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Senna tea

Benefits, weight loss, and precautions

Senna tea is commonly used to relieve constipation and is often promoted as a weight loss aid, but you may wonder whether it's safe. This article explains the benefits and side effects of senna tea.

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Senna tea: Benefits, weight loss, and precautions
Last updated on August 24, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on May 19, 2023.

Senna tea is a popular herbal remedy often marketed as a laxative, weight loss aid, and detox method.

However, there’s little scientific evidence to support the efficacy of senna tea for most of these uses — aside from treating constipation.

Still, you may want to know about this drink’s benefits and safety.

This article explains everything you need to know about senna tea.

What is senna?

Senna is an herbal medicine made from the leaves, flowers, and fruit of a large group of flowering plants in the legume family.

Extracts and teas made from senna plants have long been used as laxatives and stimulants in traditional herbal medicine.

Originally from Egypt, senna is now grown worldwide, including in countries like India and Somalia.

Most commercial products are derived from Cassia acutifolia or Cassia angustifolio, commonly known as Alexandrian and Indian senna, respectively.

Today, senna is often sold as a tea or over-the-counter constipation supplement, but it’s also occasionally used in weight loss pills and drinks.

Summary: Senna is a legume family herb often used as a laxative. Additionally, it’s sometimes added to weight loss supplements.

How is senna tea used?

The most common application for senna tea is to stimulate bowel movements and alleviate constipation.

The primary active compounds in senna leaves are known as senna glycosides, or sennosides. Sennosides cannot be absorbed in your digestive tract, but gut bacteria can break them down.

This breakdown of sennosides mildly irritates the cells in your colon, stimulating intestinal movement and producing a laxative effect.

Senna is an active ingredient in many popular over-the-counter laxative medications, such as Ex-Lax and Nature’s Remedy. For most people, it will stimulate a bowel movement within 6–12 hours.

Other potential uses

Because of its laxative effects, some people use senna tea to prepare for colonoscopies.

Some people may also use senna tea to relieve discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins and tissues in the lower rectum that can cause bleeding, pain, and itching. Chronic constipation is a major cause, and minor constipation can irritate preexisting hemorrhoids.

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Suggested read: The 9 best teas that improve digestion

However, senna’s efficacy for relieving hemorrhoid symptoms has not been thoroughly studied.

Summary: Senna is primarily used to alleviate constipation, but some people may also use it to prepare for colonoscopies and manage hemorrhoid symptoms.

Senna tea should not be used for weight loss

Senna is increasingly included in herbal teas and supplements that claim to boost metabolism and promote weight loss. These products are often called “skinny teas” or “teatoxes.”

Yet, no scientific evidence supports using senna tea for any detox, cleanse, or weight loss routine.

Using senna tea in this manner may be very dangerous.

Senna is not recommended for frequent or long-term use, as it may alter normal bowel tissue function and cause laxative dependence.

Moreover, a recent study of over 10,000 women found that those who used laxatives for weight loss were 6 times likelier to develop an eating disorder.

If you’re trying to lose weight, dietary and lifestyle modifications are your best bet — not supplements or laxatives.

Summary: Senna is frequently marketed as a weight loss tool, but no evidence supports this effect. Due to its long-term health risks, you should not use senna to lose weight.

Safety, precautions, and side effects

Senna tea is generally considered safe for adults and children over 12. Nonetheless, it comes with several risks and side effects.

The most common side effects are stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. However, these symptoms are usually mild and tend to resolve relatively quickly.

Suggested read: Side effects of tea: 9 reasons not to drink too much

Some people also experience allergic reactions to senna. If you’ve ever reacted to a senna product, you should avoid senna tea.

Senna is meant to serve as a short-term constipation remedy. You shouldn’t use it for more than 7 consecutive days unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider.

Long-term senna tea intake may lead to laxative dependence, electrolyte disturbances, and liver damage.

Furthermore, senna may negatively interact with certain types of medications, such as:

If you have heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or liver disease, you should consult your healthcare provider before taking any senna product, as it may exacerbate these conditions.

Senna is not generally recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Summary: Common senna tea side effects include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. More serious side effects, such as liver damage, may occur from long-term use.

Recommended dosage for senna tea

A typical dose of a senna-based supplement is 15–30 mg daily for no longer than 1 week.

However, there’s no clear dosing recommendation for senna tea.

It’s considerably more difficult to determine a precise dose because the concentration of sennosides varies dramatically depending on how long your tea steeps.

Moreover, many commercial senna teas, especially those that contain a blend of herbs, don’t state the exact amount of senna leaves used.

In this case, the safest approach is to follow the package instructions for preparation and consumption. Never take more than what is directed on the label.

Summary: Although no clear guidelines exist for senna tea dosage, you shouldn’t take more than what is directed on the package.

How to prepare senna tea at home

Senna tea is often described as having a mild, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor. Unlike many other herbal teas, it isn’t particularly aromatic.

Suggested read: 19 natural laxatives for constipation

However, many commercial teas combine senna with other herbs that can alter the final aroma and flavor.

Follow the package instructions if you’re using tea bags or a blend.

If you’re preparing senna tea from scratch, steep 1–2 grams of dried senna leaves in hot water for 10 minutes. Avoid drinking more than 2 servings per day.

You can also add a touch of sweeteners like honey or stevia.

Summary: Follow the package instructions if using tea bags or a blend. Stepping 1–2 grams of leaves in hot water for 10 minutes when using dry senna leaves.

Summary

Senna tea is an herbal infusion regularly used to treat constipation.

While some claim it promotes weight loss, you shouldn’t use it in any weight loss detox or cleanse. Doing so could lead to laxative dependence, liver damage, and other serious health issues.

Senna tea may cause short-term stomach cramps and diarrhea. To minimize your risk of negative effects, you shouldn’t drink it for longer than 7 days in a row.

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