Senna Tea: Benefits, Side Effects, Uses
Used for thousands of years as a natural form of laxative in Arab and Indian herbalism, senna is now found in many types of modern medications as well. Senna is a very potent plant, offering a healthy and natural alternative to expensive and harsher laxative brands, although the tea, like the medication, should typically only be used for a two week period or less.
What is Senna?
Senna belongs to the legume family or a group of plants referred to as sennas, which are harvested from the cassia tree. There are over 400 estimated varieties of senna, although an approximate 50 varieties are used for medicines and foods. Most varieties of senna are found in tropical areas, although some types do thrive in temperate zones. The top part of the plant is used in medicines and foods, typically after being harvested and dried. The form of senna plant typically found in medicine and teas offers small yellow flowers with two inch seed pods, growing roughly two foot high.
What is Senna Tea Good For?
Senna tea is not a tea that should be sipped for simple enjoyment. Instead, it is considered a medicinal plant and typically used for health related purposes. Common uses for senna and senna tea include:
- Weight loss (not the safest choice)
- Occasional constipation, constipation related to prescription opiate use and constipation in the elderly
- Irritable bowel syndrome (use with caution)
Possible Side Effects of Drinking Senna Tea
While senna is considered safe for most people, it is a natural laxative and not meant for long-term use on a daily basis. Common issues related with using senna in medicinal amounts or medicinal tea amounts include:
- Stomach discomfort
Senna taken long-term or in high-amounts can cause more serious side effects including;
- An imbalance of electrolytes in the body that can lead to issues with proper muscle function, heart problems and liver damage.
- Laxative dependence and poor natural functioning of the bowel.
- Serious dehydration.
- Multiple gastrointestinal issues.
While it is thought that occasional use of senna tea in recommended amounts is safe for pregnant and breast-feeding women, there are some people who should avoid senna completely, including children under the age of two. Those who should not take or use any type of senna are people with gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease, intestinal obstruction, ulcerative colitis and anal prolapse. Additionally, those with an electrolyte or potassium deficiency, people with any condition that causes electrolyte disturbances, diarrhea or loose stools, and anyone with a heart condition should also avoid using senna tea, as it can worsen these conditions. Typically, it is best not to pair senna with other laxatives, as senna toxicity can occur.
To make senna tea, leaves and pods may be used, at approximately 1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily, which is a dosage of 0.6 to 2 grams. Start with the smaller dosage, working to the larger 2 gram dosage as needed.
What Does Senna Tea Taste Like?
Senna tea that isn’t paired with other teas has a slightly sweet taste with noticeably bitter undertones, making the tea something of an acquired taste. The tea is not highly aromatic, instead more closely resembling the lighter smell of green tea – slightly earthy and fresh. Senna tea is most often not used for it’s alluring flavor, although the taste is greatly improved with organic honey or other herbs.
Senna is often paired with or found in mixed teas with rooibos, licorice root and burdock root for weight loss and regularity. Green tea and ginger are both wonderful choices to improve the taste of senna tea, while also providing antioxidant action. Green tea and ginger can also improve energy levels and feelings of sluggishness, issues commonly associated with constipation. Using a touch of cinnamon or cloves can also improve the taste of senna tea.
What We Like About This Herbal Tea
Senna, when used properly, is a wonderful natural laxative that is safe and extremely effective, making it a good choice for those who want to steer clear of pharmaceuticals. However, senna in tea form can vary in strength, and it can be difficult to obtain exact dosages or concentration levels, hence the need for pharmaceutical forms of senna. Although senna tea offers purgative benefits, using it for weight loss can be dangerous and long-term use has been associated with liver damage. What does all of this mean? Senna should be used responsibly, for short periods of time and always within recommended dosage guidelines.
Did You Know?
- Senna was first used in the 9th century by Arab physicians.
- Senna is found in many medications including Senekot, Peri-Colace and Nature’s Remedy.
- Senna is used to purge those afflicted with jinn possession and black magic in Islamic culture.
- The word senna originates from the Arabic word ‘sana’, changing over time to the medievil latin form ‘sena’ and eventfully to the current form of ‘senna’ in the mid-sixteenth century.