Senna, a plant that bears yellow, white and pink flowers, belongs to the legume family known as Fabaceae. This herb is native to some parts of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. However, it is mostly found in the temperate regions of Asian countries like China and India.
The senna plant has proven to be a powerful laxative because of the presence of compounds called anthraquinones. Most parts of the plant contain medicinal value and for many centuries, senna has been used in herbal medicine. Although in recent years, the herb has been considered unsafe for regular use, its leaves are still considered potent herbal laxative. The pods also contain laxative properties but they are not as effective as the leaves.
Senna is available in the form of undiluted dried root, liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and tea bags.
Health Benefits of Senna Plant
Senna possesses beneficial properties which can take care of various health conditions. Now, let’s take a closer look at the incredible health benefits of the senna plant.
Aids in Weight Loss
Senna’s ability to stimulate weight loss is attributed to its strong laxative effects. Senna leaf tea is particularly helpful for relieving constipation which is often caused by weight loss diets that are low in fiber.
It is common knowledge that drinking more fluids makes you eat less. And as a low-calorie herb, senna also helps to boost a person’s fluid intake.
In addition, senna aids in the removal of undigested food and toxins in the large intestine. This detoxification process improves the absorption of nutrients and boosts metabolism, leading to significant weight loss.
Senna has proven to be beneficial for relieving nausea, heartburn, belching, and bloating—all linked with dyspepsia. When consumed with aromatic herbs like ginger, fennel, peppermint, and cardamom, the herb can reduce the accumulation of gas in the stomach via its potent purgative effects.
Also, the laxative properties of the senna plant have been found to be beneficial in the treatment of worms in the colon and stomach.
According to some studies, senna is effective in the treatment of hemorrhoids and anal lacerations as it helps diminish swelling and encourages quick recovery. Since it can soften stools, the herb helps to ease bowel movements during pathological issues like an anal fissure. This is possible because, after oral ingestion, the compounds present in senna get absorbed into the intestinal tract, leading to the separation of non-sugar components in the colon. These non-sugar parts help boost peristaltic movements by stimulating the gastrointestinal tract. By doing this, it hastens the passage of stools out of the intestinal tract.
Possesses Antibacterial Properties
Senna contains tannins, essential oils, and other beneficial compounds that possess anti-bacterial properties. These compounds can prevent the growth and multiplication of microorganisms such as parasites, bacteria, and fungi. In fact, you can cure gingivitis and mouth infections by simply chewing senna leaves. The leaves of the senna plant contain mild anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce internal and external swelling.
Good for the Skin
Exposure to harsh chemicals, pollutants in the environment and radiation can adversely affect skin health, resulting in several skin problems. Senna can be very beneficial to the skin as it is a powerful and affordable way to get a radiant and healthy skin.
Senna contains essential oils like tannin and resin, which can soothe skin inflammation. The herb is often used in traditional medicine for treating several skin conditions. After making the leaves of senna into a paste, it can be used as a compress to treat burns, ringworms, and wounds.
The anti-bacterial property of senna leaves can also help in the treatment of dermatological ailments like acne and eczema. Components like acetone and ethanol which are present in senna can combat microorganisms that cause acne.
As a laxative, senna can relieve even the most severe cases of constipation. It is a non-prescription drug that not only treats constipation but stimulates the muscles of the colon to eliminate fecal matter more quickly. Senna leaves act on the intestinal walls to facilitate contractions that result in bowel movements. The herb softens stool by encouraging the absorption of water in the colon. The glycosides in senna also help transport electrolytes, leading to bowel movements within few hours of ingesting the herb.
Promotes Hair Health
Senna can be used to treat a number of hair problems. When applied topically, senna makes the hair radiant and strong. In fact, when you incorporate other ingredients like spices, citrus juice, herbal teas, and essential oils to senna, it becomes even more potent. For a healthier hair, apply the paste on small sections of your hair at a time. Cover your head with a plastic to allow the paste to penetrate into the scalp. Rinse it off after a few hours.
With senna, you may also not need to worry about the adverse effects of chemical hair treatments. The herb can actually be used as a conditioner to strengthen and thicken your hair. Although your hair might feel dry for a while, the positive effects will show after a few days.
Senna not only strengthens the hair but also treats dandruff and enhances scalp condition. It adds luster to your hair and can help against hair loss. While the herb may not lighten dark hair, it will provide deep conditioning. It can be used in combination with other herbs like Amla for conditioning and other benefits to the hair.
Senna is also great for imparting natural and subtle highlights to your hair when left for a short time. The herb contains an anthraquinone derivative known as chrysophanic acid, which imparts a light yellow color to your hair.
Cleanses the Colon
Due to its laxative compounds, senna is believed to be a cleansing herb. Traditionally, the leaves of the senna plant have been used to eliminate the build-up of heat in the large intestine. This helps the body get rid of the stagnant food left in the stomach. The herb is popularly used in cleansing the colon, especially before colonoscopy or other types of surgeries related to the colon.
Side Effects of Senna Plant
There isn’t enough evidence on the safety of senna. It is then advisable to avoid using the herb for a long period of time, as this may lead to several adverse effects.
- Some people may suffer allergic reactions like changed urine after using senna leaves.
- It can result in diarrhea, which can cause dehydration and an imbalance in the electrolyte.
- Excess consumption of senna tea can be poisonous to the liver.
- When used for a long period of time, the anthraquinones in senna can cause nausea, vomiting, and even the development of cancer.
- Senna can also increase the risk of liver damage, week muscles, and cardiovascular ailments when used for too long.
- Senna can also trigger side effects like abdominal pains and stomach upset.
- Using senna for more than 2 weeks may disrupt the normal function of the colon.
- Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of senna. It should only be used after checking with a medical doctor.