The healing power of Alexandrian senna

Alexandrian senna is a plant that naturally occurs in the Middle East, around the Red Sea and in the North-East of Africa. The plant has long been cultivated in other warm regions of the world such as Mexico and Indonesia. The seeds of some cassia species can be eaten, but one should keep in mind that too many of these seeds have a laxative effect. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing Alexandrian senna / Source: Adolphus Ypey, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Naming Alexandrian senna
  • Senna history
  • Active ingredients senna
  • Senna, good for intestinal peristalsis
  • Senna as a diet tea
  • Senna and chronic constipation: pay attention!
  • Senna for eczema?
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Naming Alexandrian senna

The Latin name for this medicinal plant is Cassia Senna or Cassia Augustofolia Vahl . Cassia is the Greek name of the senna plant. Senna is derived from the Arabic word ‘sana’, which means thorny bush. The leaves of Alexandrian senna are very pointed; hence this reference to thorns. There are a number of alternative names for this plant in Dutch: Khartoum senna, Alexander leaves, Tinnevelly senna, Indian senna, Senna, Senne, Sun leaves, Bran leaves, Nerve leaves, Pea tea and Sun shocks.

Senna history

In the 9th century, Arab physicians discovered the laxative effect of senna. This knowledge was then spread to West Asia and East Africa where, just like in the Middle East, the laxative effect of senna was applied. It is a cleansing agent that has also been used to combat acne and ringworm. It took some time for the medicinal properties of senna to penetrate Europe. Senna extract has been used in laxative medicines since the 1950s. This makes senna one of the hundreds of herbs from traditional medicine that have found an application in regular medicine.

Active ingredients senna

The dried leaves are the most active part of the senna plant. The pods are also used. The main active substances in senna are anthracene derivatives such as dianthron glycosides and sennosides. Furthermore, senna contains flavonoids in the form of kaemferol derivatives. It also contains a lot of mucilage. In addition, the leaf contains: sennagrins, naphthol derivatives, glucoside of 6-hydroxymusizine, the polyol pinitol, acid polysaccharides, minerals, phytosterols, tannins, resins and tartaric acid.

Senna, good for intestinal peristalsis

Senna promotes intestinal peristalsis and ensures that the intestine is completely emptied. This effect is based on several effects. In this way, intestinal receptors are stimulated, causing the intestine to exhibit more movement. This shortens the time the feces spend in the intestines. It increases the permeability between the intestinal epithelial cells, making absorbed sodium and water more likely to flow back. By inhibiting sodium absorption, the absorption of water and sodium is inhibited. For these medicinal reasons, senna is used for the following indications:

  • Acute constipation,
  • Medical conditions where soft stools are desirable such as anal fissures, rectal operations and hemorrhoids,
  • Medical conditions where an empty intestine is desired, such as intestinal surgery or X-rays,
  • Chronic constipation.


Pods of Alexandrian senna / Source: AMALAN619, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Senna as a diet tea

There are forms of obesity that cause poor bowel movements. Some companies offer a 10-day treatment for drinking senna tea. Senna tea is said to be suitable for weight loss. It is not advisable to do this treatment for longer than 10 days. You can become ‘dependent’ on senna for good bowel movements.

Senna and chronic constipation: pay attention!

When senna is used for chronic constipation, it is wise to combine it with carminative herbs such as fennel, anise, caraway, ginger, coriander, mint and savory. Furthermore, only low doses should be used for chronic constipation, otherwise painful colic, cramps or diarrhea may occur. If these do occur, the dosage must be further reduced.

Senna for eczema?

Powdered senna leaf with vinegar is a folk medicine for eczema. It is done on the spot where eczema is located.

Consult a herbal therapist

Every person is different. Some natural medicines are better suited to a specific person; This depends on a large number of factors, such as: the use of medication in relation to other conditions, sensitivity to substances and diseases. Therefore, if you want to use senna as a medicinal product, it is wise to consult a herbalist for more information.

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