The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

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Senna

Scientific Names

Senna

  • Cassia marilandica L.
  • Cassia senna
  • Leguminosae
  • Pea family

Common Names

  • American senna
  • Locust plant
  • Wild senna

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Parts Usually Used

Leaves (dried)
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

American senna is a perennial plant that may reach a height of 4-6 feet. The stems are erect, round and slightly hairy, with even-pinnate leaves on long petioles. Note rounded gland at the base of the leaf stalk. Each leaf consists of 8-10 narrow, oblong, pointed leaflets. The yellow flowers with 5 somewhat unequal petals grow in clusters in the leaf axils and appear in June to September and are borne in racemes. The flowers are followed by long brown hairless pods with many seeds. Seedpods with joints twice as wide as they are long. The flat seed pod is a legume, about 2-4 inches long.

Other varieties of senna are: Alexandrian senna (C. acutifolia), used in Ayurvedic medicine (Sanskrit name: Rajavriksha) (Chinese name Fan-xia-ye); Tinnevelly senna (C. angustifolia); Purging senna (C. fistula). All are regarded as cathartics.
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Where Found

Found in rich soils of the eastern United States, in open woods and beside streams from Pennsylvania across to Iowa and south to Florida and Texas.
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Medicinal Properties

Cathartic, diuretic, vermifuge, stimulant
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Biochemical Information

Anthraquinones, flavones, tartaric acid, mucin, salts, essential oils, traces of tannin and resin.
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Senna belongs to the sugar class of laxatives, its properties being due, for the most part, to the water-attracting properties of the sugar while in the intestinal canal. Senna sometimes causes griping effects. To modify this, combine Senna leaves with one of the aromatic herbs; ginger, anise, caraway, fennel or coriander.

Senna is a small shrub in Egypt, Nubia and Arabia. It is believed the early Arabian and Greek physicians were first to use the leaves and pods of this plant as medicine. The use spread with civilizations along the Mediterranean, through Europe and the rest of the world. The Herbalist Almanac states: “In modern times the market has grown to stupendous proportions.”
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Uses

This herb is an effective laxative and is much used by herbalists for that purpose, but usually in combination with other herbs, since it tends to cause griping by itself. Also it is combined with other herbs to get rid of intestinal worms. Can be used as a mouthwash for halitosis and that bad taste in the mouth.

The leaves are considered to be stronger, while the pods are milder, like buckthorn or cascara. Senna is stronger and more irritating than rhubarb.
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Formulas or Dosages

Gather the leaves while the plant is in bloom.

Infusion: use 1 tsp. leaves with 1 cup of boiling water; steep for 1/2 hour. Take hot or cold, a mouthful 3 times per day or 1/2 cup before going to bed. Take no more than 2 cups per day total. If 2 cups per day is exceeded, it may cause nausea, griping pains and purging of the bowels.

Tea of seedpods is milder, slower-acting.

An infusion of dried leaves (mixed with cloves or ginger and cream of tartar to prevent griping senna causes when given alone) is an effective laxative. Same limit of 2 cups per day applies.

Tincture: the dose is 1/2 to 1 tsp.
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How Sold

Commercial senna comes from a related Arabian plant.
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Warning

Without consultation with the doctor, take senna leaves and/or fruits for only a short time! Do not use this herb in cases of intestinal obstruction or inflammation of the stomach. It should not be administered for inflammatory conditions of the alimentary canal, fever, piles, menorrhagia, prolapse rectum, prolapse uterus or during pregnancy.
Overdoses and frequent usage can cause laxative dependency as well as abdominal pains, nausea and vomiting. Contraindicated in pregnancy.
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Bibliography

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993

Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Buy It! The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992

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