Digestive System Home > Senna

Senna is a botanical product available in over-the-counter medications that are often used as stimulant laxatives. Some products can also be used to prepare the bowels for colonoscopies or other similar procedures. The medication is believed to work by irritating the lining of the digestive tract, which causes fluid secretion and helps stimulate movement through the colon. Potential side effects include cramping, bloating, and abdominal pain.

What Is Senna?

Senna leaf and fruit are natural products that are primarily used as a laxative for the treatment of constipation. Senna (in the form of sennosides) is an over-the-counter medication generally recognized as safe and effective for treating constipation.
(Click Senna Benefits for more information about possible uses.)

How Does It Work?

Senna contains sennosides, compounds that act as a stimulant laxative. It is thought that the product works by irritating the lining of the digestive tract, which causes fluid secretion and helps stimulate movement through the colon. It has also been suggested that senna may work by affecting prostaglandins or serotonin in the digestive tract.

Dosing Information

Because senna (in the form of sennosides) is a FDA-approved non-prescription drug, there are clearly established dosing recommendations for it. The recommended dosage varies, depending on your age.
(Click Senna Dosage for more information.)

Side Effects of Senna

As with any medicine, side effects are possible. However, not everyone who takes the drug will experience side effects. In fact, most people tolerate it quite well. Serious side effects are less common.
Some of the common side effects include, but are not limited to:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea.
(Click Senna Side Effects to learn more, including potentially serious side effects that you should report immediately to your healthcare provider.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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