Senna

How does Senna work?

Senna contains many chemicals called sennosides. Sennosides irritate the lining of the bowel, which causes a laxative effect.

Are there safety concerns?

Senna is LIKELY SAFE for most adults and children over age 2 when taken by mouth, short-term. Senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription medicine. Senna can cause some side effects including stomach discomfort, cramps, and diarrhea.

Senna is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth long-term or in high doses. Don't use senna for more than two weeks. Longer use can cause the bowels to stop functioning normally and might cause dependence on laxatives. Long-term use can also change the amount or balance of some chemicals in the blood (electrolytes) that can cause heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, and other harmful effects.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Senna is POSSIBLY SAFE during pregnancy and breast-feeding when taken by mouth, short-term. It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken by mouth long-term or in high doses. Long-term, frequent use, or use of high doses has been linked to serious side effects including laxative dependence and liver damage.

Although small amounts of senna cross into breast milk, it doesn't seem to be a problem for nursing babies. As long as the mother uses senna in recommended amounts, senna does not cause changes in the frequency or consistency of babies' stools.

Electrolyte disturbances, potassium deficiency: Overuse of senna can make these conditions worse.

Dehydration, diarrhea or loose stools: Senna should not be used in people with dehydration, diarrhea, or loose stools. It can make these conditions worse.

Gastrointestinal (GI) conditions: Senna should not be used by people with abdominal pain (either diagnosed or undiagnosed), intestinal blockage, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, stomach inflammation, anal prolapse, or hemorrhoids.

Heart disease: Senna can cause electrolyte disturbances and might make heart disease worse.


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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


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