By Maša Sinreih in Valentina Vivod (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Cassia alexandrina – Senna

Family: Fabaceae

Other names: Cassia acutifolia, C. angustifolia ,Alexandrian Senna, Nubian Senna,Cassia lenitiva, Cassia Lanceolata,Cassia officinalis, Cassia aethiopica, Senna acutifolia, Egyptian Senna, Sene de la palthe,Tinnevelly Senna,Cassia angustifolia, East Indian Senna, cassia senna

Habitat: The most widely used form of this genus is Cassia alexandrina which grows along the Nile in Egypt.

Due to the actions of this drug it should not be used for prolonged periods. Should be avoided by people hazardsmallwith histories of  heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety attacks, etc. A (generally invisible and harmless) side effect of taking Senna medication regularly is Melanosis coli, a brown discoloration of the colon wall.

Senna, (talk | contribs)

Description of Senna:

Alexandrian Senna is an annual shrubby plant that reaches 0.5–1, rarely two, metres in height with a branched, pale-green erect stem and long spreading branches bearing four or five pairs of leaves. These leaves form complex, feathery, mutual pairs. The leaflets vary from 4 to 6 pairs, fully edged, with a sharp top. The midribs are equally divided at the base of the leaflets. The flowers are in a raceme interior blossoms, big in size, coloured yellow that tends to brown. Its legume fruit are horned, broadly oblong, compressed and flat and contain about six seeds.

It likes rich sandy or loamy soils  and can grow in heavy clay soil and is tolerate of Ph’s of soil between the ranges of 7-8.5, neutral soil, alkaline soil. It needs full sun. It likes well drained soils. Will tolerate drought. Does not fix nitrogen.

Cultivation of Senna:

This herb favours red loams (coarse soils including) and clay rich fields. The herb is rather tolerant to the salinity and grows well in a variety of soils. Growing methods vary according to the amount of cropping with tri-annual crops sometimes being obtained by cutting the plant to 10 cm above the ground at each cutting and letting the plant regrow. Although attempts have been made to grow Senna in the UK as far back as the 1600’s there is not usually enough sunlight to make the plant bring forth fruiting bodies.

Propagation of Senna:

Seed. For best results, place the seeds in boiling water and let them soak until the water reaches room temperature. This breaks the seed coat and wakes the seed from dormancy to allow water and gases to pass through so the seed will germinate. After soaking, the seeds will appear dull in color but should not be pitted or cracked. The treated seeds will not store well, so they should be planted immediately after the hot water soak. pick out when big enough and plant out 25 cm apart in a well drained full sun position.

Collection of Senna: When cultivated Senna is cut down and dried semi-annually or even three times a year if there is suitable rain fall.

Culinary uses of Senna:

Edible parts: Leaves, Flowers

Edible uses: condiment

Senna is used as a condiment in Thailand to flavour and colour foods, notably curries in much the same way as Henna is often used. Please be aware that this herb is a strong laxative and the leaves contain more of this quality than the seeds.

By Adolphus Ypey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Medicinal uses of Senna:

Actions: Cathartic.

Part Used: Dried fruit pods, and leaves.

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)

Preparations & Dosage of Senna:

Infusion: the dried pods or leaves should be steeped in warm water for 6-12 hours. If they are Alexandrian Senna Pods use 3-6 in a cup of water; if they are Tinnevelly Senna, use 4-12 pods. These names are given to two different species when sold commercially.

Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture taken before bedtime.

Other uses of Senna:


Another senna, Senna italica ssp. italica (= Cassia obovata), often called “neutral henna”, is used as a hair treatment with effects similar to henna but without the red color. The active component is an anthraquinone derivative called chrysophanic acid(1,8-Dihydroxy-3-methylanthraquinone), also called chrysophanol, which is also found in higher concentrations in rhubarb root. It adds a slight yellow color.

Esoteric uses of Senna:

Magickal uses include all matters of lust and love. Enhances tact & diplomacy. Bathe with your mate in an infusion of senna to ensure faithfulness.

The Chemistry:


  • Anthraquinone glycosides:

 in the leaf; sennosides A 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.
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