Considered one of the herbal laxatives, senna (Cassia senna or Cassia angustifolia), is a common ingredient in teas as well as capsule and tablet preparations.
Senna leaves contain the active ingredients sennoside A and B, and also small amounts of free anthraquinones. Sennosides are generally cathartic, but can also be purgative (stimulation of peristalsis).
For most people, senna can act as a short-term laxative, for the temporary relief of constipation.
Long-term use of this, or any laxative, is not usually recommended without supervision of a physician. Chronic abuse can lead to a variety of complications such as chronic diarrhea with nutrient loss and excessive electrolyte loss/imbalance. Enlargement of the ends of the fingers and toes and pigmentation of the colon can also occur from overuse.
Although uncommon, allergic reactions to senna have been reported. Stop taking senna and seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives.
Senna is used in the treatment of constipation and acts through stimulation of intestinal peristalsis (contractions). It is important to recognize that constipation is sometimes caused by factors which should be corrected prior to the regular use of a strong cathartic like senna. Short-term use only is recommended without a doctor's supervision, as cathartics can become habit-forming.
When stimulant laxatives such as senna or Cascara sagrada have been used for a long time, stopping the medication may result in severe constipation. You may need to "retrain" your bowels in order for them to function naturally by gradually lowering the nightly dose of senna. This may take longer than a month to accomplish.
Anthraquinone laxatives such as aloe, buckthorn, cascara sagrada, docks, meadow saffron and senna stimulate smooth muscles, including the uterus, possibly causing miscarriage.
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