Senna or Indian senna is a powerful ayurvedic herb widely used for its indispensable medicinal and therapeutic properties in both traditional and modern systems of medicine. It is an annual leguminous herb cultivated for its pods, leaves, flowers, and fruit of flowering plants in the legume family, which are used extensively for making several herbal formulations. Herbal teas and extracts obtained from this plant have been used as laxatives and stimulants in ayurvedic medicine. The plant that is native to Egypt, is now being cultivated across the globe including in India, Arab and African countries. The shrubs grow to 2-3 feet in height, is usually recognised by its spear-shaped pointed leaves that are pale yellowish green in colour.
Most herbal products are obtained from Cassia acutifolia or Cassia angustifolia, which is commonly known as Alexandrian and India senna, respectively. Nowadays, senna is commonly sold as a tea or over-counter constipation supplement, but it’s also rarely used in weight loss pills and drinks.
This diverse species is widely grown throughout the tropical and temperate regions in India and estimated number of species is about 260 to 350. Some of its common English names includes Indian Senna, Alexandrian Senna and Senna Alexandria. In the Indian subcontinent, it is known as Senai in Hindi, Nelavarike in Kannada, Nilavirai in Tamil, Nelatangedu in Telugu, Nilavilakku in Malayalam, and Swarnapatri in Sanskrit.
Senna is madhura in taste, cold in nature, light to digest, and acts like a mild purgative. The herb is known to get rid of vata dosha and promotes pitta dosha in the body. This herb helps in managing constipation owing to its rechana (laxative) property, while having its leaves in powder form along with warm water aids in losing weight by promoting digestive fire due to its deepan (appetising) and usna(hot) actions. Topical application of Senna leaf paste on the skin helps in treating several skin woes due to ropan (healing) trait.
Therapeutic Benefits Of Senna
Constipation is a common digestive issue caused to aggravated pitta and vata doshas. Senna supports treating constipation by pacifying doshas. The natural laxative action of Senna aids in regulating constipation and other digestive issues. The presence of active bio compounds helps loosen the stool and regularise bowel movement. Further, it is also beneficial for cleansing the colon due to purgative and laxative traits that help to expel waste from the large intestine and avert the development of piles.
Promotes Liver Health
According to the holistic system of Ayurveda virechana (purgation therapy) is recommended to treat hepatomegaly, splenomegaly, and jaundice. A dried leaf or pod extracts of the Senna plant stimulates the liver and offers to relieve excessive Pitta from the system. Apart from this, the leaf of senna is a natural blood purifier that eliminates harmful toxins from the body and optimises liver function.
Potent anthelmintic properties of this medicinal plant aids in averting worm infestation. It works well to get rid of the parasitic worms from the gastrointestinal tract without causing any damage to the body.
Poor lifestyle and unhealthy eating patterns contribute to weak digestive fire that increases Ama and results in constipation. This leads to an imbalance in meda dhatu (fatty tissues) in the system, which results in obesity. Taking Senna extract aids to clear Ama due to its deepan (appetizer) action by decreasing the accumulation of fat in the body. Aside from these, it also removes waste material from the GI tract and offers respite from constipation, which further results in weight reduction. However, it is not advisable to take this powder for a longer duration. Thus, it is essential to seek advice from ayurvedic practitioners before taking this supplement for losing weight.
Enhances Skin Health
Senna is a sure shot remedy for several skin problems including eczema, blisters, inflammation, and itchiness. Senna extract is beneficial in pacifying kapha and pitta doshas. This herbal powder averts clogging of pores and lessens inflammation, thereby aiding in combatting acne breakouts, and easing scars. Applying senna powder mixed with rosewater reduces inflammation and fades away acne scars.
Senna is available in the form of churna, capsule, tablet, and herbal tea. It is advisable to have it alongside lukewarm water. The right dosage of this herbal supplement may vary from person to person depending upon the age, severity, and health condition of the patient. It is recommended to consult an ayurvedic practitioner, as he or she will assess the patient’s indication and suggest the right dosage.
This herbal supplement is a natural laxative, thus long-term usage of Senna may lead to laxative dependency and liver damage. Excessive intake of Senna may cause nausea, excessive salvation, increased thirst and dehydration. Senna may interact with medications like blood thinners, and diuretics and it may also adversely react with heart medications. Furthermore, it is not advisable for patients with Crohn’s disease, intestinal obstruction and abdominal issues.