Cassia angustifolia, more commonly known as senna, is an herb with laxative qualities. The medical uses of Cassia angustifolia include the treatment of intestinal conditions such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and hemorrhoids. It also can be used to treat hemorrhoids or as a laxative. A native plant of Africa, Cassia angustifolia's use as a laxative can be traced to the ninth century.
This herb contains chemicals called sennosides, which create a laxative effect by irritating the bowel lining. The resulting intestinal contractions help move waste material through the digestive system, which makes this herb an effective treatment for constipation. This herb can be used as a nonprescription laxative for anyone who is more than 2 years old. It also can be used to clean out the bowels prior to a colonoscopy.
Cassia angustifolia is sometimes used to treat hemorrhoids, which are inflamed and swollen rectal veins that typically are caused by excessive straining and constipation. The herb acts as a stool softener, easing pressure on the veins and allowing them to return to their normal state. It also has been used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, which is a condition that causes abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, discomfort and constipation. The symptoms of IBS can vary greatly from person to person, but for those who suffer constipation rather than loose bowels, Cassia angustifolia is sometimes used as a laxative.
This herb can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea, and it should not be used by individuals who have abdominal obstructions. It also can lessen the effectiveness of other medications by accelerating their passage through the digestive tract, thereby decreasing their absorption. Cassia angustifolia should not be taken with diuretics, because the combination can result in an excessive loss of potassium.
Although it is effectively used as a laxative, Cassia angustifolia's effectiveness as a treatment for hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome is less certain. As such, it is both suggested and contraindicated in its use for these conditions, depending on the source. The recommended dosage varies based on the patient's age. A woman who has constipation as a result of pregnancy should not exceed a certain dosage. A healthcare professional can help a patient choose the proper dosage.