Senna: The Herb That Relieves Constipation

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Natural Remedies for Chronic ConstipationDigestive issues are considered the elephant in the room. Everyone knows there is something wrong, but many people often ignore symptoms such as gas, bloating, and constipation.

However, the proper functioning of your digestive system is an important part of your health, so finding a natural treatment for constipation should be one of your primary concerns.

Causes of Constipation and Poor Digestion

Poor digestion is an indication of such root causes as dysbiosis and low stomach acid, bile output, or enzyme output. Two to three bowel movements per day is considered normal; however, nearly 50% of people in the U.S. have just one bowel movement daily. Chronic constipation, in particular, is the most common digestive complaint, and it affects approximately 15%–20% of Americans—or four million people.

Why do so many people suffer from constipation? There are a number of possible reasons. The list includes drinking milk, laxative abuse, and various health conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis, hypothyroidism, and pituitary disorders. Taking certain medications is also known to impede your bowel function.

Lack of fiber is also another cause. It is important to consume an abundance of fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, as well as lots of water to help things move along smoothly. There are also medicinal plants known to help with an obstructed bowel.

Natural Herbal Treatment for Chronic Constipation

Senna is considered a flowering plant from the legume family. It is a popular herbal remedy or tea with a laxative effect, and it can help treat chronic constipation. Studies back up this claim. In one particular study published in the BMJ journal (formerly the British Medical Journal), researchers found that a combination of fiber and senna could relieve constipation more efficiently than the synthetic sugar drug lactulose.

The study observed 77 older adults in two nursing homes in England. Each patient had a history of chronic constipation. They were given a placebo with 15 milliliters (ml) of lactulose twice daily, or 10 ml of the senna-fiber supplement for two 14-day periods. The placebo was also given three to five days before and between the treatments. The researchers observed that there was a better average daily bowel frequency with the senna-fiber combination.

Chemotherapy is also known to induce constipation. In a crossover control study published in the journal Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi, 40 milligrams (mg) of senna extract was considered a safe and efficient treatment for chemotherapy-induced constipation. The study included 82 people who experienced constipation from chemotherapy. The patients were split into two groups; the AB group took senna extract in the first chemotherapy course and followed a crude fiber diet in the second course, while the BA group followed the same courses but in reverse order.

What gives senna its laxative effect?

The plant contains the natural chemical sennosides, which irritates the bowel lining and relieves constipation. It is important to note that senna, and other laxatives, should only be used short-term; long-term use can lead to an electrolyte imbalance and/or dependence. Consult your doctor or health professional before using senna or consuming senna tea. It is not recommended for people with a gastrointestinal or heart condition.

Other Natural Remedies for Relief from Constipation

In addition to senna, there are also some other laxative herbs that may be effective at relieving chronic constipation. These herbs include:

  • Rhubarb root
  • Yellow dock
  • Cascara sagrada
  • Buckthorn
  • Barberry
  • Balmony
  • Aloe
  • Fenugreek
  • Flaxseed

Fiber supplements, such as whole psyllium husks, can also give relief. The self-therapy biofeedback is also known to be an effective treatment of constipation.

Constipation can be relieved temporarily; however, it is best to recognize and deal with the possible root cause to improve your overall digestive health. Many people, especially older adults, have inadequate stomach acid levels. Betaine HCl or apple cider are recommended to increase those levels when taken before meals. Probiotics and digestive enzymes can also improve your overall digestion. Finally, a simple glass of warm water with lemon can also help stimulate digestion for constipation relief.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Murray, M., et al., The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 451–455.
Passmore, A.P., et al., “Chronic constipation in long stay elderly patients: a comparison of lactulose and a senna-fibre combination,” BMJ September 25, 1993; 307(6907): 769–771.
Tao, L.M., et al., “[A crossover control study of prophylactic treatment of chemotherapy-induced constipation by senna extract],” Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi January 2012; 32(1): 47–49.
Calabro, S., “Constipation Remedies: 5 Things That Will Make You Go,” HuffPost Living web site, August 28, 2013;
Louis, P.F., “Seven natural solutions for chronic constipation,” Natural News web site, February 20, 2014;
“What is constipation? What causes constipation?” Medical News Today web site;, last updated September 26, 2014.
Renee, J., “Is the Long-Term Use of Senna Safe?” LIVESTRONG.COM web site, June 30, 2011;