Senna is an herb commonly used to treat constipation. You can find it in many over-the-counter laxatives or you can brew a tea from its leaves or fruit. When you use it short-term to treat constipation, senna is likely safe for healthy individuals. However, it may not be safe for those with certain diseases and conditions and it may also negatively interact with other medicines and herbs. Speak with your doctor before you begin consuming senna.
Usage and FDA Regulation
The primary use of senna is to relieve constipation and the herb is likely an effective treatment for this. The FDA has approved this herb’s inclusion in nonprescription laxatives and it is typically safe as long as you do not use it for more than two weeks. However, the FDA does not regulate senna consumed as a tea or herbal supplement. Should you choose to make a tea out of senna’s leaves or fruit pods, you should purchase it from a reputable source to lessen the likelihood of its contamination.
How to Take It
For constipation relief, senna is typically taken before bed. To brew a tea, you will need to steep the dried leaves or fruit pods in warm water for six to 12 hours. Since this herb relieves constipation, it may also irritate your stomach lining, which can result in pain, nausea or diarrhea. Brewing senna with herbs like cardamon, ginger or fennel may help to reduce the risk of these negative side effects.
Warnings and Precautions
You should not use senna in any of its forms for more than two weeks without first consulting with your doctor. Additionally, pregnant and nursing women should take caution when consuming senna. If you have an electrolyte disturbance, potassium deficiency, are dehydrated or are suffering from diarrhea, you should avoid senna, as it can make these conditions and symptoms worse. People with bowel disorders or heart disease should discuss their use of this herb with a health care provider or pharmacist before consuming it.
Side Effects and Potential Interactions
Common side effects of senna include stomach upset, bloating, numbness, tingling, joint pain or a discoloration of your urine. More serious side effects include severe stomach pain, weight loss, worsening constipation, enlarged fingers and toes, loss of appetite, jaundice and itching. If you experience these or any other signs of a negative or allergic reaction, stop taking senna and seek medical attention. Also, be aware that if you consume senna along with horsetail, licorice or other laxative herbs or medications, it may cause a dangerous drop in your potassium levels.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.