Native to Northern Africa, Senna has been used for hundreds of years — internally as a laxative and internal cleanser, and externally for skin health.* 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.
What is Senna Used For?
Senna is so effective it is an FDA-permitted 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.*
Traditional Health Benefits of Senna
Additional Information on this Herb
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%.
1.) Godding EW. Laxatives and the special role of senna. Pharmacology 1988;36:230-6. 2.) Lemli, J. Metabolism of sennosides--an overview. Pharmacology 1988;36 Suppl 1:126-128. 3.) Fabaceae of North America Update, database (version 2011) Updated for ITIS by the Flora of North America Expertise Network, in connection with an update for USDA PLANTS (2007-2010) 4.) 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. 5.) World Health Organization. WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants – volume 1. Folium Sennae. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/26.html
Always take senna with a full (8 oz.) glass of water to protect against fluid loss. Senna can be habit forming, and is for short term or occasional use only. Because senna increases intestinal transit time, it could speed the elimination of pharmaceutical drugs from the body, thus lessening their effects.
- 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.
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