Senna - Cassia spp.

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This Senna (Cassia spp.) monograph is an excerpt from the first edition of Dr. Sharol's book "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth." You can purchase the 2020, third edition of this book with an expanded materia medica/monograph section, herbal formulas and directions on making herbal products in Dr. Sharol's Book Store. You receive free shipping in the USA.

Senna - Cassia spp. in the Fabaceae or legume family or Aster family

Part used: Leaves, uncrushed pods: Preparations made without crushing the pods are less griping than those made from the leaf, and are free from the after-astringent action of rhubarb purgatives.

Taste/smell: Bitter, and slightly sweet.

Tendencies: Cooling.

Constituents: Senna contains hydroxyanthracene glycosides known as sennosides A-D, as well as glucorhein -and aglycones rhein, aloe-emodin  and chrysophanic acid. The glycosides in this herb are altered into medicinally active laxatives by bacteria in the colon.

Dosage: Senna fruit is usually given at bedtime as an infusion prepared by soaking 4 to 12 pods in a cupful of water for 12 hours depending on body weight and other indicators. Other ways to take it although not quite as effective are as follow. Decoction: 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of water; or 1:5 dry liquid extract: 20 - 60 drops 1-4 times per day in a little water.

Mental picture and specific indications: Senna is indicated for constipation with lack of muscular action, flatulence, colic and enlarged, tender liver.

Use: (a) Laxative, (b) Cholagogue.

The type of constipation Senna is indicated for, is atonic or flaccid constipation where there is a lack of bowel tone that results in decreased bowel movements. This is often seen after  abdominal surgeries, use of opioids, habitual laxative abuse, and in the elderly.

Senna acts on the large intestine to stimulate peristalsis and increase secretion of water into the large intestinal lumen. It exerts its irritant action chiefly on the large intestine, producing purgation 6 to 10 hours after administration. The administration of senna preparations may cause the urine to acquire a yellow color. It is used for constipation with anal fissures, and hemorrhoids. It is used for constipation after surgical operations, for constipation of the feeble or confined, and in many other cases of inactive bowels.

In one study patients scheduled to undergo bowel surgery received either 120 mg of sennosides in a glass of water or 118 mg of PEG in about 2–3 quarts of water the night before surgery. Surgeons rated the efficacy of senna at clearing the bowels at 70%, compared to 58% efficacy for PEG. Senna was also better tolerated in the presence of stenosis.

The constituent, emodin, has been shown to possess anticancer, antibacterial, diuretic, immunosuppressive and vasorelaxant activities in research with animals.

Contraindications: Do not use this herb for extended periods of time. Chronic use of Senna or other herbs with anthraquinones can cause serious issues. For extensive details on contraindications for these types of herbs, see "Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth".

If you are looking for directions on making teas or tinctures, please see our "Making Herbal Products" page.

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Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.

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