Constipation: It's said that this seemingly simple health condition is now a silent epidemic that is affecting the health of thousands of people. In fact, constipation has led to over 6 million doctors’ appointments, 700,000 ER visits and billions of dollars in health care costs – both direct and indirect.1
Some people who are desperate for a solution often resort to various remedies to ease constipation. One of the most popular products out there is senna tea, a "natural" laxative that's been approved by the FDA.
But beware: there's a hidden danger linked to consuming senna tea, mainly because people are being duped into using it as a weight loss drink. Here's what you need to know about this product and why it is not a magic solution for constipation.
What Is Senna Tea?
Made from the leaves of senna herb, also called Cassia senna, senna tea is a remedy that's commonly used to ease constipation. The yellow-flowered plant from which the leaves come from is native to tropical areas, like China and India. Senna typically grows in the wilderness.2,3 There are over 250 different Cassia species, but the most popularly used varieties are Cassia angustifolia and Cassia accutifolia, which are exported around the world.
In several countries, senna has been used for many years to help alleviate certain health conditions, such as skin problems, indigestion and respiratory diseases.4 Today, the tea form of this herb is rising in popularity because of its effect against constipation and potential for boosting the waste removal process in the body – however, these purported benefits should actually be taken with a grain of salt.
In terms of flavor, senna tea is described to be slightly sweet but with a strong bitter undertone. It's not very aromatic either. To make it more palatable, senna tea is sometimes mixed with green tea or sweetened with honey.5
Does Senna Tea Offer Any Benefits?
Senna tea is said to offer benefits for constipation, as it has a natural laxative effect. This is thanks to the glycosides found in the plant. Glycosides are organic compounds that smooth the muscles as digested food travels through the intestines. As a result, stool volume is enhanced and moved out of the colon. A chain of fatty acids is also crucial for this process, as they promote digestion, fermentation and successful conversion of glycosides into a purgative agent.6
Senna tea may also help eliminate intestinal worms and other gut parasites, thanks to compounds called sennosides. By ridding your body of these parasitic creatures, you can absorb more nutrients from foods.7 It may work best when used with ginger or fennel, which are anthelmintic herbs used in eliminating roundworm.8
But because of its laxative effects, this concoction is now commonly treated as a "dieter's tea" or a detox tea, used by people who are looking for a fast way to lose weight.9 Senna tea is even in conjunction with the master cleanse.10 However, this is not recommended, as it may come with some dire results.
Drinking Senna Tea May Lead to Unpleasant Side Effects
Remember that laxative-inducing concoctions like senna tea are not advisable to be taken especially for long periods of time, as this will impair the normal function of your colon. They may make your digestive system "dependent" on the tea. Over time, senna tea may damage the function of your intestinal walls, decreasing the ability of your muscles to contract on their own.
What's more, senna tea may come with digestive issues, such as diarrhea, which may then trigger dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Nausea and vomiting may also occur upon drinking this tea. Some individuals may also be allergic to senna leaves, and it may cause your urine's color to change.11
Senna tea is also not recommended if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, as it's partly absorbed by your gut. Always consult your physician before taking any type of laxative or drinking any tea while pregnant or nursing.12
There Are Natural, Healthy Ways to Ease Constipation
Keep in mind that constipation is a symptom that may indicate an underlying disease or illness process. Thus, it is not enough to simply treat it – rather, you need to go to the root of the problem.
In addition, you should also evaluate your lifestyle habits and see if any of them is disrupting your digestive process. For example, failing to get enough fiber and drink water can heighten your risk of constipation. For more information on how to prevent this health condition, read my article "Epidemic Numbers of People Suffering From Constipation."
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Senna Tea
Q: Is it safe to drink senna tea daily?
A: No. Laxatives like senna tea can damage the function of your intestinal walls if taken for long periods of time. As a result, it may decrease the ability of your muscles to contract on their own, further worsening your digestive process.
Q: Can I drink senna tea while breastfeeding?
A: Senna tea is partly absorbed by the gut and is therefore not recommended while nursing or during pregnancy.
Q: What does senna tea do?
A: Senna tea works by smoothing the muscles as digested food travels through the intestines. This is thanks to organic compounds called glycosides found in the plant. As a result, stool volume is enhanced and moved out of the colon.
Q: What is senna tea used for?
A: Senna tea is commonly used as a laxative to help ease constipation. However, some people are using it as a weight loss product, which is not recommended.
Q: Is senna tea safe?
A: Although it is approved by the FDA as a nonprescription laxative,13 remember that senna tea may still pose side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and allergic reactions.
Q: Where to buy senna tea?
A: Senna tea can be bought online or from health stores.