Cassia angustifolia (Senna): Health Benefits and Side effects

Introduction

Indian Senna scientifically known as Cassia angustifolia is widely cultivated for its leaves and immature pods. The strong laxative property of this plant is the main attraction point. The laxative property is mainly due to the presence of dianthone glucosides, sennosides A and B in leaves and pods (1).

Plant description

Botanical name: Cassia angustifolia

Family: Caesalpinaceae

Common name: Tinnevelly Senna, Sanaai, Indian Senna

Botanical description: It is a perennial shrub with 2-3 feet in height.  Having yellow flowers, Stems are smooth in texture and light green in color. Fruits of these plants are legumes and are 4 to 5 cm in length contains generally 6 seeds per fruit.

Habitat: Generally grows in tropical countries.

An interesting fact about Cassia angustifolia

It contains a powerful natural laxative called anthraquinone and is approved by the world health organization (WHO) (2). It is an FDA approved nonprescription laxative.

Main chemical constituents of Cassia angustifolia and their medicinal properties

1. Sennoside A, B, C & D

These are dimeric glycosides and mainly present in parts are leaf and pods.

2. Other secondary metabolites

Rhein, chrysophanol, aloe-emodin, kaempferol, myricyl alcohol, salicylic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, isorhamnetin, barbaloin, kaempferol, Cathartic Acid, anthraquinone derivatives (3).

3. Two naphthalene glycosides isolated from senna leaves and pods are 6-hydroxymusicin glucoside and tinnevellin glucoside. Isorhamnetin, further sterol glucosides, mucilage polysaccharides, resin and calcium oxalate (4).

Health benefits and Medicinal properties of Cassia angustifolia

1. Laxative properties of Senna

Compounds sennosides A & B has purgative properties. The laxative effect is due to the action of sennosides and their active metabolite, rhein-anthrone, in the colon. Therefore helps in dealing with constipation, abdominal bloating and indigestion. Also helps in clearing bowel before tests like a colonoscopy (5).

Dosage: 1-2 grams of dried leaves with hot water once a day.

2. Skin problems

Cassia angustifolia leaf paste is also helpful in the treatment of skin diseases like ringworm, scabies, eczema, and wounds (2).

3. Blood purifier

As per Ayurveda, 500 mg of Cassia leaf daily helps in the purification of blood (5). Cassia senna also helps in aiding the spleen and liver in the production of blood and red blood cells. Without it, it causes anemia for women with the heavy flow during menstruation. 

4. Cassia angustifolia for healthy liver

Purgative therapy of dried leaves and pods of Senna plants helps in strengthening of liver function. It helps in the detoxification and increases bile production, therefore, enhancing the blood flow in the abdomen and reducing the cramps (6).

5. Improves digestion

Cassia angustifolia helps in improving digestion by increasing vitamin and mineral absorption (6).

Side effects of Precautions for Cassia angustifolia

1. Lactating women should not take Cassia angustifolia

As the plant is laxative in nature, therefore, may cause a mild purgation to the breastfeeding babies (5).

2. In case of severe dysentery

The laxative nature of the plant causes bowel movement and if the person having dysentery then these plants cause huge loss of minerals and salts.

3. Nausea

Cassia angustifolia use can cause nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, dehydration, abdominal pain and reddish-colored urine (6).

4. Physician supervision is necessary

Prolonged use may cause damage to the digestive system and colon function.

Precaution

Senna or Cassia angustifolia should not be used beyond a stretch of 10 days. As daily use of Cassia angustifolia may cause decrease the colon’s absorption thus causes constipation and potentially result in a life-threatening decrease in the concentration of minerals like chloride, bicarbonate, and potassium in the body. 

References

  1. http://www.florajournal.com/archives/2018/vol6issue4/PartA/7-2-30-693.pdf
  2. https://www.ijcmas.com/special/6/Kistamma%20Singanaboina%20and%20Venkateshwar%20Chinna.pdf
  3. Patel KD, Pillai SN. Effect of fungicides on the leaf spot of senna. Ind. J. Mycol. 1980; 10:108. 
  4. https://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/139654
  5. http://www.phytojournal.com/archives/2017/vol6issue2/PartF/6-2-92-932.pdf
  6. http://jamonline.in/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/A-Herbal-plant-Cassia-angustifolia.pdf

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