Cascara is used as a laxative for constipation, as well as a treatment for gallstones, liver ailments, and cancer. Some people use it as a “bitter tonic.”
The active laxative components in cascara are anthraquinone derivatives and their glucosides, referred to as cascarosides. They appear to act locally as an irritant to the colon promoting peristalsis and stool evacuation.
In foods and beverages, a bitter less extract of cascara is sometimes used as a flavoring agent.