Senna Leaves in Treating Constipation and Skin Disorders
Senna, the herb with Arabian name, has been known to the medicine since 9th – 10th century. It belongs to the Cassia plant family, which has in its spread around 300 – 600 species of shrubs, trees, vines and herbs. Indian Senna, Tinnevelly Senna, Cassia Senna, Alexandrian Senna, and Khartoum Senna are among the variety of the species fond within this family. But ‘senna’ is the name most commonly used for the Cassia Senna plant, a small shrub about 2 feet high with erect stem, long, spreading brunches and inch-long leaflets that make senna so popular in traditional herbal medicine.
The plant is native to tropical Africa; it is widely cultivated in Egypt, Sudan and areas with similar climate conditions. Senna favours red loams (coarse soils including) and clayey rich fields. The herb is rather tolerant to the salinity and grows well in a variety of soils.
Senna is famous in the herbal medicine for its leaves that possess laxative and cathartic effects. The active components of the plant are mostly concentrated in its leaves.
The processed senna leaves are available in various forms. They are dried, powdered and even made into the paste for various topical applications. Senna is also available in capsules and tablets. Most common form is powdered senna, greenish substance with the fragments of veins.
The fact that senna is used as laxative product is determined by the presence of the chemicals called anthraquinones. Their mechanism of action produces irritating effects on the lining of the lower gastrointestinal tract. As a result, contractions push the material out of the lower intestines. Moreover, these chemicals are able to keep water balance in the in intestinal contents, which makes the stool softer and smoother.
In traditional herbal medicine senna is used mainly for constipation and inflammatory skin conditions. When used for constipation, senna is usually considered in the severe cases of this condition and shouldn’t be used when there is inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Senna should be taken carefully: it may cause griping, liquid stools or diarrhea, pain or nausea. This can be avoided by adding to its dosage 1/4 amount of stomachic herbs (ginger or fennel seeds). Ringworm, acne and some other inflammatory skin conditions are treated with the senna paste applied topically. The herb is also used to handle such medical conditions as hypertension and obesity.
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