Common names: glossy buckthorn or breaking buckthorn


Alder buckthorn belongs to the buckthorn family (Ramnaceae). It is a deciduous, 2-4 m tall shrub or tree with few ramifications. The bark of the branches is matte grey and covered with lenticels. If the bark is slightly scratched, the scratch turns rusty red. The ovate, 3-6 cm long leaves with entire margins are arranged alternately, their surface is crossed by numerous oblique veins. The flowers are small, yellowish-green, clustered in the axil of the leaves. They bloom from May to September. The fleshy fruits are red at the beginning and they turn violet-black after ripening.

The plant is widespread in most parts of Europe. In Central Europe it is found even at altitudes above 1000 m. It is a cold-resistant species avoiding calcareous soils, moist being are a prerequisite. It usually occurs in rare, wet woods, groves and wetlands.


The drug is found in the bark of the buckthorn tree (Frangulae cortex). For medical purposes, branches with a thickness above 2 cm are generally recommended. The bark of thinner branches is useless in this sense. Buckthorn bark can be collected from April to August.

Active substances:

The fresh bark contains antraglycosides, free anthraquinone, flavonoids, and tannins. Anthraquinone, the substance responsible for the plant’s medical properties appears during drying and prolonged storage.


It has a laxative effect, larger amounts are an extremely powerful laxative. Fresh bark may cause nausea or intestinal cramps so it is recommended to use it only dried, after a storage period of at least one year or after heat treatment (at 100 ° C for 60 -120 minutes). Buckthorn bark tea or extract can be used in case of constipation. Buckthorn bark is found in tea blends for liver or bile problems. It not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding since the active substances are excreted into the breast milk and may cause diarrhoea by the babies. It is not recommended for children under 12 years, not even in case of colitis. Too frequent or prolonged use are also to be avoided.

Buckthorn is a toxic plant! I is not recommended for the purposes mentioned in folk medicine, i. e for blood purification or weight loss.