Buckthorn Benefits, What is Buckthorn

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Buckthorn is the common name for one of several species of shrubs or small trees of the genus Rhamnus that are used for medicinal purposes. The two most common species are R. frangula and R. cathartica.

R. cathartica is also called common or European buckthorn. It was known as a healing herb hundreds of years ago in Anglo-Saxon England, where it was called waythorn, highwaythorn, hartshorn, or ramsthorn. It is also sometimes called purging buckthorn because of its laxative properties. The berries of European buckthorn can be used in healing. The ripe berries of this species are black and the size of a pea.

R. cathartica is a shrubby tree that grows to a height of about 18 ft (6 m). Its twigs are often tipped with small spines, accounting for the "thorn" in its name. Common buckthorn is found throughout Great Britain, continental Europe, and North Africa, where it grows wild in partial

sun along the edges of roads and woodlands. It was introduced into North America as an ornamental landscaping plant, but it has naturalized and become a nuisance plant in much of Canada and the northern United States, where its thick growth crowds out native plants.

R. frangula is shorter, wider, and more shrublike than R. cathartica. It grows in damp soil in Great Britain, continental Europe, and parts of Turkey. It also has been imported into North America. Bark from the trunk and branches of R. frangula is gathered and used in preparing a laxative and a hepatic, or liver medication. R. frangula is also called alder buckthorn, black dogwood, frangula bark, alder dogwood, arrow wood, or Persian berries. It is not related to North American dogwood species.

A third species of healing Rhamnus, R. purshianus, grows in western North America and is called California buckthorn. Its bark also produces a laxative that is milder than those derived from either of the other two species. Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, although it is used in healing and shares a common name with these other species, is not related to the Rhamnus buckthorns, nor is it used in the same ways.

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