Useful information

Senna, or the Alexandrian leaf

Senna, or Alexandrian leaf, is one of the most common laxatives in our everyday life, which has been tested by time. The fact that in India it occupies about 10,000 hectares suggests that this plant is in demand all over the world.

Senna of Alexandria

The first reports of its use date back to the 8th century, and during this period it was used by Arab doctors, who believed that senna leaves and caraway seeds cured all diseases except death. Until the Middle Ages, senna was used little for its present purpose, but mainly for leprosy, infectious diseases, stomach and eye diseases.

Since the 16th century, it has been used primarily as a laxative. Paracelsus used senna leaves in combination with wormwood and green onions as a laxative. The notorious Count Saint Germain, alchemist and rogue, used it as a universal remedy (Saint Germain tea) from all diseases at once.

Senna of Alexandria (Sennaalexandrina), or as it is customary to call it in our country according to the old classification - cassia holly (Cassiaacutifolia) for a long time it was grown in the USSR on the territory of South Kazakhstan. Traditionally cultivated in Egypt and Sudan. Considering that cassia is a southern plant, most countries bought it in Egypt, and exported raw materials through the port on the Mediterranean Sea - Alexandria, hence the name "Alexandrian leaf".

This species, as well as senna angustifolia imported from India (Sennaangustifolia) belongs to the legume family, the Caesalpiniaceae subfamily. In the wild, the plant is found in Africa, in the Middle Nile basin, in desert and semi-desert areas.

Rod Senna (Senna) - rarely herbaceous, more often shrubs, and sometimes woody plants with alternate paripinnate leaves. Medicinal species are small shrubs up to 1 m high (in culture up to 2 m). Taproot, slightly branched, deeply going into the soil. Stems are erect, branched, with alternate compound paired-pinnate leaves with 4-8 pairs of narrow, ovate-lanceolate sharp leaves. The flowers are slightly irregular, yellow, collected in axillary inflorescences.

Senna of Alexandria


The plant does not overwinter in our area, but it looks very good as a summer pot plant for a garden or patio. In addition, the leaves can be harvested for later use. To do this, you need to sow seeds of 2-3 seeds in separate pots in March and after the emergence of shoots, leave 1 of the strongest plant in each pot. Small seedlings tolerate transplantation well, but with age and development of the taproot, they tolerate transplantation worse and worse. In the future, you can simply transfer it into larger pots. Or you can plant it in the open ground at the end of May and grow it as an annual plant. Senna blooms until late autumn.

Chemical composition

Senna acutifolia leaves contain up to 3% sennosides, which are anthraglycosides, as well as substances that are found in other laxative plants (gluco-aloe-emodin, glucorein). In addition, the leaves contain flavonoids (flavonols isorhamnetin, kaempferol) and resinous substances. Slightly less anthraglycosides are found in beans. The content of anthraglycosides in the leaves of cassia angustifolia reaches 3.77%, in fruits - 4.6%. Interestingly enough, senna acuminata accumulates selenium, while a closely related species of senna angustifolia did not show this ability.

Medicinal properties

Sennosides act as an irritant to the intestinal wall, increasing peristalsis. Anthraglycosides are resistant to both acid digestion in the stomach and enzymatic digestion in the small intestine due to the beta-glycosidic bond characteristic of dietary fiber. Once in the large intestine, where intestinal bacteria (genus bifidobacteria) decompose sennosides and release free reinanthrone, which begins to act in the large intestine. Another mechanism of laxative effect is to stimulate the secretion of electrolytes in the intestine and to limit the absorption of water in the large intestine, which, in turn, leads to thinning of the stool.

In principle, the agent is harmless. But for some, senna drugs cause discomfort and cramping pains. This may be caused by improper preparation of the broth.After cooking, the broth must be immediately filtered and the leaves removed. This is due to the fact that when the raw material is kept in solution for a long time, resins with a strong irritating effect begin to get there. It is they who cause discomfort.

Senna is used as a laxative for intestinal atony, habitual constipation, in anti-hemorrhoidal preparations, as well as for diseases of the liver and gallbladder.


Senna of Alexandria


Senna Medicines Recipes

Senna leaves are prepared in the form of a cold or hot infusion. When preparing a cold infusion, chopped leaves (2 g) are poured with a glass of boiled water at room temperature and left overnight. Strain in the morning and take it as a laxative. When preparing a hot infusion, 1 tablespoon of leaves is poured with boiling water, heated in a water bath for 15 minutes, infused for 45 minutes, filtered and taken 1 tablespoon 1-3 times a day.

To get rid of the tar, strain the infusion through a fine sieve. The fruits practically do not contain resins, therefore their effect is more gentle. Senna is safe in recommended doses, but its use still requires adherence to certain rules. Senna is usually taken for a short time, as needed. But as a constantly taken remedy, it is unsuitable, the use of senna preparations should not exceed 1, maximum 2 weeks.


Her drugs affect potassium metabolism and people taking heart medications need to remember this.

Senna is contraindicated in people who are allergic to anthraquinones. Such allergies are very rare and are usually limited to dermatological reactions such as redness and itching.

In case of an overdose, taking senna and its preparations can provoke not only pain in the intestines, but also nausea and vomiting.

But there are a number of diseases in which this remedy is contraindicated, in particular with intestinal obstruction, acute inflammation of the intestine (for example, Crohn's disease), ulcerative colitis. For any abdominal pain of unknown origin, it is better to refrain from taking senna. In addition, senna is contraindicated during pregnancy, which is due to the fact that it can provoke a miscarriage, and a number of authors also point to a mutagenic effect. In addition, when nursing mothers take senna preparations, the presence of active substances is found in milk, which makes it undesirable during this period of life.

Currently, there are many preparations based on the active ingredients of senna. Unlike raw materials, they are strictly standardized for active ingredients and therefore there will be no problems with choosing the right dosage.

In ethnomedicine, senna is used for very different diseases: with helminthic invasions, as a cleansing body, to remove toxins. It was found that senna anthraquinones suppress staphylococcus and E. coli.