Senna is a fruticose herb having feathery leaflets appearing like lance. It has straight pods following yellow to light-yellow colored flowers. The leaves and pods of the herb senna are known for their powerful natural laxative effects and the herb has been prescribed in various health ailments since many centuries. It is considered to be one of the strongest herbal bowel regulators that is even safe to use in pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Native to Africa, senna is primarily used for treating acute and short-term constipation.
Family: Senna alexandrina Mill. (Leguminosae)
Synonyms: Alexandrian Senna, Cassia acutifolia Delile, C. angustifolia M. Vahl, C. alexandrina (Garsault) Thell., C. senna L., Indian Senna, Khartoum Senna, Senna acutifolia (Delile) Batka, S. alexandrina Garsault, S. angustifolia (Vahl) Batka, Tinnevelly Senna.
The medicinal functions of senna is largely due to its active components including hydroxyanthracenes, carbohydrates, flavonoids and glycosides with other constituents like saponin, resin, chrysophanic acid and salicylic acid.
Senna, which is already specified under the title of GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), has been approved by the Council of Europe as a natural source of food flavoring. Also, the German Commission E has approved the herb as supportive treatment for constipation.
Benefits of Senna
Senna’s leaves are used in medical science for their cathartic properties and have been prescribed traditionally for restoring sluggish bowel movements that has resulted in mild to moderate constipation. However, it is found that senna’s purgative action is largely due to the action on intestinal bacteria.
Short term and acute constipation (sluggish bowel movements)
The primary use of senna, as said earlier, is to treat acute and short-term constipation as it possesses the property of stimulant laxative. Since the components present in the herb stimulate the bowel movements that result in passing the stools after 6-8 hours, it is better advised to take senna in the late evening. Nevertheless, the herb is prescribed for not longer than two weeks, if the problem still persists, professional medical advice is needed.
The herb of senna is quite popular as chief ingredient in many teas and colon cleansing products prescribed to heal hemorrhoids. Senna contains special components known as sennosides that act on the lining of the bowel causing a laxative effect. Constipation or hard stools is one of the triggering factors for causing and worsening hemorrhoids.
Senna contains natural enzymes that help in regulating the bowel movements and also restoring the gastric juice secretion in stomach. It is therefore, the herb is found effective in treating dyspeptic syndrome. Senna supplements, if used in proper dosage for certain period, have shown potential role in reducing the irritability in intestines by improving overall digestion.
Senna possesses natural anti-inflammatory properties due to its compound called resveratrol and hence is used in various gastrointestinal conditions where inflammation is one of the symptoms. Furthermore, component found in senna called barakol is used for counteracting aconitine poisoning in the gastrointestinal tract.
Senna, in some cases, has been used to empty the stomach and intestines so as to relieve from acidity and constipation. The herb specifically acts on lower bowel alleviating the symptoms of constipation. In addition, various products containing senna as their main ingredient have been prescribed to get rid of abdominal cramps, pains, sprains and discomfort.
Obesity, as Dietary Supplement
In most of the dieter’s tea, the herb of senna is found as primary ingredient. Due to the combination of acting as laxative and stimulant, regular intake of senna tea is found to reduce the appetite without disturbing other body systems. It is also revealed that its quick gastric and intestinal emptying property augments overall therapy of weight loss as food moves through the systems quite earlier than many calories get absorbed. However, this may lead to even dangerous weight loss and hence, before taking senna supplement it is important to fix the dosage and period.
Other Information about Senna
- Suggested dosage for oral administration (adults) is given below:
- Dried pods: 3-6 pods (Alexandrian) or 4-12 pods (Tinnevelly) are steeped in 150 milliliter of lukewarm water for about 6-12 hr; 0.6-0.2 gm.
- Dried leaflets: 0.5-0.2 gm.
- Leaf, Senna liquid Extract: 0.5-2 milliliter
- Senna can cause mild abdominal discomfort including colic cramps. Prolonged or over use of senna product can lead to severe diarrhea that, in turn, results in loss of electrolytes causing weakness, giddiness and lethargy.
- If left untreated, loss of electrolytes especially potassium may result in cardiac problem and muscular weakness. In certain cases, the use of senna has caused atonic non-functioning intestines.
- Excessive use or abuse of Senna has been reported to develop reduced serum globulin concentration and in worse cases, development of cachexia and clubbing of the fingers.