Report on Buckthorn Side Effects and Usage


Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of cautions that you should be aware of before using Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions.

Warning 1 – Contraindications: People with colitis should not use this herb. Pregnant or nursing women should not use buckthorn bark.

Warning 2 – Antacids: Antacids may decrease the action of buckthorn if taken within 1 hour of the herb.

Warning 3 – Antiarrhythmics: Chronic buckthorn use can cause hypokalemia (abnormally low level of potassium in the blood) and enhances the effect of antiarrhythmics.

Warning 4 – Cardiac glycosides: Chronic buckthorn use can cause hypokalemia (abnormally low level of potassium in the blood) and enhances the effect of cardiac glycosides.

Warning 5 – Corticosteroids: Using buckthorn with corticosteroids can lower potassium level resulting in hypokalemia.

Warning 6 – Diuretics, thiazide: Hypokalemia can result from the use of buckthorn with diuretics.

Warning 7 – Pregnancy and lactation: Not enough is known about the safety of using buckthorn supplements during pregnancy or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid using this herb during those times.

Warning 8 – Surgery: Buckthorn may slow blood clotting. This raises the concern that it might cause bleeding complications during and after surgery. Stop using buckthorn at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Warning 9 – Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs: This herb may increase the clotting time of blood. Using buckthorn with medications that also slow clotting time increases the chances of brusing and bleeding. Some of the drugs that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Used as a natural health remedy: Buckthorn tea, seed and oil is used internally for the following benefits and conditions:

  • Acne
  • Aging
  • Antioxidant
  • Appetite suppressant
  • Arthritis (See other herbs for inflammation)
  • As a supplemental source of vitamins C, A, and E, beta-carotene, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids
  • Asthma
  • Balancing the immune system
  • Burns
  • Cancer
  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Colon cleansing
  • Costipation
  • Cough
  • Cuts
  • Dry eye
  • Dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Energy booster
  • Expectorant for loosening phlegm
  • GERD
  • Gout
  • Heart disorders including chest pain (angina)
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Insomnia
  • Laxative (action can be severe)
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis)
  • Preventing blood vessel disease
  • Reducing illness due to cancer
  • Reducing side effects of chemical cancer treatment (chemotherapy)
  • Slow the decline of thinking skills that occurs with age
  • Slowing the aging process
  • Stomach and intestinal disorders
  • Sunburn
  • Ulcers
  • Vision disorder (night blindness)
  • Wounds

Buckthorn oil is used externally for:

  • Cuts
  • Acne
  • Bedsores
  • Burns
  • Dermatitis
  • Dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Healing wounds
  • Preventing sunburn
  • Protecting mucus membranes
  • Skin color changes after giving birth
  • Skin ulcers
  • Treating radiation damage from x-rays and sunburns

Side Effects of Buckthorn

Buckthorn appears to be safe when consumed as food. Sea buckthorn fruit is used in jams, pies, drinks, and other foods. Sea buckthorn fruit has been safely used in scientific studies lasting up to 90 days. Buckthorn should only be taken in moderate amounts in order to avoid adverse side effects. The known side effects of using Buckthorn include:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Anxiety
  3. Colic
  4. Dehydration symptoms such as thirst
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Nausea
  7. Slow breathing
  8. Trembling
  9. Vomiting

Call your health care provider if you experience any of the above side effects. Other side effects may also occur when using Buckthorn. (See form below)

Buckthorn is also known as Argasse, Argousier, Buckthorn, Chharma, Dhar-Bu, Espino Armarillo, Espino Falso, Finbar, Grisset, Hippophae rhamnoides, Meerdorn, Oblepikha, Purging Thorn, Rokitnik, Sallow Thorn, Sanddorn, Sea Buckhorn, Sceitbezien, Sea-Buckthorn, Seedorn, Star-Bu, and Tindved.

Please note: Buckthorn is listed by the DNR as a restricted noxious weeds in Minnesota. It is illegal to import, sell, or transport buckthorn in Minnesota because they are considered to be one of the most invasive species.

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

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For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

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