Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies): People in northern Africa and southwestern Asia have used senna as a laxative for centuries. It was considered a “cleansing” herb because of its cathartic effect. In addition, the leaves were sometimes made into a paste and applied to various skin diseases. Ringworm and acne were both treated in this way.

Medical uses : [1]
 Besides being a laxative, senna is used as a febrifuge, in splenic enlargements, anaemia, typhoid, cholera, biliousness, jaundice, gout, rheumatism, tumours, foul breath and bronchitis, and probably in leprosy. It is employed in the treatment of amoebic dysentery as an anthelmintic and as a mild liver stimulant. Leaves are astringent, bitter, sweet, acrid, thermogenic, catharitic, depurative, liver tonic, anthelmintic, cholagogue, expectorant, ferbifuge. Usefull in constipation, abdominal disordes, leprosy, skin disorders, leucoderma, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, dyspepsia, cough, and bronchitis.

Chemistry and Pharmacology
Pharmacology [2]:
Senna leaves and pods have been shown to have laxative activity. It is usefull in habitual constipation. Pharmacological investigations show that sennosides A and B account for the entire activity of the senna leaves and pods. [3]   Leaves contain glycosides, sennoside A, B, C & D. Two naphthalene glycosides have been isolated from leaves and pods.

Active constituents: Senna contains anthraquinone glycosides known as sennosides. These molecules are converted by the normal bacteria in the colon into rhein-anthrone, which in turn has two effects. It first stimulates colon activity and thus speeds bowel movements. Second, it increases fluid secretion by the colon.[4]

Together, these actions work to get a sluggish colon functional again. Several controlled studies have confirmed the benefit of senna in treating constipation.[5]

Constipation induced by drugs such as the anti-diarrhea medicine loperamide (Imodium®) has also been shown to be improved by senna in a clinical trial.[6]



[1] a The wealth of India, P.I.D., C.S.I.R., New Delhi (CD ROM Version). b Orient Longman, Indian Medical Plants. 1993; 2 : 23.)

[2] a. Grote et al., J Am. Pharm. Assoc. 1951; 40(52);3. b. Fairbairn & Michaels, "Vegetable Purgatives - Part III ")

[3] a. Tanaka, H. et al., Chem. Pharm Bull., 1982; 30 : 5; b. Lemli, J et al., Planta Medica. 1981; 43:11)

[4] Leng-Peschlow E. Dual effect of orally administered sennosides on large intestinal transit and fluid absorption in the rat. J Pharm Pharmacol 1986;38:606–10.)

[5] a.Passmore AP, Davies KW, Flanagan PG, et al. A comparison of Agiolax and Lactulose in elderly patients with chronic constipation. Pharmacol 1993;47(suppl 1):249–52.  b.Kinnunen O, Winblad I, Koistinen P, Salokannel J. Safety and efficacy of a bulk laxative containing senna versus lactulose in the treatment of chronic constipation in geriatric patients. Pharmacol 1993;47(suppl 1):253–5.)

[6] Ewe K, Ueberschaer B, Press AG. Influence of senna, fibre, and fibre+senna on colonic transit in loperamide-induced constipation. Pharmacol 1993;47(suppl 1):242–8

Historical or
traditional use
Chemistry, Isolation
and Constituents
Nutritional Profile Mechanism of Action
Pharmacology &
Manufacture of
Calcium Sennosides
Quality Control Method of Analysis of Assay
Analytical Methods .


(manufacturers of Sennoside, Calcium Sennoside, Senna Extract)
email: mehtaph@sancharnet.in