Alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula L.)

Brittle buckthorn – a plant from the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae) Other names: Alder buckthorn


Shrub or low, up to 3 m, tree with dark bark, with whitish dashes (lenticels), regular non-thorny branches with brown buds covered with thick rusty silky pubescence, but without scales. The leaves are pointed-elliptical, on short fragile petioles, dense, dark green and shiny above, lighter below, entire, with 6-8 pairs of slightly curved parallel veins. The flowers are small, greenish, collected in axillary bunches of 2-7 together. Fruits 1-3, spherical, juicy, shiny, reddening at first, and purple-black when ripe, with 2-3 lenticular smooth stones with a yellow beak-shaped nose. Brittle buckthorn blooms in May-June, bears fruit in August. Buckthorn grows in forests, among shrubs, on slopes and elevated river banks, in flood meadows and on the outskirts of swamps.

Harvesting, description of raw materials:

In medicine, buckthorn bark is used – Cortex Frangulae, which is harvested in early spring during the sap flow; dried in air or in attics. The raw material consists of tubular or grooved pieces of bark, of various lengths, with a thickness of 0.5-2 mm. The outer surface of the bark is smooth, matte, without cracks, dark brown or gray-brown with whitish, transversely elongated lenticels in the form of dashes. On the old bark, the lenticels blur, becoming rounded or shapeless. When scraping off the outer cork layer, a red inner layer is revealed. The inner surface of the bark is smooth, yellowish-orange or reddish-brown, without wood residues. The fracture is smooth, finely bristly. When wetting the inner plane of the cortex with an alkali solution, it turns blood red (reaction to anthraglycosides), with salts of ferric iron staining does not occur. There is no smell, the taste is bitter, unpleasant, when chewing the bark, saliva turns yellow. Other types of bark impurities are easily recognized when scraping off the cork and by reactions to anthraglycosides and tannins.

Contains active substances:

Buckthorn bark contains up to 8% anthraglycosides and their aglucones (anthraquinones). The main glycoside is frangularoside, which, when the bark is lying, is oxidized and cleaved, forming the aglucone glucofrangulin, which subsequently cleaves frangulin, consisting of reumemodin and rhamnose; there are free and bound chrysophanol, traces of tannins. Freshly harvested and dried bark is not used, as it irritates the mucous membranes of the stomach, causing pain, vomiting and nausea, which is due to the content of anthranols, which oxidize during long-term storage of the bark, turning into anthraquinones. Fresh bark does not give or shows a weak reaction to anthraglycosides, but after preliminary treatment with hydrogen peroxide, it takes on a blood-red color from alkali. For the preparation of medicines and products, buckthorn bark is stored for one year or kept in an oven at a temperature of 100 degrees. Celsius for 1 hour, while anthranols are oxidized, turning into anthraquinones.

Medicinal use:

Buckthorn is used in the form of a decoction, liquid or dry extract, the product “Purgenol” (dry extract of buckthorn with psyllium seed powder) as a laxative for chronic constipation. The action begins in 10-12 hours, so they take buckthorn in the morning or in the evening. In folk medicine, as in official medicine, a decoction of buckthorn bark is used as a laxative, for gastritis; fruits infused with vodka are drunk as a laxative; with dysentery, with sugar in stomach disease, stomach ulcers; buckthorn bark is used as a laxative for typhoid fever.

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