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Senna: What Exactly Is It

Senna is an herb that comes from several different flowering species of Cassia plants. The leaves, flowers, and fruits of the senna plant have been used in tea as a laxative or stimulant for centuries. The leaves of the Senna plant are also used in some teas to help relieve constipation or promote weight loss. Senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription laxative. Senna is also used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and weight loss. (1)

WARNING: Senna is possibly unsafe when used for longer than 1 week or in doses above 34.4 mg sennosides twice daily. Long-term use can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally and might cause dependence on laxatives. Long-term use can also cause liver damage and other harmful effects. (2)


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


Senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription drug.

  • For constipation in adults and children age 12 and over: the usual dose is 17.2 mg daily. Don't take more than 34.4 mg per day.

  • For constipation in children: 8.5 mg daily increased just enough to cause one bowel movement daily has been used.

  • For constipation in elderly people: 17 mg daily has been used.

  • For constipation following pregnancy: 28 mg in 2 divided doses has been used.


  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to senna, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in these senna products. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention: mineral oil laxatives. Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.

  • tell your doctor if you have stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, or a sudden change in bowel movements lasting more than 2 weeks.

  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking senna, call your doctor.

  • talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking senna if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should not usually take senna products over a long period of time because they are not as safe as other medications that can be used to treat the same condition. (3)


  1. Steep 1 - 2 grams of senna pods (10-15 individual pods) in hot water for a maximum of 10 minutes. The longer it steeps, the more potent it will become, so don't let it sit for too long.

  2. Strain in a cup and add date syrup or agave to your liking.

  3. Do not have more than twice a day.


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