What is Senna?

Bronwyn Harris

Senna, or cassia, is an herb that has been used as a laxative for over a thousand years. This herb is also known as India senna, tinnevelly senna, Cassia senna, Khartoum senna, and Alexandrian senna. It contains anthraquinone, which causes intestinal contractions by interacting with bacteria in the digestive track. The leaves and pods of the plant are used for people suffering from constipation.

The senna plant can be used as a laxative.
The senna plant can be used as a laxative.

Found in many commercial laxatives, senna is also found undiluted at health food stores. It is available as a liquid extract, dried pods, or capsules. The recommended dosage is 0.5 teaspoon (about 2.5 ml) of liquid leaf extract or 50 to 100 mg capsules. Dried pods can be brewed into a tea, using three to six for each cup of water. As senna tastes very unpleasant, the tea should be mixed with another flavor.

People suffering from serious digestive issues should not use senna.
People suffering from serious digestive issues should not use senna.

When taken before bed, senna will produce a bowel movement in the morning, 6 to 12 hours later. The herb should be kept kept in a dark dry area, protected from both light and moisture. Anyone taking it should follow the directions on the package carefully.

A side effect of senna may be an increased risk of colon cancer.
A side effect of senna may be an increased risk of colon cancer.

Senna should not be taken for more than a week straight, or a dependency can develop. There are many side effects that may occur from using this herb, including toxicity and increased risk of colon cancer. Diarrhea can also occur, as can pigmentation of the colon, laxative dependency, and enlargement of the ends of the toes and fingers. Senna may also discolor the urine.

The overuse of laxatives may lead to unintentional weight loss.
The overuse of laxatives may lead to unintentional weight loss.

People suffering from Crohn's disease or other serious digestive diseases should not use senna. It should not be used by people with diverticular disease, colitis, congestive heart failure, gastrointestinal cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, or recent colon surgery.

Senna should not be used by people who have kidney disease.
Senna should not be used by people who have kidney disease.

Anyone using herbal supplements should inform his or her regular healthcare provider, as they may interact with other medications. A trained herbalist may be able to offer additional information about herbal supplements.

Senna is used to cause intestinal contractions, which can be painful.
Senna is used to cause intestinal contractions, which can be painful.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon120750

is senna safe with only one kidney?

anon21214

I've been taking senna for six weeks now, about four times the recommended dose.. .how easily can i stop?

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: