Senna - Cassia acutifolia -
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---Constituents---Water and diluted alcohol extract the active principles of Senna. Pure
alcohol only extracts them imperfectly. The leaves yield about one-third of their weight to
The purgative constituents are closely allied to those of Aloes and Rhubarb, the activities
of the drug being largely due to anthraquinone derivatives and their glucosides. It contains
rhein, aloe-emedin, kaempferol, isormamnetin, both free and as glucosides together with
myricyl alcohol, etc. The ash amounts to about 8 per cent, consisting chiefly of earthy and
The active purgative principle was discovered in 1866. It is a glucoside of weak acid
character, and was named Cathartic Acid. By boiling its alcoholic solution with acids it
yields Cathartogenic Acid and sugar. There were also found Chrysophanic Acid, Sennacrol and
Sennapicrin, and a peculiar non-fermentable saccharine principle which was named
Cathartomannite or Sennit.
The conclusions reached after experimenting with Senna leaves washed with alcohol were as
(1) Strong spirit does not remove any of the active principle from Senna leaves.
(2) The therapeutic action of cathartic acid is assisted by one or more of the constituents
yielded by Senna to strong alcohol, though these constituents produce no purgative effect
when taken alone.
(3) Senna exhausted by alcohol is a reliable and pleasant purgative, but somewhat weaker in
its action than the unexhausted leaves.
Many substances produce precipitates with the infusion of Senna, but they may remove only
inert ingredients, and not be really incompatible medicinally. Cathartic acid is
precipitated by infusion of galls and solution of lead subacetate. Lead acetate and tartar
emetic, which disturb the infusion, have no effect upon a solution of this substance.
Cathartin is the name of a mixture of the salts of cathartic acid which may be used in doses
of from 3 to 6 grains.
Sennax is the name applied to the watersoluble glucoside of Senna, marketed in tablets
containing 0.75 gram each.