Senna is a plant native to Northern Africa, India and China. The pods or leaves of the African and Indian species are used, and the seeds of the Chinese species. There has been a great deal of research into senna, and it is widely considered a very reliable laxative. It has been used for centuries in both Eastern and Western medicine.
Senna is used for occasional or acute constipation. The herb works by increasing the release of water into the colon which stimulates peristalsis and promotes the movement of waste matter. The water also makes the stool softer so that it is removed more easily. It takes 5 to 7 hours to work and most people take it at night for a comfortable bowel movement in the morning.
High doses can produce colicky pains caused by gastrointestinal cramps. If you experience this, the dose should be reduced.
Senna should not be used for more than one or two weeks, especially at high doses, without the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Long-term use can cause excessive loss of electrolytes, including potassium, because these are carried in the water released into the bowel and are then evacuated with the body’s wastes. Electrolyte imbalance, if it becomes severe, may lead to health problems including muscular weakness and cardiac problems. A number of cases have been reported where people used high doses for a year or more and suffered irregular heartbeats and other health problems.
Senna has been used for centuries by millions of individuals. When used in the correct dosage and for short periods of time, side-effects are unlikely to occur. However, allergic reactions and intolerances, are highly unpredictable and can be very distressing. If you experience a reaction, use of the product should cease immediately, and medical assistance should be sought, if the reaction is severe.