Cascara sagrada is a stimulant laxative. It works by causing muscle contractions in the intestines. These muscle contractions help move stool through the bowels. The bark contains chemicals called anthraquinones that give it its color and its laxative effect.
Cascara sagrada is commonly used by mouth as a laxative for constipation. In foods and beverages, a bitterless extract of cascara sagrada is sometimes used as a flavoring agent. In manufacturing, cascara sagrada is used in the processing of some sunscreen