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Senna Herb - Uses And Side Effects

Other Names : Aden senna, Cassia acutifolia, Cassia augustifolia, Cassia senna, Mecca senna, nubian senna, and tinnevally senna.


A well-known ingredient in many nonprescription laxatives, senna is the dried leaf or pod of Alexandria senna and Tinnevelley senna. Both species have recently been referred to by botanists as Senna alexandrina. They are members of the pea family native to Eurasia, now cultivated commercially in the Middle East and India. Tinnevelley senna is most widely used in the United States.

The ancient Egyptian doctors used senna over 3500 years ago for their royal patients and the elite. It was also used by the Arabian physicians as far back 9th century A.D. After being introduced to Europe during the Crusades, its popularity as an herbal remedy exploded. While available as single product, senna is often combined with a variety of aromatic herbs.

Products containing senna are sold under such names as Senekot, Senexon, Senokot-S, Senolax, and Senna Leaves.

Common doses of Senna

Senna comes as:

  • tablets ( 187 milligrams)
  • capsules (10, 25, and 470 milligrams)
  • syrup (which also contains coriander)
  • tea
  • granules
  • suppositories
  • fluid extract.

Some experts recommend the following doses:

  • For constipation in an adult, 2 tablets taken orally at bed time (a maximum of 8 tablets daily).
  • For constipation in a child weighing more than 60 pounds, 1 tablet taken orally at bedtime (a maximum of 4 tablets daily).

To make a tea or an infusion, place 100 grams of senna leaves and 5 grams of sliced ginger or coriander in I liter of distilled boiling water.

Uses of Senna herb

Senna contains hydroxyanthracene glycosides known as sennosides. These glycosides stimulate colon activity and thus have a laxative effect. Also, these glycosides increase fluid secretion by the colon, with the effect of softening the stool and increasing its bulk. Specifically, senna may help to :-

  • Burns
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Intestinal worm infections
  • Psoriasis (scaly, raised skin patches)
  • Skin eruptions
  • To induce bowel movements
  • Tumors

Side effects of Senna

Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of senna:

  • diarrhea
  • intestinal cramps or gripping pains
  • rash
  • severe weight loss.

This herb also can cause:

  • finger clubbing (rounded swelling of the fingertips and nails)
  • fluid and chemical imbalances
  • jaw tightness.

Are there any interactions?

Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don't use senna while taking:

  • heart drugs called calcium channel blockers, such as Calan and Procardia
  • Indocin.

Important points to remember

  • Don't use senna if you have an inflammatory condition of the digestive tract, hemorrhoids, or a prolapsed rectum.
  • Don't use this herb to force a daily bowel movement.
  • If you take senna to relieve constipation, help it work by drinking more fluids and eating more fiber-rich foods, such as whole-grain breads, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Stop taking senna as soon as your constipation clears up. Don't take it or any other stimulant laxative longer than 1 week.
  • Stop using senna if you experience intense abdominal pains or nausea.
  • Remember that senna supplements differ in potency.
  • Know that senna may discolor your urine.

What the research shows

Senna seems to be safe and effective in treating constipation, but overuse can lead to many harmful effects. Medical experts say you should use it only occasionally and only for short periods.

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