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The Senna Herb: A Popular Natural Laxative

By James Paulsson

In late 2002, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration decided to restrict the sale of aloe and cascara products which were being marketed for laxative purposes. After this, senna became the sole surviving class of herbal laxatives being sold on large scale in the U.S. The plant has its origins in the East African region and Middle East, but can also be found in more temperate locations.

Of interest to readers may be the fact that the word senna comes from Arabic and Hebrew words, a fact that is consistent with what’s known about senna’s geophysical origins. Cassia is another common name. The ingredient that is responsible for its anti-constipation properties is the anthraquinone compound. More broadly speaking, anthraquinones have been established to be an active agent in other laxatives.

As one might guess, the application of the senna herb as a constipation treatment goes back hundreds or even thousands of years. Senna was used in its raw, unprocessed form, without the benefit of modern methods in purification of the active compounds. Today it can be found in semi-processed form like tea leaves, or in more processed forms like capsules.

Even though it’s specified as an herbal supplement, consumers would be wise to know the background of manufacturing companies that sell this product. A company with poor quality control can produce a bad batch of senna. But supposing the company has the highest standards, a consumer should continue to be wary as there may be side effects of this natural laxative that is largely unregulated by stringent pharmaceutical laws. Herbal supplements can cause unintended and dangerous effects.

For additional safety, all buyers of senna should be well-informed of the warnings related to taking the senna herb. Medical and scientific studies have indicated that those who have a history of problems with heart disease, and those with hypertensive tendencies may react poorly to senna. The bottom line is that anyone who wants to try a new kind of laxative treatment, whether its natural or not, should ask for information from his personal physician.

Though it originally was taken as an herb, modern day formulations of senna are quite varied. A senna tea is available for people who wish to brew it and drink it. It’s possible that the usage of senna in antiquity was based largely on the tea form. Some nutritional and supplement stores carry it in a tablet or capsule form. The capsules might have other types of minerals or supplements to give it additional bulk and health value such as calcium.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Paulsson, James . "The Senna Herb: A Popular Natural Laxative." The Senna Herb: A Popular Natural Laxative. 2 Jul. 2010. 21 Jul 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Paulsson, J (2010, July 2). The Senna Herb: A Popular Natural Laxative. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Paulsson, James . "The Senna Herb: A Popular Natural Laxative"

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