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Herb Reference Guide

Senna

History

Native to Northern Africa, Senna has been used for hundreds of years - internally as a laxative and internal cleanser, and externally for skin healing.* While senna is categorized as a stimulant laxative, it is milder in action than other botanicals used for the same purpose, such as aloe and rhubarb.

Function

Senna is so effective it is an FDA-approved monograph ingredient for the treatment of occasional constipation. Clinical trials have shown that Senna increases the frequency of bowel movements and is effective as a laxative for occasional constipation.* It also provides quick relief, working in 8-10 hours. There are several types of laxatives: bulk-forming (which add bulk to stool), hyperosmotics (which increase the amount of water in the bowels), lubricants (which coat the bowel) and stimulants, which act directly on the intestinal wall. Senna is both a stimulant and hyperosmotic laxative.* Senna leaf anthranoids have been documented to stimulate peristaltic contractions, helping move waste through the GI tract.* In addition, they increase levels of water and electrolytes in the intestines, softening stool and accelerate colonic transit time, increasing the frequency of bowel movements.*

Uses of Senna

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Senna contains anthranoid chemicals such as anthraquinones, anthrones and dianthrones. The active constituents are considered to be sennosides (derivatives of anthraquinones), particularly sennosides A and B, which are present at a concentration of at least 2.5%.

Parts Used

Important precautions

Always take senna with a full (8 oz.) glass of water to protect against fluid loss. Stimulant laxatives such as senna are best used for occasional, rather than chronic, constipation. Senna may cause cramping in some individuals; however, using it in combination with fennel seed should reduce this effect. Because senna increases intestinal transit time, it could speed the elimination of pharmaceutical drugs from the body, thus lessening their effects.

Additional Resources

Marlett JA, et al. Am J Gastroenterol. 1987 Apr;82(4):333-7.

Shelton MG. S Afr Med J. 1980 Jan 19;57(3):78-80.

Agra Y, et al. J Pain Symptom Manage. 1998 Jan;15(1):1-7.

World Health Organization. WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants ľ volume 1. Folium Sennae. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/26.html