Senna is a plant native to Northern Africa, and both the leaves and the seeds are used in herbal medicine. Known primarily for its purgative properties, senna works as a natural laxative and is often taken in a capsule, pill, granule or tea format. Senna tea and supplements can be found in the herbal section of many grocery stores and also in health food stores.
Eating senna leaf or drinking senna leaf tea will encourage bowel movements. The leaf causes the walls of your large intestine to contract, which will push stools through your system. Because of this ability, senna leaf is helpful in relieving constipation, often leading to bowel movements within six to 12 hours after ingestion. In traditional Chinese medicine, senna leaf removes heat from your colon, helping get rid of waste from old food that has built up there over time. In traditional medicine, senna leaf is not recommended for women who are menstruating, nursing or pregnant.
Senna leaf is a natural anti-inflammatory substance. While this has general health benefits, it also makes senna useful in relieving some symptoms associated with hemorrhoids. Pain when defecating can be because of an obstruction in your rectum, also known as a hemorrhoid, and irritating the rectum can lead to inflammation. A 2012 article in the publication “Natural Product Research” found that rats given a senna leaf extract experienced less inflammation topically and in their intestines.
In 2010, “Pharmacognosy Research” published an article that found senna leaf extract stopped parasite mobility during a cell-line study. The extract was also used to treat parasite infections in rats, and scientists found that parasite levels were significantly lower after a six-day period when the rats were given the extract daily. As well, rats treated with the extract showed signs of improvement in terms of anemia -- low blood iron levels -- and organ damage, both symptoms of the parasite infection. While the results are very promising, more study is needed to determine senna leaf’s anti-parasitical effect on humans.
Precautions With Senna Leaf
While senna is considered generally safe, some precautions are necessary if you're considering this powerful herb. If you suffer from a colon disorder or heart disease, consult with a doctor before taking senna. Senna leaf can also cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting or an upset stomach and can have an adverse effect on certain medications, including diuretics, blood thinners and digoxin. If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor before taking senna leaf in any form.
- Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicines; Jiaju Zhou, Guirong Xie and Xinjian Yan
- Natural Product Research: Anti-Inflammatory, Laxative and Intestinal Motility Effects of Senna Macranthera Leaves
- MedlinePlus: Senna
- Pharmacognosy Research: Senna Occidentalis Leaf Extract Possesses Antitrypanosomal Activity and Ameliorates the Trypanosome-Induced Anemia and Organ Damage