All the Hype About Senna Leaf …

Considering the climate today, with everyone looking for a natural way to beat COVID-19, we have surely seen our share of claims being made by different people and websites about which herbs should be incorporated in a “COVID-19 protocol”.  Senna Leaf appears to be the new addition to this list – so why is it so special?

First let’s look at the basics.  Please do not ever take any herbal medication before speaking to a physician or holistic practitioner.  Natural does not equal safe and some herbs can have serious side effects or interact with medications you may be taking.  Plus, some of them cannot be taken by people with certain pre-existing conditions.  You should never take an herb internally just because you read about it on a website.

Now that we covered that, let’s look at Senna Leaf.  First what is it? It is known by many names: Alexandrian Senna, Alexandrinische Senna, Casse, Cassia acutifolia, Cassia angustifolia, Cassia lanceolata, Cassia senna, Fan Xie Ye, Indian Senna, Khartoum Senna, Sen, Sena Alejandrina, Séné, Séné d’Alexandrie, Séné d’Egypte, Séne d’Inde, Séné de Tinnevelly, Senna alexandrina, Sennae Folium, Sennae Fructus, Sennosides, Tinnevelly Senna, True Senna.

Senna is part of the “the Senna’s” family of floweringn plants in the legume family.  there are almost 350 varieties of Senna plants in the world and 50 of them are in active cultivation.  Most of the time when you purchase Senna as a supplement you are purchasing Senna Alexandrina the most common varieties used for medicinal supplements.  These supplements are generally made from the leaves and fruit of the plant. The fruit tends to be gentler than the leaf itself.

Senna is an FDA approved supplement to treat constipation.  It can be used an over the counter laxative. Sometimes it can be used to clear the bowels before a colonoscopy.  It can also be used to treat IBS and Hemorroids.  Sometimes it can be used as accompany of weight loss plan. Senna contains many chemicals called sennosides which irritate the lining of the bowel, which causes the laxative effect.

Senna can be unsafe when taken long term by mouth in high doses.  You should not use Senna for more than 2 weeks.  Longer use can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally and might cause dependence on laxatives. Long-term use can also change the amount or balance of some chemicals in the blood which can cause heart function disorder, muscle weakness, dehydration  and possible liver damage. 

Senna can cause some uncomfortable and even some serious side effects:

They can include:

  • diarrhea
  • cramping
  • fluid loss
  • abdominal pain
  • electrolyte disturbances
  • feeling faint

Senna also can interfere with other medications you are taking. Medications such as the following can be affected: 

  • Contraceptives: Senna can interact with the form of estrogen in some contraceptives, including the vaginal ring, patch or pills. It might make the birth control less effective, making it more likely for an accidental pregnancy to occur.
  • Digoxin: Senna can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, especially in potassium levels. Low potassium can cause problems for someone taking digoxin.
  • Warfarin: Diarrhea in people taking warfarin can increase the risk of serious bleeding. Because senna can cause diarrhea, anyone taking warfarin should avoid using senna.
  • Diuretics: Like senna, some diuretics can also decrease potassium and other electrolyte levels. Taking these two medications together can cause potassium levels to drop to a dangerous level.
  • Estrogens: Estrogens in hormone replacement therapies react the same way as birth control pills. Using senna with hormone replacement therapy may mean that the estrogen is not absorbed or work as well.
  • Horsetail: Horsetail is an herb that some people take for several different reasons. There is some thought that horsetail could lower potassium levels in some people. Taking senna with horsetail may lower potassium levels too much.
  • Licorice: Licorice also lowers potassium levels; people should avoid taking both licorice and senna together.

Last year, Senna was pulled from Detox teas in New Zealand because of possible liver damage.  In some ancient texts Senna was used at times to expel witchcraft, demons, or dark magick from the body.  In some Arabic texts Senna, is said to cure everything but death, which is why it is being incorporated into many COVID-19 protocols.  

Senna has many benefits and can be a helpful herb.  You should however always contact your physician before taking Senna or any other herbal supplement! Stay Safe everyone!