Cassia angustifolia, introduced to Europe in the 11th century by the Arabs, was one of the most appreciated purgative plants. With it, lunatics were drastically purged, with results not as successful as expected. In this way, with energetic diarrhea and bleeding, ancient physicians exercised their art. Today, cassia angustifolia is one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs as an effective and safe laxative.
Cassia Angustifolia Scientific Facts
- Other names: Tinnevelly senna, Indian senna.
- French: Sene.
- Spanish: Sen.
- Environment: Native to Arabia, Somalia, and other countries on the Red Sea coastline. Widely cultivated in southern India.
- Description: Shrub of the Leguminosae family, growing from 0.5 to 1 m high. It has composed leaves with five to eight pairs of oval folioles. Flowers are yellow, and the fruit is a plain-shaped legume containing from six to eight seeds.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The folioles (leaves) and the seeds.
Healing Properties and Warning
The LEAVES and SEEDS of cassia angustifolia contain 2-3 percent of anthraquinone glycosides, known as sennoside A and B; they also contain mucilage and flavonoids, which help in the plant’s laxative properties, and a resin with irritant action which, when taken in large doses, can provoke vomiting and nausea.
sennosides are inactive in their natural condition. They pass through the stomach with no alteration, then being partially absorbed in the small intestine, are eliminated with the bile. When arriving in the colon, sennosides are chemically transformed by means of some enzymes produced by intestinal bacteria (glycosides), which liberate the genine (aglycon), the active component of the sennoside molecules.
The chemical reaction produced goes as follow: sennoside (glycoside) + enzyme = genin (active component) + sugar. Active derivatives of sennosides exert their laxative action by means of two mechanisms.
- By stimulating the action of the large intestine, increasing peristaltic movements. Though with lesser intensity, they also increase the muscular tone of the urinary system and the uterus.
- By decreasing permeability of the intestinal mucosa, thus making the normal absorption of water in the large intestine more difficult.
Depending on the dose, cassia angustifolia produces two effects:
- Laxative. It eases the emission of soft feces with no colic.
- Purgative: It causes evacuation of liquid, diarrheic feces, accompanied by cramps (colic).
The purgative or laxative effects manifest themselves six or seven hours after taking the plant. These effects may last for one or two days and are never followed by reactive constipation.
The use of cassia angustifolia is recommended for constipation caused by traveling, diet changes, childbirth, and after surgical operations. It is beneficial to prevent straining during defecation in patients suffering from high blood pressure or angina pectoris.
WARNING! Due to its stimulant on the hollow abdominal organs, which are covered by smooth muscle fibers (especially the uterus and the bladder), it must not be used during pregnancy nor menstruation. It must not be used for colitis or cystitis.
In the case of anal and rectal afflictions (fissure, hemorrhoids, etc.), it must be used with care and always in low doses.
How to use Cassia Angustofolia
- Infusion. The powder of ground cassia angustifolia lobules is used in doses ranging from 1 to 8 g, taken in infusion at night. Two or three grams are usually enough to achieve a laxative effect. Children have enough with half this dose. It should not be taken more than seven days consecutively.
To avoid the irritant effects of its resin, which in large doses can provoke nausea and vomiting, we recommend you place cassia angustofolia leaves in alcoholic cold extract for 24-48 hours. After this time, throw away the alcohol, and prepare an infusion with these leaves.
- Cassia angustifolia extract. Recently, pharmaceutical industries have introduced to the market dried sennosides, which are presented in the form of different pharmaceutical preparations. These substances lack any of the resin’s irritant effects, thus being especially appropriate for children and older people.
- Enema. With 20-30 g of tinnevelly senna per liter of water, prepare an infusion which will be administered as an enema. Effects are immediate.
Other Cassia Species
Besides cassia angustofolia, which is the most commonly used species, there are other species with similar properties: so-called Alexandria senna (Cassia senna L. = Cassia acutifolia Del.), Spanish senna (Cassia obovate Colladon), and American senna (Cassia marylandica L.). The properties and applications of all species are similar, though they differ from those of Indian senna in that they present a lower concentration of active components.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 492, 493. Print. [Cassia angustifolia]