In medicine, a cathartic is a substance that accelerates defecation. This is in contrast to a laxative, which is a substance that eases defecation, usually by softening feces. It is possible for a substance to be both a laxative and a cathartic. However, agents such as psyllium seed husks increase the bulk of the feces.
Cathartics such as sorbitol, magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, or sodium sulfate were previously used as a form of gastrointestinal decontamination following poisoning via ingestion. They are no longer routinely recommended for poisonings. High-dose cathartics may be an effective means of ridding the lower gastrointestinal tract of toxins; however, they carry a risk of electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Catharsis can be an effect of pesticide poisonings, such as with elemental sulfur.
- Cathartics at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- The MSDS HyperGlossary: Catharsis
- American Academy Of Clinical Toxico; European Association Of Poisons Cen (2004). "Position paper: cathartics". Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology. 42 (3): 243–53. doi:10.1081/CLT-120039801. PMID 15362590.
- Tamara McGregor; et al. (2009). "Evaluation and management of common childhood poisonings". Am Fam Physician. 79 (5): 397–403. PMID 19275069.
- Roberts, James R.; Reigart, J. Routt (2013). "Other Insecticides and Acaracides" (PDF). Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings (6th ed.). Washington DC: Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. p. 93.