Senna Herb

What is Senna?

Senna is an herb. The leaves and the fruit of the plant are used to make medicine.

Senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription laxative. It is used to treat constipation and also to clear the bowel before diagnostic tests such as colonoscopy.

Senna is also used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and weight loss.

Senna fruit seems to be gentler than senna leaf. This has led the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) to warn against long-term use of senna leaf, but not senna fruit. The AHPA recommends that senna leaf products be labeled, “Do not use this product if you have abdominal pain or diarrhea. Consult a healthcare provider prior to use if you are pregnant or nursing. Discontinue use in the event of diarrhea or watery stools. Do not exceed recommended dose. Not for long-term use.”

Is Senna effective?

Senna is effective as a laxative for constipation.

There isn’t enough information to know if senna is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: hemorrhoids, losing weight, and others.

What Is Senna Tea?

Senna is an herb, and senna tea is made from the leaves of the Cassia senna plant. These plants thrive in tropical areas, though some can grow in more temperate climates.

Senna tea can be slightly sweet, but it has strong bitter undertones. Because of this, people sometimes mix senna tea with green tea or add honey to improve its flavor. It is also not incredibly aromatic.

Senna tea has been marketed as a constipation treatment and a “detox” tea. It’s also often used as a weight loss aid, although this is not recommended.

Thanks to its ability to treat constipation, it’s sometimes used short-term to treat hemorrhoids. However, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of senna for hemorrhoids or weight loss.

Senna is approved by the FDA as a nonprescription laxative. The recommended intake for adults age 12 and older is 17.2 milligrams (mg) per day. Experts caution not to exceed 34.4 mg per day. For constipation in children, 8.5 mg per day is recommended. For constipation following pregnancy, 28 mg divided in 2 doses has been used.

Side effects

Senna tea can cause a number of different immediate side effects. These include:

  • mild abdominal cramps
  • severe diarrhea, especially with long-term usage
  • nausea
  • faintness, which can often happen as a result of diarrhea that leads to water loss

Health benefits

Senna tea is a viable short-term treatment for constipation. Because senna tea can treat constipation, it may also help treat hemorrhoids that occur as a result of chronic constipation, but you should consult your doctor before use.

Senna is also thought to have both anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic properties Trusted Source.

Risks, complications, and interactions

While senna tea seems to be effective as a short-term constipation treatment, it should not be used long-term. The American Herbal Products Association actually recommended that it not be used long-term due to the potential risks.

Long-term senna usage may cause laxative dependence and liver damage.

You should consult your doctor before taking senna if you have:

  • colon disorders
  • heart disease
  • liver disease

Senna tea may also interact with medications like blood thinners and diuretics.

Long-term use of any form of senna may cause an electrolyte disturbance that can exacerbate preexisting heart conditions, including heart disease.

What the research says

While senna tea should only be used as a short-term treatment, the limited number of studies show that it seems to be safe for most people.

One 2009 study published in the Journal of Toxicology Trusted Source found that chronic senna use does not have an impact on the function of the smooth intestinal muscle or the enteric nerves in rats after two years. It also found that there were no carcinogenic effects during that time.

A 2011 study also found that there does not seem to be a link between chronic use of senna and colon cancer. The study recommends treating constipation by first using a bulk-forming agent or (one at a time) a stool softener, and then adding a stimulant like senna.


Senna tea is approved by the FDA as a nonprescription laxative, making it a viable and relatively safe treatment for those struggling with constipation. It is not recommended to use it as a weight loss aid. Instead, aim to lose weight through healthier measures like exercising and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and fibrous carbohydrates.

It’s not recommended to drink senna tea for more than two weeks. It’s best when used on an occasional basis. If drinking senna tea hasn’t helped your constipation, make an appointment with your doctor to decide how to proceed.Advertisement Start a custom weight loss program

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Native to Northern Africa, Senna has been used for hundreds of years — internally as a laxative and internal cleanser, and externally for skin health.* While senna is categorized as a stimulant laxative, it is milder in action than other botanical s used for the same purpose, such as aloe and rhubarb.

What is Senna Used for?

Senna is so effective it is an FDA-permitted monograph ingredient for the treatment of occasional constipation. Clinical trials have shown that Senna increases the frequency of bowel movements and is effective as a laxative for occasional constipation.* It also provides quick relief, working in 8-10 hours. There are several types of laxatives: bulk-forming (which add bulk to stool), hyperthyroidism (which increase the amount of water in the bowels), lubricants (which coat the bowel) and stimulants, which act directly on the intestinal wall. Senna is both a stimulant and hyper-osmotic laxative.* Senna leaf anthropoids have been documented to stimulate peristaltic contractions, helping move waste through the GI tract.* In addition, they increase levels of water and electrolytes in the intestines, softening stool and accelerate colonial transit time, increasing the frequency of bowel movements.

The Health Benefits of Senna Tea

Senna tea is a popular herbal treatment made from the leaves of the senna plant (typically Cassia acutifolia or Cassia angustifolia). The active ingredients are compounds called antineutrinos, which are powerful laxatives.

Senna tea is also used for other indications, including weight loss. There is some evidence linking senna to certain laxative benefits, but investigations involving the tea are lacking.

Health Benefits

While a number of studies have tested the effects of senna in powder or capsule form, very few studies have looked at the potential health benefits of drinking senna tea.

Some proponents suggest that drinking the tea can promote detoxification and weight loss. To date, there is no evidence that senna tea can provide those benefits. Additionally, the use of laxatives isn’t considered a safe way to lose weight or reduce body fat.

Most scientific studies investigating the health benefits of senna focus on its potential for use in the treatment of constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders.


Senna tea is most commonly used for occasional constipation. Researchers have found that the active compounds in senna have a strong laxative effect. They work by irritating the lining of the colon, promoting colon contractions and bowel movements. Senna also prevents water and electrolytes from being reabsorbed from the colon, which increases fluids in the intestines and softens stool.1

However, a large research review published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology did not identify senna as a first course of action in the treatment of constipation. Study authors said that the quality of evidence supporting the use of senna is low. They also cited concerns regarding the fact that doses vary depending on preparation and not enough is known about the safety or efficacy of long-term use.

Senna is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter (OTC) laxative in the United States. A prescription is not required to purchase senna.

Colonoscopy Prep

Senna has been used in conjunction with other agents for colon cleansing prior to undergoing colonoscopy.Colonoscopy is a type of medical procedure widely used in screening for colon cancer. Some evidence supports this use, although much of it dates back to the 1980s and 1990s.2

Other Gastrointestinal Disorders

Senna tea is sometimes used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and bloating. But there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of senna tea or other senna preparations to treat these conditions.

Possible Side Effects

Side effects are generally mild and limited when used for the short-term treatment of constipation. Stomach discomfort, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are the most common side effects.3

If you have Croon’s disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, senna allergy, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal pain, or a condition that causes intestinal obstruction, you shouldn’t take senna tea. If you have any type of heart, liver, or kidney condition, it’s crucial that you consult your doctor before using senna.

Senna may interact with certain drugs and supplements. Taking senna with diuretics, for instance, may cause potassium levels in the body to become too low.

Although in some cases, senna tea may be used for a longer period of time when under medical supervision, longer-term use of senna tea and higher doses have been linked to serious health problems such as liver injury, electrolyte disturbances, and changes in heart rhythms.

In a 2005 report from the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, a 52-year-old woman reported to have ingested one liter of senna tea every day for more than three years and suffered acute liver failure. The report’s authors determined that the patient’s liver damage was likely the result of her excessive intake of senna tea.4

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your health care provider before using senna tea. Some studies have suggested that the use of senna does not increase the incidence of congenital abnormalities, but more

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Senna tea is widely available in health food stores, vitamin shops, and online. Often the tea leaves are combined with other ingredients, so it is important to read product labels before purchasing.

Unfortunately, many tea sellers provide a supplement facts label on the box but it may claim to provide a “proprietary blend.” Specific amounts for each herb contained in the tea are not listed, so you have no way of knowing the specific dose of senna.

Also, there is no standardized dose of senna. When researchers have studied it for the treatment of general constipation, the usual dose is 17.2 mg daily. Scientific studies suggest that you should not take more than 34.4 mg twice daily. In elderly people, 17 mg daily has been used. For constipation following pregnancy, 28 mg in two divided doses has been used.

The challenge with taking senna tea is that, unlike capsules, it is difficult to control the dosage when brewing a cup of tea. Even if the amount of the active compound in each teabag were to be listed, the steeping time would affect the dosage.

Also, the amount of active ingredient varies from product to product, and some senna tea products are combined with other stimulant laxative herbs such as cascara sagrada or rhubarb.

Using an over-the-counter senna drug product with a standardized dose (rather than senna tea) will give you a more precise amount, making it less likely that you’ll get more than the desired dose.

If you’re still considering trying senna tea, keep in mind that it typically starts working within six to 12 hours after taking it. It is often taken prior to going to bed, creating the urge to defecate the next morning.

Finally, not everyone responds to senna tea. If you don’t notice a difference in your stools after taking the recommended amount, don’t increase your intake as it could result in unwanted effects.

Are there other natural treatments for constipation?

If you or someone you know is experiencing constipation, it’s a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider if you haven’t already. There are many causes of constipation, and some can be effectively treated with other measures like adding certain high fiber foods to your diet. In some cases, constipation may signal an underlying condition such as a thyroid disorder. Treating the underlying condition may provide relief from constipation.

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