Senna is a proven and effective laxative. It works by interacting with the bacteria in the digestive tract, resulting in intestinal contractions. These contractions are caused by the compounds known as anthraquinone, glycosides that are contained in Senna. These anthraquinone glycosides derivatives are known as sennosides.
Senna is part of the Fabaceae (Pea) family and native to Somalia, the Middle East and India. There are about 250 to 350 species of which 50 are commonly cultivated. It is an annual plant which can grow up to 2 metres tall and has pinnate leaves that bloom every summer, developing small, cup-shaped yellow flowers which are then followed by thin cylindrical pods. Both leaves and pods of the Senna plant are used as laxatives, although the pods are less potent than the leaves.
Senna Leaf has been used in traditional herbal medicines as a gentle laxative for generations. The word Senna is of Arabic origin and appears to have been applied since medieval times for medicinal purposes. Infusions (teas), tinctures and syrups were all used; their effect was to irritate the bowel, which speed up its action.