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Senna plant is a small, perennial, branched under-shrub  that belongs to the legume family Fabaceae. These plants are also collectively called as Cassia plants as they are classified into the tribe Cassieae. The leaves, fruits and flowers of the senna plant have been used as over-the-counter laxative for centuries. This article will discuss the health benefits of senna.
The most commonly used senna plants are C. acutifolia and C. angustifolia which are widely grown in India and Middle East. Senna is available in the form of powder, liquid, tea and tablets.
According to the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), senna fruit is much gentler than senna leaf. They have advised that senna leaf products should not be consumed if a person is suffering from abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Health Benefits Of Senna
1. Treats constipation
Senna leaf is a short-term treatment for constipation which has been approved by the FDA. Senna contains an active agent called sennoside, a derivative of anthroquinones. This anthraquinone compound is a potent laxative that works by irritating the lining of the bowel, causing contractions that lead to smooth bowel movement  .
When senna is taken orally, the bowel movement is produced within 6 to 12 hours.
2. Aids in weight loss
According to the Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies, senna works both as a laxative and stimulant. If senna tea is consumed daily, it reduces appetite without altering any body systems and provides quick relief from bloating that helps in overall weight loss. However, if senna is taken in excess quantities, it may lead to extreme weight loss and hence, it's necessary to know the right dosage  .
3. Cleanses the colon
As senna is laxative in nature, it cleanses the colon to clear the stagnant food accumulated in the stomach. This is mainly done before colonoscopy and usually, senna is taken by mouth for bowel cleansing  . Senna is as effective as castor oil and bisacodyl for bowel preparation.
4. Prevents parasitic infections
Senna has anti-parasitic properties which are effective in the elimination of worms and other parasites in the intestines  ,  . Parasites residing in your stomach soak in all the valuable nutrients from the digested food and don't allow your body to receive enough nutrients. The intake of senna will prevent all types of parasitic growth in the stomach.
5. Cures haemorrhoids
The senna herb is used as a healing medicine for curing haemorrhoids  . Chronic constipation is the main factor for the cause of haemorrhoids also known as piles. The main compound sennoside present in senna act in the lining of the bowel causing a laxative effect and helps to reduce swelling in the anal area.
6. Treats dyspeptic syndrome
Senna can help treat dyspeptic syndrome because it contains natural enzymes that aid in managing bowel movements and restoring the gastric juice secretion in the stomach  . Dyspeptic syndrome is a condition of impaired digestion. The intake of senna supplements will help reduce indigestion and improve overall digestion.
7. Benefits during pregnancy
If senna supplements are taken short-term, it is possibly safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. But, when taken long-term it has side effects such as liver damage and laxative dependence. Little amounts of senna enter the breast milk which isn't harmful to nursing babies, as long as the intake of senna is in limited amounts  .
8. Cures gastrointestinal conditions
Senna contains resveratrol which has anti-inflammatory properties. This compound helps deal with inflammation related to gastrointestinal conditions. In addition, a component called barakol found in senna is used for counteracting aconitine poisoning in the gastrointestinal tract  .
Dosage Of Senna
According to the FDA, the most common doses for children are 8.5 mg per day to cause a single bowel movement, children over 12 and adults are 17.2 mg per day, older adults are 17 mg per day and postpartum pregnancy are 28 mg per day.
Note: Senna should not be used for longer than 2 weeks at a time.
Risks And Complications Of Senna
Higher doses of senna cause liver damage, nerve damage and even coma. People with medical conditions like ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, appendicitis, diarrhoea, dehydration, and heart disease should avoid having senna.
Side Effects Of Senna
- Prolonged use of senna causes severe diarrhoea and mild abdominal discomfort including colic cramps. As a result, it causes weakness, lethargy and giddiness.
- Excessive use of senna causes a reduction in serum globulin concentration, development of cachexia, rectal bleeding, and clubbing of the fingers.
- Senna is a stimulant laxative which decreases potassium levels in the body, causing loss of electrolytes.
- Senna interacts with certain medications like digoxin, warfarin, contraceptive pills and diuretics.
Though, senna has been approved by the FDA, consuming it for more than two weeks causes serious side effects. It is also essential to consult a doctor before having senna.
-  Balasankar, D., Vanilarasu, K., Preetha, P. S., Rajeswari, S., Umadevi, M., & Bhowmik, D. (2013). Senna–A medical miracle plant.Journal of medicinal plants studies,1(3), 41-47.
-  Vilanova-Sanchez, A., Gasior, A. C., Toocheck, N., Weaver, L., Wood, R. J., Reck, C. A., ... & Maloof, T. (2018). Are Senna based laxatives safe when used as long term treatment for constipation in children?.Journal of pediatric surgery,53(4), 722-727.
-  Vradelis, S., Kalaitzakis, E., Sharifi, Y., Buchel, O., Keshav, S., Chapman, R. W., & Braden, B. (2009). Addition of senna improves quality of colonoscopy preparation with magnesium citrate.World journal of gastroenterology,15(14), 1759-1763.
-  Roy, S., Kundu, S., & Lyndem, L. M. (2016). Senna leaf extracts induced Ca+ 2 homeostasis in a zoonotic tapeworm Hymenolepis diminuta.Pharmaceutical biology,54(10), 2353-2357.
-  Ibrahim, M. A., Aliyu, A. B., Sallau, A. B., Bashir, M., Yunusa, I., & Umar, T. S. (2010). Senna occidentalis leaf extract possesses antitrypanosomal activity and ameliorates the trypanosome-induced anemia and organ damage.Pharmacognosy research,2(3), 175-180.