Senna Side Effects

Senna is a natural medicine containing sennosides that are derived from the leaves of the senna plant. Sennosides irritate the lining of the bowel causing a laxative effect.

Senna has been used in alternative medicine as a laxative and an aid to treat constipation.

Not all uses for senna have been approved by the FDA. It should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.

Senna is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

When considering the use of herbal supplements, seek the advice of your doctor. You may also consider consulting a practitioner who is trained in the use of herbal/health supplements.

If you choose to use senna, use it as directed on the package or as directed by your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider. Do not use more of this product than is recommended on the label.

Senna is usually taken before bed to produce a bowel movement 6 to 12 hours later when you wake up.

Measure liquid senna with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup, not with a regular table spoon. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.

Do not use different formulations of senna (such as tablets and liquid) at the same time without medical advice. Using different formulations together increases the risk of an overdose of senna.

Call your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse while using senna. Do not use this product for longer than 1 week without the advice of a healthcare provider.

Store senna at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to senna: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your healthcare provider at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • severe stomach pain, severe diarrhea, watery diarrhea;
  • weight loss;
  • worsening constipation after you stop taking senna;
  • enlargement of your fingers and toes;
  • low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling); or
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Less serious senna side effects may include:

  • stomach cramps, bloating, gas, mild diarrhea;
  • numbness or tingly feeling;
  • joint pain; or
  • discolored urine.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor, pharmacist, herbalist, or other healthcare provider about any unusual or bothersome side effect.

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