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Senna – (Senna alexandrina, Cassia acutifolia)


Senna is a member of the pea family and is native to Eurasia. It has been used for over 3,500 years as a medicinal remedy. The ancient Egyptians used the herb. It is used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is known for doing one thing very well, and that is relieving constipation.


Key Medicinal Uses

Internally – Senna is well known for its laxative properties. This herb flushes impurities and toxins from the body, and it can be very beneficial to those with anal fissures. It can be used to clear and cleans out the bowel before procedures like ultrasounds.

Externally – not used externally

Herbs to Combine/Supplement

Senna is usually the main herb used in herbal laxative mixtures that can be found on the market. Because the herb is so strong, it is best to use commercially prepared remedies.

Parts Used

Leaves, pods – The leaves and pods of the plant are used medicinally.


Do not use senna for more than seven days in a row unless you are under the care of a doctor. This medication should not be used on a daily basis to have a bowel movement. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid. This herb is not safe for children. People suffering from diverticular disease, Crohn's disease, severe hemorrhoids, blood vessel disease, ulcerative colitis, congestive heart failure, other heart disease, abdominal hernia, severe anemia, gastrointestinal cancer, liver or kidney disease or colon surgery should not use. You may notice discolored urine when taking the herbal remedy. This herb may interact with calcium channel blockers.

You may notice the following side effects after prolonged use of this herb: cramping and griping pains due to abdominal muscle contractions, electrolyte imbalance from loss of potassium, loss of body fluids, nausea, rash, weight loss, swelling of the fingertips and dark pigmentation of the colon. If you notice any of these side effects stop using immediately. If you notice bloody diarrhea or prolonged abdominal pain, call your physician.

There have been some studies that suggest a link between senna and liver toxicity.

Preparation and Dosage

Senna leaf is available as tea, tincture, tablets and powder. Some people prefer to use the unprocessed pods to make a tea. The pods have a gentler action than the leaves even though they contain more active compounds. In order to avoid side effects, take the lowest amount that is effective. For most people, a single cup of tea per day is enough to cure constipation. If you are taking a commercial preparation, follow the directions on the label or the instructions you have received from your care provider.

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