth for it's deep-rooting, suckering and sparsely branched roots. It prefers sun to half-shade and is happy planted in groups, or as an embankment plant

Location: Native to western Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. It has been introduced into North America and other regions, where it is often cultivated as an ornamental. 

Harvesting: Bark should be dried for one year before use.

Constituents: anthraquinone glycosides, (emodin and frangulin), tannins, flavonoids, resins,

Energetics and properties: 

  • Cooling
  • Drying
  • Anthelmintic
  • Bitter
  • Stimulant laxative
  • Purgative
  • Cathartic
  • Cholagogue
  • Tonic
  • Astringent
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Mildly antimicrobial

Historical and Traditional Folk Uses - Physical/Environmental

  • Constipation
  • Skin complaints
  • digestive disorders
  • Headaches
  • Poisonings

Historical and Traditional Folk Uses - Emotional/Psychological:

  • Intuition
  • Emotional healing
  • Letting go
  • Insight
  • Awareness
  • Clarity
  • Transformation
  • Mental clutter
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Balance
  • Harmony
  • Peace
  • Centeredness
  • Resilience

Historical and Traditional Folk Uses - Energetic/Spiritual:

  • Protective
  • Simple rituals
  • Water element
  • Cleansing
  • Healing
  • Purification
  • Removal of negative energy
  • Divination
  • Warding
  • Solar Plexus chakra
  • Planets Saturn and Jupiter
  • Moon energy
Typical uses:
  • Tincture: Dried Bark (1:5, 50% alcohol); 0.5 - 2ml night and morning.
  • Decoction: 2-8 ounces, once per day (morning OR evening) - Takes 12 hours to work.
  • Powder or Capsules: 500 - 1,000mg, at bedtime
  • Flower Remedy: As directed

Cautions and Contraindications: Avoid prolonged use. Not to be used where there is griping or pain. Not suitable for children under 12. Toxic if ingested in large quantities and should not be used without medical supervision.

Health conditions: Not suitable in pregnancy or if breastfeeding. Not suitable for those with a weakened constitution. Those with Intestinal disorders, including intestinal blockage, appendicitis, Crohn disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or ulcerative colitis should not take it. Don't take alder buckthorn if you have a bowel obstruction; appendicitis; unexplained stomach pain; or inflammatory conditions of the intestines including Crohn disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Do not use if you have low potassium levels or are at risk of developing them

Surgery: Do not use before or after surgery

Moderate or Severe Medication Interactions: - This list is not exhaustive:

Digoxin (Lanoxin), Corticosteroid anti-inflammatories, Stimulant laxatives, Warfarin (Coumadin) Diuretic drugs.

 

 This medication list is taken from www.hellopharmacist.com and may have changed since this blog was published. It is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a healthcare professional. It does not reflect all of the possible interactions and instead, intends to give a flavour of the importance of checking with professionals prior to the use of herbal remedies.

If you have a diagnosed health condition or are taking any medications, please speak with a qualified herbalist prior to purchase.

 

*This information refers to the plant type in general and not any specific product made from or with it. It is based on folk lore and historical, traditional use only and does not contain scientifically proven health claims. It is for historic informative and entertainment purposes only and should not be interpreted as a suggestion that the products can treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness. They are not a substitute for professional, medical advice. Always see your doctor.*

(Sources: “The Modern Herbal Dispensary” - Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, “The New Holistic Herbal” - David Hoffman,  "Cunningham's Encyclopedia" - Scott Cunningam, tree-guide.com, thewildflowerweb.co.uk, webMD,  hellopharmacist.com)

 

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