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Herbal Medicine Materia Medica: Senna

David Hoffmann L. BSc (Hons), MNIMH ©


Cassia angustifolia & Cassia senna

Part Used: Dried fruit pods, and leaves.


  • Anthraquinone glycosides: in the leaf; sennosidesA and B based on the aglycones sennidin A & B, sennosides C & D which are glycosides of heterodianthrones of aloe-emodin and rhein. Others include palmidin A, rhein anthrone & aloe-emodin glycosides, some free anthraquinones and some potent, novel compounds of as yet undetermined structure. C. senna usually contains more of the sennosides. In the fruit; sennosides A and B and a closely related glycoside sennoside A1.
  • Naphthalene glycosides; tinnevellin glycoside & 6-hydroxymusizinglycoside
  • Miscellaneous; mucilage, flavonoids, volatile oil, sugars, resins, etc.

Actions: Cathartic.

Indications: Senna is a powerful cathartic used in the treatment of constipation, working through a stimulation of intestinal peristalsis. It is vital to recognize, however, that the constipation is a result of something else and not the initial cause and that this has to be sought and dealt with.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is an "intestinal ganglionic vaso-relaxant. Specific influence upon lower bowel to restrict fluid reabsorption. Excites colicky contractions." They give the following specific indications: to produce rapid catharsis, (tonsillitis, diphtheria, eruptive disease (from constipation), remittent /intermittent fevers, acute hemorrhoids, to ease liver and gall-bladder function)

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