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Senna contains hydroxyanthracene glycosides known as Sennosides. These glycosides stimulate colon activity and thus have a laxative effect.
Senna leaves contain many anthraquinone compounds, including dianthrone glycosides, which make up 1.5 to 3 percent of the herb. Senna leaves is a strong anthraquione containing purgative that is used only in acute constipation.
Senna leaves was found to contain gum which was comparable to others utilized in Pharamaceutical Industry. Hence, effect of gamma radiations, ethyl methane sulfonate and sodium azide on the gum content in Senna was investigated.
The sennosides have been extensively researched over the last seventy five years, which has led to a clear understanding of its action. These components irritate the lining of the large intestine, causing the muscles to contract strongly, resulting in a bowel movement about ten hours after the dose is taken. They also stop fluid from being absorbed by the large bowel helping to keep the stool soft, which is particularly helpful if there are fissures present.
In India Ayurvedic medicine, senna is used for constipation and also for skin problems, jaundice, bronchitis, liver disease, splenomegaly, typhoid fever and anemia. Tablets are the most commonly taken for constipation. An infusion is combined with fresh ginger and cloves and used for mild constipation. Tinctures are used by herbalists for short-term constipation.
The World Health Organization ( WHO ) approves senna leaves for Short-term use in occasional Constipation ( WHO, 1999 ) .
Senna is considered a Cleansing herb because of its cathartic effect and has been used as a natural laxative for centuries.
Its name of Ringworm Cassia ( Senna Leaves ) was given because a leaves extract is used to combat that fungal infection, especially in Malaysia.
Senna was given the name of purging Cassia in Europe during the Middle Ages because it was used at that time in an Italian Medical school as a purgative.
In Chinese medicine, senna leaves is used for Liver fire patterns, atherosclerosis and for constipation and also used for Health drinks.
Senna is one of the few herbal medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) for over-the-counter use. It is probably the most widely used herbal Active Ingredients.