The leaves and pods of the senna plant have been used for their laxative properties for centuries.

What are its health benefits?

Due to a group of naturally-occurring chemicals called anthraquinone glycosides that increase the amount of water in the bowels and stimulate contractions of the muscles in the colon, senna has the following reported benefits:

  • Assists in the management of constipation
  • Aids bowel cleansing before a colonoscopy or surgery
  • Assists in the management of constipation associated with surgery, postpartum (post-childbirth) constipation, constipation from opiate-based painkillers in terminal cancer patients, and chronic constipation in the elderly.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

Senna is usually taken in the evening in the form of tablets, syrups, or prepared solutions like tea prepared from unprocessed senna. In South Africa senna is available as a rooibos tea blend, as well as in pod and leaf form. 

Senna is recommended in dosages of between 0.6 to 2mg, and can be taken by children over the age of 12.

Warnings

When senna is combined with diuretics, corticosteroids or certain cardiac treatments, potassium levels can plummet even further. This may lead to disorders affecting heart function, and also muscle weakness.

Senna is not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It is also not recommended for use by those suffering from:

  • Appendicitis
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Stomach inflammation and related conditions such as colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or Crohn’s disease

Possible side effects

Side effects may include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Gas

In severe cases, senna can cause dehydration, fainting and electrolyte-related conditions like low blood potassium, blood or albumin in the urine.

In order to minimise the side effects of senna, it’s recommended you take the lowest effective dosage.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.
This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in September 2015