Benefits Of Senna (Cassia senna) For Health

Benefits Of Senna (Cassia senna) For Health

Senna (Cassia senna)


Senna (Cassia senna) is known as other names: Alexandrian Senna, Alexandrinische Senna, Casse, Cassia acutifolia, Cassia angustifolia, cassia marilandica, Cassia lanceolata, Cassia senna, Fan Xie Ye, Indian Senna, Khartoum Senna, Sen, Sena Alejandrina, Séné, Séné d'Alexandrie, Séné d'Egypte, Séne d’Inde...

The senna plant is a small shrub belonging to the Caesalpiniaceae family. Incidentally, the senna belongs to two genus of Cassia - C. senna also known as Alexandrina senna, and C. angustifolia that is also called the Tinnevelly senna. While the first variety of senna is found along the Nile River in Egypt and Sudan, the second type is widely cultivated in southern and eastern parts of India. It may be noted here that some experts are of the opinion that both the varieties of senna belong to a single species - Senna Alexandrina. Despite such claims, it may be said that the two varieties of senna differ greatly both according to morphology (structure of the plants) and histology (tissue study). Hence, the theory that senna belongs to one single species is yet to get the pharmacognosists' sanction.

Benefits Of Senna (Cassia senna) For Health
Senna (Cassia senna) Picture

C. senna is imported from Egypt and sold in the market as Alexandrian senna. Basically, the senna is a small shrub that is native to North Africa and grows in abundance all over the region. The shrub normally grows up to a height of three feet and has light green stalks. The plant bears grayish-green colored leaves that are very delicate. In addition, the herb bears oblong shaped pods or fruit cases. The leaves as well as the pods of the plant have therapeutic use.

Senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription laxative. It is used to treat constipation and also to clear the bowel before diagnostic tests such as colonoscopy. Senna is also used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and weight loss.

Senna fruit seems to be gentler than senna leaf. This has led the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) to warn against long-term use of senna leaf, but not senna fruit. The AHPA recommends that senna leaf products be labeled, "Do not use this product if you have abdominal pain or diarrhea. Consult a healthcare provider prior to use if you are pregnant or nursing. Discontinue use in the event of diarrhea or watery stools. Do not exceed recommended dose. Not for long-term use.”


Benefits Of Senna (Cassia senna) For Health


Going by the records, the Arabian physicians were the first to utilize the therapeutic properties of senna in the 9th century A.D. Primarily, the herb has been used to treat constipation and is best to use when you require a soft stool. The best use of senna is in anal fissure or a pathological division in the anus. The herb is also an effective laxative if taken for a limited period.  Chemical analysis of senna has revealed that the herb contains anthraquinone glycosides such as sennosides, aloe-emodin and rhein, flavones, tartaric acid, beta-sitosterol, mucin, essential oils, resin and tannin. Sennosides present in senna aggravate the lining in the large intestines resulting to peristaltic action or the contraction of the intestinal muscles and eventually leading to exodus of the bowels. In addition, albeit for a short term, senna is also useful in preventing the fluid present along with the ingested food to be soaked up by the large intestine and this helps in keeping the stool soft and subsequently alleviating constipation.

Benefits Of Senna (Cassia senna) For Health
Senna (Cassia senna) Picture

Here is another word of caution from the herbalists. If senna is taken as a cathartic or very strong purgative that empties the stomach, it may lead to sudden and intense stomach pains and colic or abdominal pains. Hence, it is advisable to always take senna combined with herbs that are aromatic and help in relieving flatulence or colic by expelling gas. This aids in calming the intestinal muscles.

Only the leaves and the pods of the herb are therapeutically useful. Although the leaves of the senna plant possess high laxative properties, regular use of the substance may lead to a binding effect or some kind of addiction.

Senna (Cassia senna) Special Precautions & Warnings:


Don't use senna for more than two weeks. Longer use can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally and might cause dependence on laxatives. Long-term use can also change the amount or balance of some chemicals in the blood (electrolytes) that can cause heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, and other harmful effects.

Senna can cause diarrhea, which may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. You may experience nausea or vomiting, although these issues are less common. Some people may be allergic to senna leaves.

Gastrointestinal (GI) conditions: Senna should not be used by people with abdominal pain (either diagnosed or undiagnosed), intestinal blockage, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, stomach inflammation, anal prolapse, or hemorrhoids.

Heart disease: Senna can cause electrolyte disturbances and might make heart disease worse.

Consult with your doctor before using senna if you are pregnant or nursing.