Scientific Name/Common Name: Cassia angustifolia / Senna
Part(s) Used: Leaf
Constituents/Active Ingredients: Approximately 3% dianthrone glycosides (sennosides A, A1, B, C, D, E, F, & G); and small amounts of anthraquinones including aloe-emodin and rhein 8-glucoside; approximately 10% mucilage; tannins; and flavonoids.
Overview: The leaves of senna have been used traditionally as a laxative for centuries. The sweetish bitter tea is rich in sennosides and anthraquinone glycosides, including aloe-emodin and rhein (similar to Turkish rhubarb root) and functions as a safe and effective laxative. The German Pharmacopoeia recommends senna leaf against general and acute constipation, for emptying the bowels before X-rays, before and after abdominal operations, and for all disorders in which defecation with a soft stool is desired, e.g. anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and after rectal operations. The active glycosides are hydrolyzed in the gut into their aglycones at least in part by the action of bacterial enzymes; by influencing the water and electrolyte transport in the colon, these aglycones are responsible for the laxative action. Emodin at different concentrations has many therapeutic benefits including: anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiulcer, cathartic, vasorelaxant, and viricidal effects. Anthraquinones also help stimulate cellular regeneration, detoxification, and cleansing. The laxative action can take up to 6-12 hours to take effect. Generally, stimulant laxatives like senna should not be used for more than a week at a time.
Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: Traditionally used in Herbal Medicine as a stimulant laxative for short-term relief of occasional constipation.
Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:
Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
Mills S, Bone K. 2005. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. St. Louis (MO): Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
Wichtl M, editor. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A Handbook for Practice on a Scientific Basis, 3rd edition. Stuttgart (D): Medpharm GmbH Scientific Publishers; 2004.
Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.