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Senna Leaf, (Senna alexandrina (Alexandrian Senna; syn. Cassia Senna), Whole Bulk
Fabaceae (Legume Family)
The name senna is taken from the plant's Arabic name, sana.
Range of Appearance
Senna is a deciduous shrub, reaching 4 to 6 feet in height, native to tropical Africa, India, the Red Sea region, and North America. The leaves are compound, thin, paired, and light green in color. The hermaphroditic flowers are yellow and have irregular sepals. The pods are flattened but bulge slightly over the seeds. Senna does well in partial shade to full sun. It can tolerate drought but thrives in a moist soil.
Leaf, pod, seed
Cathartic, cholagogue, diuretic, febrifuge, laxative, purgative, stimulant, vermifuge
Senna was introduced into Europe in the eleventh century by the Arabs. It was an official herb in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 until 1882. It has been used as a laxative for over one thousand years. Due to its anthraquinones, senna increases bowel muscle contraction by acting as an irritant. It also increases the amount of water secreted into the lumen of the large intestine and helps to temporarily prevent fluid from being absorbed from the large intestine, thus contributing to softer stools. It also contains emodin, which has antibacterial properties. It is used to treat flatulence, constipation, fever, gout, jaundice, and worms. Topically, senna can be prepared as a poultice made with vinegar to get rid of pimples.
Senna is generally considered too bitter to eat. However, it can be mixed with dried fruits and consumed as a laxative candy.
The bark of tanner's senna (S. auriculata) is used for tanning leather in Africa. In folkloric tradition it is used in love spells.
Calcium, sulfur, flavonoids, mannitol, anthraquinone glycosides (sennaosides, aloe-emodin), betasitosterol, chrysophanic acid, chrysophanol, tartaric acid, essential oil, mucilage, tannin, resin
Avoid senna during pregnancy, while nursing, and in children under twelve. Avoid in cases of colitis or conditions of inflammation of the digestive tract. Do not use in conjunction with cardiac glycoside pharmaceuticals, except under the guidance of a qualified health-care practitioner. The seeds have a gentler effect than the leaves and are more appropriate for the young, the elderly, and those prone to stomach cramps. To prevent gripe, combine senna with carminative herbs such as cinnamon, cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, ginger, or peppermint. Overuse may cause laxative dependency, so do not use senna for more than ten days in a row. Large doses or overuse can cause bloody diarrhea, intestinal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and nephritis. Long-term use can cause dehydration and can deplete the body of electrolytes, including potassium, worsening constipation and weakening the muscles. Senna may cause the urine to become reddish, which is no need for concern.
Plant details were provided by iPlant by Brigitte Mars.
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