The bark of the thorny buckthorn shrub is used to make various herbal preparations, including tea. Its berries go into the manufacturing of dyes and syrups.
Like aloe, this herb contains powerful laxative chemicals called anthraquinones which is why herbalists sometimes recommend it for chronic constipation.
Buckthorn is not a gentle laxative! It can cause severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dangerously low blood pressure, and kidney damage (with prolonged use).
A 1989 article published in American Family Physician related a case study in which an eighty-year-old woman, appearing disoriented and confused, was seen for a second time in the emergency room. Her symptoms included diarrhea and orthostatic hypotension abnormally low blood pressure that leads to dizziness or fainting upon getting up from a seated position. After she was given fluids, the woman's condition improved. It turned out that she drank a lot of buckthorn tea a habit her physician advised against. This herb is risky; there's no rational reason to use it therapeutically.
Burdock has been used since ancient times as a healing remedy. Today, its leaves and seeds are formulated into herbal preparations.
Burdock contains chemicals considered to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, tumor-protective, and diuretic. None of these claims has been verified scientifically.
Burdock appears to be safe, although it may interfere with the absorption of iron and other minerals.
Capsicum (Cayenne Pepper, Red Pepper)
Capsicum is the red pepper with which you spice your foods. It contains a number of active chemicals and is available as a condiment, in powder form, and as a cream applied topically to relieve joint pain.
Capsicum is added to natural weight-loss products because it is believed to stimulate the metabolism by creating heat. You've probably noticed this yourself. After you eat hot, spicy foods, your body heats up. When body heat rises, so does metabolism, and more calories are burned. At least one study has measured the metabolic rates of people who ate capsicum with meals. When a teaspoon of red-pepper sauce and a teaspoon of mustard were added to meals, metabolic rates rose by as much as 25 percent.
There is little other evidence to prove capsicum's effect on weight loss. But it has many other health benefits attributed to the pain-relieving chemicals it contains. One is capsaicin, which triggers the release of endorphins and is found in topical creams recommended to ease arthritis pain. Capsaicin also inhibits substance P, which is believed to help transmit pain signals to and from the brain. Capsicum also contains aspirin-like chemicals called salicylates.
Capsicum is safe when used in very small amounts to spice foods, as a filler in supplements, or as a topical ointment to relieve joint pain.
Cascara sagrada is a stimulant found in some natural weight-loss supplements and over-the-counter laxatives.
It forces water from the body, creating the illusion of weight loss. Watery, explosive diarrhea is often the result.
Long-term use could cause dependence and heart problems, due to depletion of electrolytes from the body. Electrolytes are minerals that help control vital functions such as heart rhythm. Cascara sagrada is considered slightly dangerous and should be used with extreme caution, if at all.