|Senna Quick Facts|
|Scientific Name:||Senna alexandrina|
|Origin||Africa and middle East|
|Shapes||Horned, broadly oblong, compressed and flat legume about 2 inches long|
|Taste||Mucilaginous, sweetish taste (Leaflets)|
|Health benefits||Boosts Immunity and Treat Constipation|
Senna is a woody perennial, small and stubby shrub that grows about 0.5–1, rarely two meters in height. The plant is found growing in the meadows, fields, pastures, floodplains and areas near the road. The plant prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soil, exposed to direct sunlight or in the partial shade. The plant has branched, pale-green erect stem and long spreading branches bearing four or five pairs of leaves. Pinnate leaves are composed of 10 to 20 oblong, oppositely arranged leaflets. Leaflets vary from 4 to 6 pairs, lanceolate or obovate, unequally oblique at the base, with distinct veins on the lower surface; they are brittle, greyish-green, fully edged, with a sharp top.
Flower & Fruit
Small yellow flowers are arranged in the form of spikes that grow from the axils of leaves or at the end of the branches. Each flower consists of 5 petals and sepals, 10 stamens and one pistil. Flowers are not fragrant. Its fruit is horned, broadly oblong, compressed and flat legume about 2 inches long by 7/8 inch broad and consists of about six seeds.
Senna was first used therapeutically by Arabian physicians during 9th century A.D. The plant derives its name from the Arabic sena and from the Hebrew word cassia, which means “peeled back,” a reference to its peel able bark. It has long been used in traditional Arabic as well as European medicine, primarily as a cathartic. Leaves were made into a tea and administered as a strong laxative. Because it is often difficult to control the concentration of the active ingredients in the tea, an unpredictable effect may be obtained. Thus, standardized commercial dosage forms have been developed, and these concentrates are available as liquids, powders, and nonprescription tablets in over-the-counter laxatives.
Health benefits of Senna
This wonderful herb is quite beneficial for the entire body. Exposure to radiation, environmental pollutants and harsh chemicals badly affect our skin health, leading to several skin ailments. Natural herbs are an effective and inexpensive way to get a glowing skin and keep skin problems at bay. Some of the ways in which senna can benefit our body are as follows.
1. Boosts Immunity
Paste made of Alexandria senna can be applied to the skin to lessen a wide range of skin irritation conditions, including psoriasis, acne, eczema, and pimples. There is an antibacterial element to Alexandria senna which boosts the immune system against these types of conditions.(1)
2. Weight Loss
Senna leaf tea is particularly beneficial for weight loss. Firstly it helps relieve occasional constipation which often occurs in low fiber weight loss diets. Secondly, being a low calorie, flavorful solution, it helps to boost your fluid intake. Drinking more fluids causes you to eat less. Thirdly, it aids in the elimination of toxins and undigested food in the large intestine. This cleansing and detoxification supports proper nutrient absorption and optimal metabolism, resulting in weight loss. (2)
3. Treating Constipation
Eating senna leaf or drinking senna leaf tea will encourage bowel movements. Leaf causes the walls of large intestine to contract, which will push stools through your system. Because of this ability, senna leaf is supportive 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.
4. Treatment of Skin Conditions
Essential oils resin and tannin contained in senna, helps to alleviate skin inflammation. Senna is used in Ayurvedic medicine for this purpose. It is made into a paste, which can be used as a compress to heal ringworms, wounds, and burns.
5. Good for Hemorrhoids
Senna has been found to be effective in the treatment of anal lacerations and hemorrhoids as it helps reduce swelling and facilitates quick healing. Additionally, since it promotes soft stools, it helps cause easy defecation in pathological conditions like anal fissure. This is due to the fact that after oral ingestion, the compounds in senna get absorbed into the intestinal tract, resulting in the separation of non-sugar parts in the colon. These non-sugar components increase the peristaltic movements by irritating and stimulating the intestinal tract. In this way, it speeds up the passage of stools through the intestinal tract.
6. Beneficial for Skin Infections
The anti-bacterial property of senna can help in treating dermatological or skin ailments. The paste made from senna leaves is effective in treating skin infections like acne as well as inflammatory conditions like eczema. Acetone and ethanol present in senna can fight microorganisms that cause acne.
7. Food for Indigestion
Senna has been found to be effective in providing relief from heartburn, nausea, gas, bloating and burping related with dyspepsia. Senna, when taken with aromatic herbs like cardamom, fennel, ginger and peppermint, helps to diminish the buildup of gas in the stomach through its strong purgative actions.
8. Great Colon Cleanser
Senna has been viewed as a “cleansing herb” due to its laxative effects. Senna leaf is used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear away the heat gathered in the large intestine, helping the body get rid of the stagnant food gathered in the stomach. Today, it is extensively used in cleansing the colon before colonoscopy and other types of colon surgery.
9. Strong Hair
Senna can be used topically to get smooth, shiny, and strong hair. You can make a hair pack by mixing senna powder with water and yoghurt. You can also add other ingredients like citrus juice, essential oils herbal teas, spices etc. for greater effect. Apply it on your hair, taking small sections at a time. Allow the paste to enter into the scalp. Cover your head with a plastic bag and allow it to dry. Rinse off after a few hours.
10. Combats Hair Loss
Senna not only enhances your hair but also improves scalp condition and treats dandruff. It adds luster and definition to your hair. Being an excellent conditioning herb, it can fight hair loss as well. It cannot lighten naturally dark hair but will definitely provide deep conditioning. It can be combined with other herbs like Amla and Shikakai for conditioning and other benefits to your hair.
Traditional uses and benefits of Senna
- Modern medicine has used extracts since at least the 1950s as a laxative.
- Leaf paste cures skin diseases.
- Leaf tea is used as a laxative.
- It is used as expectorant, anti-dysenteric and carminative and laxative.
- Useful in treatment of splenomegaly, malaria, jaundice and anaemia.
- It has been used to destroy and expel worms and parasites from the intestinal tract.
- It irritates the bowel to remove constipation.
- It improves skin afflictions such as pimples, acne and beneficial for weight managements.
- It irritates the bowels and intestines to increase the peristaltic movements in the colon.
Ayurvedic health benefits of Senna
- Bad breathe: Soak Senna leaves in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool this decoction and drink 3-4 times a day.
- Bloody Stools: Make a decoction of Ginger and Senna powder. Have it at bedtime.
- Constipation: Take one tbsp of Aniseed and Senna. Boil in one cup of water for 15-20 minutes. Add Jaggery. Have it when warm.
- Constipation: Take one tsp of Senna and one tbsp of Tamarind pulp. Soak overnight. Strain. Add one tbsp of gulkand by putting it in a tight lid container for 3-4 days. Have it in the morning.
- Constipation: Grind Fennel, Ginger and Senna in equal amount. Have it with warm water after dinner.
- Stomach pain: To reduce the cramping effect and stomach pains, you should use a small amount of senna and mix it with other soothing herbs like fennel, orange peel, cinnamon, coriander, anise or ginger. Make yourself a soothing tea.
Method of making Senna Tea
Senna tea can easily be made at home and needs only a small amount of senna leaves for its preparation. Despite being native to the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the senna plant has also been cultivated in the US and other parts of the world. So you can grow your own senna shrub, as it is much easier to access the leaflets to make this tea. Once the leaflets are harvested and dried, they can be used to their full effect.
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried senna leaves
- 2 cups of water (filtered)
- 1/2 teaspoon of honey or sugar, to taste
- Bring the water to a boil in a small pot.
- Add the senna leaves, cover the pot and allow them to steep for 8-10 minutes.
- Strain the mixture into a teacup, or larger pitcher if you’re making a bigger batch.
- Add honey or sugar, if desired, and enjoy!
- If accidentally ingested by infants, it can cause side effects such as severe diaper rash.
- Prolonged use may cause Stomach ache, diarrhea, cramps and burping.
- It may cause vomiting, abnormal color of urine accompanied with blood, may even cause increase of protein in urine.
- Long term use of this herbs leads to discoloration of large intestine. The inner lining of the intestine becomes black.
- It may cause deficiency of potassium in blood.
- Herb may cause softening of bones and may weaken the skeleton system also lead to Arthritis.
- Skin Allergies and rashes can also be experienced as side effects of senna.
- Pregnant, breast feeding and menstruating women should avoid using this herb.
- People with inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal ulcers, and undiagnosed stomach pain must avoid using this.
- Excess consumption of senna tea can be toxic to your liver.
- If you suffer from appendicitis or inflammatory intestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids or ulcers, senna tea is not recommended for you.
- Senna is not recommended for children younger than 2 years of age.