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What Are the Dangers of Senna Tea?

author image Jessica Bruso
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.
What Are the Dangers of Senna Tea?
Young woman drinking a glass of senna tea. Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you're feeling a bit constipated, you might be considering drinking some tea made from the leaves of the senna plant to help speed along your next bowel movement. While senna tea or senna supplements, which are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as nonprescription laxatives, may be helpful in treating constipation, senna may cause side effects or be dangerous if taken in high doses or by people with certain medical conditions. Check with your doctor to ensure that it is safe for you before using senna tea.

Potential Side Effects

As with other laxatives, senna tea could cause stomach pain, diarrhea and cramps. Should you use senna tea for more than two weeks, your body could become dependent on it, in which case your bowels would no longer function properly, according to MedlinePlus, which notes that such long-term use of senna tea could also cause an electrolyte imbalance due to low potassium levels, muscle weakness, liver damage or heart problems.

Possible Drug Interactions

Don't use senna tea with other laxatives or diuretics, which are sometimes called water pills and cause you to produce more urine, as senna could increase the effects of these medications and lead to dehydration. The stimulant effect of senna tea could also increase the risk of side effects if you use the heart medication digoxin, and using this tea along with the blood thinner coumadin could increase its effects and cause an increased risk of bleeding. This effect is due to the diarrhea sometimes caused by senna decreasing your absorption of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.

Contraindications for Use

Senna tea is considered possibly unsafe for pregnant women, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Although the evidence isn't clear, it may cause gene damage or mutations, and it could stimulate the uterus and bring on contractions, according to Drugs.com. People with heart disease or digestive conditions, such as Crohn's disease, intestinal blockage, ulcerative colitis or hemorrhoids, should also avoid using senna tea, recommends MedlinePlus.

Toxicity Risk

Senna tea can be made with between 0.5 and 2 grams of senna leaves per cup, or 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon. Don't consume senna tea in amounts higher than that recommended on the package, as this could cause toxicity symptoms. Senna toxicity can occur when you consume more than 34.4 milligrams per day of sennosides, the active ingredient in senna, and may cause liver damage, nerve damage or coma, according to MedlinePlus. The exact amount of sennosides you're consuming can be difficult to determine when using tea, so consuming standardized senna supplements may be a better option for reducing your risk of toxicity than drinking senna tea.

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