Senna Herb - Beneficial Herb for Constipation


Cassia angustifolia (Senna alexandrina) Caesalpiniaceae

The laxative effects if senna were first discovered by Arab physicians in the 10th century. The shrub, whichágrows to about 1m in height, is native to hot, barren regions and is cultivated in India and Pakistan. Its yellow flowersáare followed by flatápapery pods containing six to eight seeds.

Parts used

  • Leaves and pods
  • The leaves are picked before the plant flowers.
  • The pods are harvested in autumn.
  • Leaves and pods are sun-dried.
  • They are used in decoctions, laxative medicines and tablets.


Senna's main laxative components are anthraquinones known as sennosides. The plant also contains flavonoids and mucilage.

Medicinal uses

Senna is a powerful laxative and the main active ingredient in many proprietary brands of constipation remedy. It works by stimulating rhythmic intestinal contractions known as peristalsis, and starts to work about 10 to 12 hours after ingestion. However, do not just rely on laxatives, deal with the cause of the constipation. This usually involves eating high-fibre foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains (for example, wholemeal bread or brown rice), drinking plenty of fluids and taking exercise.

A clinical study conducted in the UK in 1993 found senna to be more effective than the commonly prescribed laxative, lactulose, in treating chronic constipation in elderly individuals.


  • Do not take senna for more than eight to ten days at a time. Excessive or prolonged use can cause severe digestive problems.
  • Repeated use of strong laxatives may aggravate constipation.
  • Do not give senna to children under 12 years of age.
  • Do not take at the same time as drugs that contain anthraquinones.
  • Do not take when pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Consult a doctor before use if taking the heart drug digitalis.
  • Do not take if you have any intestinal blockage or inflammation, or suffer from haemorrhoids.


For internal use

TO TREAT constipation DECOCTION Steep 3-6 pods in 150ml of water for 6-12 hours. Drink one dose a day.
LIQUID EXTRACT (1:1 in 25% alcohol) Take 0.5-1 ml a day. TABLETS (7.5mg sennosides) Take 1-2 tablets at bedtime.
Do not take more than 2 tablets in a 24-hour period.


Senna can be grown from seeds, planted in well-drained soil. It will not tolerate frost, needing a warm location with plenty of sunshine.



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