Cassia species

Other Names: Tinnevelly Senna, India Senna, Alexandrian Senna, Khartoum Senna

Senna is an Arabian name, and the drug was first brought into use by the Arabian physicians.

Senna is the dried leaf or pod of Alexandria senna and Tinnevelley senna. Tinnevelley senna is most widely used in the United States.

Commercial Senna is prepared for use by garbling, or picking out the leaflets and rejecting the lead-stalks, impurities, and leaves of other plants. Good Senna may be known by the bright, fresh, yellowish-green color, with a faint and peculiar odor rather like green tea, and a sweetish, slightly bitter taste. It should be powdered only as wanted, because the powder absorbs moisture, becomes moldy, and loses its value. Boiling destroys its virtues.

Senna as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

sennaThe medicinal parts are the leaves, fruit and flowers.

Powdered leaf tea has been used for many centuries, both in Eastern and Western traditions, for its laxative qualities.

Senna does one thing, and does it well – relieve constipation. Its leaves and pods contain anthranoids which have specific effects in the intestines.

Senna leaves contain about half as much of the active compounds as the pods, but they are considered safer to use. Senna is less expensive than Cascara Sagrada, but it is a stronger laxative with a greater tendency to cause cramping. The leaves, as well as the anthranoids extracted from them, are still official drugs in U.S. Pharmacopoeia.

The addition of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, or other aromatics are excellent correctives of the negative effects. A teaspoonful of cream of tartar to a teacupful of the decoction of infusion of Senna, is a mild and pleasant laxative.

The infusion of senna, or senna tea, consists of 100 grams of Senna leaves, 5 grams of sliced Ginger, 1,000 millilitres of distilled water, boiling. Infuse in a covered vessel for fifteen minutes, and strain, while hot. The United States Pharmacopoeia prefers coriander to ginger. The cold infusion is said to be less unpleasant in taste, and equal in strength to the hot.

Indian medicine: The herb is used for constipation, liver disease, jaundice, splenomegaly, anemia, and typhoid fever.

Dosage: The average dose for constipation is 20 to 60 mg sennosides. Elderly patients should initially take half of the normal prescribing dose.

Culinary Uses of Senna

Unknown; not recommended.


Senna should not be used for more than a week without a physician’s advice. Longer use can cause dependency on laxatives as the bowels may become chronically sluggish. Some individuals may experience discomfort or cramping after using senna products. Prolonged use can lead to fluid and electrolyte imbalances, such as potassium loss, which can reduce the effectiveness of prescribed heart medications.

Avoid using senna with Licorice root, thiazide diuretics, or steroids because of the potential for potassium loss.

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