Senna is basically a flowering plant belonging to the legume family Fabaceae. It bears yellow, white and pink flowers. This shrub has its origin in North Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia. In Asia, it is mostly found in the temperate regions of India and China. It is considered a powerful laxative due to the presence of compounds called anthraquinones. The glycosides anthraquinone derivatives are known as senna glyvcosides or sennocides named after its genus senna. Several forms of these glycosides are referred to as A, B, C and D. Almost all its parts possess medicinal value and have been used for thousands of years in herbal medicine in India. Its leaves have been used in traditional Chinese Medicine as herbal laxative but have been rendered inappropriate for regular use. Senna is available in health food stores in the form of capsules and tablets, loose tea and tea bags, and liquid extracts. The undiluted dried root of this herb is also readily available. The pods also possess laxative effects but they are less potent than the leaves.
Senna Plant Benefits for Skin
This wonderful herb can be really beneficial for the skin. Exposure to radiation, environmental pollutants and harsh chemicals adversely affect our skin health, leading to several skin ailments. Natural herbs are an effective and inexpensive way to get a glowing skin and keep skin problems at bay. Some of the ways in which senna can benefit your skin are as follows.
1. Treatment of Skin Conditions:
The essential oils, resin and tannin in senna, can alleviate skin inflammation. Senna is used in Ayurvedic medicine for this purpose. It is made into a paste, which can be used as a compress to heal ringworms, wounds, and burns.
2. Treatment of Skin Infections:
The anti-bacterial property of senna can help in treating dermatological or skin ailments. The paste made from senna leaves is effective in treating skin infections like acne as well as inflammatory conditions like eczema. Acetone and ethanol present in senna can fight microorganisms that cause acne.
Senna Plant Benefits for Hair
Senna can be used in a similar manner as henna for healthy hair and treatment of hair problems. Some of its benefits for hair are as follows.
3. Senna for Strong Hair:
Senna can be applied topically to get smooth, shiny, and strong hair. You can prepare a hair pack by mixing senna powder with water and yoghurt. You can add other ingredients like citrus juice, essential oils herbal teas, spices etc for greater effect. Apply it on your hair, taking small sections at a time. Allow the paste to penetrate into the scalp. Cover your head with a plastic bag and allow it to dry. Rinse off after a few hours.
4. Great Conditioner:
Senna can be used as a conditioner to impart shine besides strengthening and thickening your hair. It is a great option to minimize the adverse impacts of chemical treatments. Initially, your hair might feel rough and dry but the benefits will appear after a few days.
5. Natural Highlighter:
Senna is a great option to impart natural highlights of ash blonde or lighter shades to your hair. Unlike henna, it does not impart strong color when left for short periods. Besides, it does not impart a reddish color but more subtle shade. It contains an anthraquinone derivative called chrysophanic acid, which imparts a light yellow color. If you wish to add beautiful blonde or golden highlights to your hair, you can apply senna paste for long periods of time.
6. Combats Hair-loss:
Senna not only beautifies your hair but also improves scalp condition and treats dandruff. It adds luster and definition to your hair. Being an excellent conditioning herb, it can combat hair loss as well. It cannot lighten naturally dark hair but will definitely provide deep conditioning. It can be combined with other herbs like Amla and Shikakai for conditioning and other benefits to your hair.
Senna Plant Benefits for Health
As stated above, senna possesses medicinal value which can provide various health benefits given below.
7. Treatment of Constipation:
Being a laxative, senna is effective in relieving constipation. It has been approved by the US FDA as a non prescription drug to treat constipation. Senna stimulates the muscles of the colon to push fecal matter through more quickly. Senna leaf acts on the intestinal walls to cause contractions that lead to bowel movements. It softens stool by enabling the colon to absorb water. It can effectively cure even the most severe cases of constipation. The glycosides in it help transport electrolytes, causing bowel movements within 6 to 12 hours of its intake. Senna can be bought as an over the counter (OTC) medication for adults and children above 2 years of age.
8. Great Colon Cleanser:
Senna has been regarded as a “cleansing herb” due to its laxative effects. Senna leaf is used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear away the heat accumulated in the large intestine, helping the body get rid of the stagnant food accumulated in the stomach. Today, it is widely used in cleansing the colon before colonoscopy and other types of colon surgery.
9. Treatment of Hemorrhoids:
Senna has been found to be effective in the treatment of anal lacerations and hemorrhoids as it helps reduce swelling and facilitates quick healing. Moreover, since it promotes soft stools, it helps cause easy defecation in pathological conditions like anal fissure. This is due to the fact that after oral ingestion, the compounds in senna get absorbed into the intestinal tract, resulting in the separation of non-sugar parts in the colon. These non-sugar components increase the peristaltic movements by irritating and stimulating the intestinal tract. In this way, it speeds up the passage of stools through the intestinal tract.
10. Treatment of Intestinal Worms:
The laxative properties of senna have been found to be useful in the treatment of worms in the stomach and colon.
11. Aids Weight Loss:
This benefit of senna is also attributed to its powerful laxative effect. Senna tea is particularly beneficial in this regard. Firstly it helps relieve occasional constipation which often occurs in low fiber weight loss diets. Secondly, being a low calorie, flavorful solution, it helps to boost your fluid intake. Drinking more fluids causes you to eat less. Thirdly, it aids in the elimination of toxins and undigested food in the large intestine. This cleansing and detoxification supports proper nutrient absorption and optimal metabolism, resulting in weight loss.
12. Antibacterial Properties:
The essential oils, tannins and other compounds in senna possess anti-bacterial properties. These can inhibit the growth and proliferation of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and parasites. Chewing senna leaf like tobacco can cure mouth infections and gingivitis. It also possesses mild inflammatory properties, which can soothe internal and external swelling.
13. Treatment of Indigestion:
Senna has been found to be effective in providing relief from heartburn, nausea, gas, bloating and belching associated with dyspepsia. Senna, when taken with aromatic herbs like cardamom, fennel, ginger and peppermint, can diminish the build up of gas in the stomach through its strong purgative actions.
Senna Medicinal Plant: Nutritional Value
The nutritional value of this herb has been explained in the table below. As evident from the table, it is devoid of calories and fat but a rich source of vitamin B.
Precautions while Using Senna Plant:
Much is not known about the safety profile of senna. It is advisable to use it for a short period of time, as long term usage is associated with several side effects.
- It can cause diarrhea, leading to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
- Some people may be allergic to senna leaves, which becomes evident in the form of changed color of urine. In such a case, the usage should be stopped immediately to go back to normal.
- Long term use of anthraquinones is associated with the development of colorectal growths and cancer. Other less common side effects include nausea or vomiting.
- Long term use can also increase the risk of muscle weakness, heart function disorders and liver damage.
- Excess consumption of senna tea can be toxic to your liver.
- Even short term usage can trigger side effects like stomach discomfort, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that senna should not be used for more than 2 weeks as it may impair the normal function of your colon. In case of pregnancy or nursing, it should be used only after consulting the physician.