The buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L., 1753) is a shrub species belonging to the Ramnaceae family.
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, United Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Rosales Order, Rhamnaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Rhamnus and to the Cathartic R. Species.
The term Rhamnus comes from the Greek ῥάμνος rhámnos, name attributed to several shrubs by Theophrastus and other Greek authors.
The specific cathartic epithet is also derived from the Greek καθαρός pure katharòs: which makes it pure, therefore purgative, purgative.
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Buckthorn is a plant native to an area located between Europe and Asia. It is found above all with individuals isolated in hot and fairly dry areas, at the edge of the woods and in thermophilous bushes; rather indifferent to the substratum even if it prefers calcareous, even poor and gravelly soils, tendentially arid, from 0 to 800, maximum 1400 m.
The Rhamnus cathartica is a tree or shrub that grows up to 3–5 m.
The roots are branched and woody and the cylindrical caule.
The branches are quite numerous and opposite and end at the apex with a spine located between the two branches of the last bifurcation and pubescent in their younger part.
The leaves are carried in alternate, opposite and very close together, with lesiniform and deciduous stipules, superiorly grooved pubescent petiole, usually flap along the double of its petiole, ovate or elliptic, obtuse or briefly sharp with slightly crenate serrated margin, pinnate ribs , pubescent on the inferior page, while the superior one is glabrous.
The flowers are grouped in bundles on the axilla of the first 2-3 pairs of leaves of the new branch of the year. These are godici due to abortion, greenish in color, 3–4 mm long with cup-shaped receptacle, with 4 sepals at the edge and 4 1 mm long petals, lanceolate, yellow green, shorter than the calyx, alternate with sepals and barely visible.
From the male flowers to each petal a well-developed stamen is superimposed and the pistil is very small, the females have sterile stamens, the pistil of four carpels joined together and a stylus divided at the top.
The fruits are spherical, quadrilocular drupes, with a diameter of 5-8 mm, with cartilaginous endocarp, black when ripe, of 5-8 mm. Semi one for loggia, ovoids, stingrays, blacks, dorsally furrowed.
The buckthorn can be grown in the ground decorating the environment throughout the year. It does not fear the cold and is also well suited to cultivation in areas with particularly cold winters, requiring few and simple treatments.
Its berries can be used which in ancient times were used as a purge in case of food poisoning or by extracting a yellow dye from its bark.
Uses and Traditions –
The buckthorn, historically, is one of the drugs with cathartic action of ancient popular use. Mattioli mentions it in “I Discorsi” saying that “It produces the black fruit of berries, like that of the privet: which uses the painters, and the illuminators, to make a beautiful green, and others to purge the body; therefore, cooking their juice with sugar in a bed resolves the phlegm et melancholia admirably “.
Both fresh and dried fruits of Rhamnus cathartica contain anthraquinones, ramnoxanthin, ramnoemodine, bitter principles, ramnocatartina, coloring substances (bladder green), chrysoramnine, ramnonigrin, quercitin, glucose, succinic acid, calcium succinate, resin, fatty oil and other substances .
The fruits are used in infusions or syrups for laxative purposes, they also have diuretic effects. Overdose produces side effects such as vomiting, abdominal pain and violent diarrheal discharge. Even the berries contain many of the principles indicated above, but they cause side effects similar to those given by fresh bark.
The very hard wood to work, is used in lathe and cabinet making works; in addition, dyes with yellow shades can be extracted from the bark.
Due to the chemical composition of its active ingredients buckthorn is classified among the anthracene drugs with purgative action. Its action is very energetic, so much so that administered at moderately high doses, this plant determines, as mentioned, frequently vomiting, abdominal pains, repeated diarrheal discharges and more or less severe gastroenteritis.
Among anthracene drugs, the Spino cervino is certainly the least used in therapy and it does not appear that particular pharmacological researches have been carried out on it or on its active ingredients.
Preparation Mode –
The buckthorn, at one time, was used above all as a drastic purgative to obtain an intestinal derivative effect, the purpose for which it is currently preferred the use of diuretics or bloodletting.
However, at therapeutic doses it can be used as a substitute for other drastic purgatives, where the need is recognized or to reinforce the action of purgative drugs with milder action.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and food uses are indicated for informational purposes only, do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is assumed for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.