Facebook Pixel

Pros and Cons of Senna for Constipation

Rate This
pros and cons using senna to treat constipation via Pixabay

Say that you are shopping for something over-the-counter that will relieve constipation. In the health food aisle you notice a number of teas and capsules containing senna leaf, and they look quite promising.

But, as with any herbal remedy for minor conditions, before you make your purchase you ought to be aware of how the product works and its possible side effects.

A page about senna on the National Library of Medicine website explains that the herb (Cassia acutifolia) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a nonprescription laxative. The fruit of senna is considered to be milder than the leaves, but many products use the leaves.

Senna typically does the trick for constipation because the chemicals in it, called sennosides, irritate the lining of the colon and force contractions in the bowel.

The Library of Medicine page, using the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, gives effectiveness ratings for various uses of senna.

For instance, for constipation it is rated "likely effective." For bowel preparation before a colonoscopy, it is rated "possibly effective," although doctors usually prescribe sodium phosphate or another product for colonoscopy prep.

For hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and weight loss, senna is considered to have insufficient evidence behind it to rate effectiveness.

As a laxative, though, senna raises concerns about possible overuse or abuse by those desperate to lose weight, as well as the risk of creating a laxative dependency.

On his alternative-health website, DrWeil.com, Dr. Andrew Weil says that certain laxatives, including senna, are "irritant types." They induce bowel movements "quickly, sometimes violently, by irritating the bowel."

Sometimes the constipation gets worse, he says, in a question-and-answer column about natural remedies for constipation.

Among the signals for discontinuing use of senna are diarrhea, cramps, watery stools and abdominal pain. The American Herbal Products Association warns against long-term use of senna leaf and urges women who are pregnant or nursing to get advice from a health care practitioner before taking senna.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

This worked for my constipation but a little too well. I've been living in the bathroom for two days now with no end in sight...

April 10, 2016 - 1:42pm
EmpowHER Guest

This Sienna works.I'm tired of sitting on the toilet seat and trying to push for 10 min.took sienna and after a couple of hrs. I could finally start reading the newspaper again.

December 6, 2014 - 3:34pm
EmpowHER Guest

For me personally, I've been painfully constipated twice recently. After a day of suffering a pharmacist recommended senna tablets saying they are relatively mild. She said it would take 6 to 12 hrs to work. After about 2 hrs they worked, and there were no unpleasant side effects. I was completely back to normal. A couple of months later it happened again. I waited about 4 hrs to see if I would get over it and then took 2 tablets. Again 2hrs later blessed relief came. I'm sure all people are different, but in this case I'd recommend giving it a try if you are constipated.

October 5, 2013 - 6:10am

Helped me a lot!!

May 14, 2012 - 6:21am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


Get Email Updates

Constipation Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!