Senna, Botanical name Cassia angustifolia (Alexandrian Senna) is a shrub that grows to about 1 meter in height and is found in hot and humid climates. It has yellow flowers and papery pods which contain six to eight seeds in them. It grows in Western Arabia (Al-Hijaaz) and is harvested in countries like India and Pakistan. Originally it was the Muslims who introduced Senna to European Medicine in the 9th or 10th century.
Evidence from the Qur’aan & Sunnah
Senna has been mentioned in the Sunnah of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم . From Asmaa Bint Umais, She said: The Messenger said “with what do you relieve constipation?” she said: with the shubrum. He said “(it is) hot and strong”, she then said: I also relieve it with the Senna, so he said “if there was a thing (which) cures from death indeed it would be the Senna.” [Ibn Maajah 3461; Shaykh Al-Albaani graded it daeef. The two Arnaoots mentioned that this hadeeth is strengthened by the following narration.]The Prophet said “Upon you is the Senna and the Sanoot (cumin) for indeed in the two of them is a cure for every disease except Saam” He was asked “O Messenger of Allah, What is Saam?” He said “Death” [Ibn Maajah 3457; Shaykh Al-Albaani graded it saheeh]
According to Ibn Al-Qayyim, other than being a laxative, senna relaxes the muscle and improves the hair; it also helps against lice, headache, rash and epilepsy.Senna can be used for the hair in the same way that Henna is applied. The difference is, Senna does not colour the heair like Henna. It makes the hair thick and glossy and improves the health of the scalp.
Today the leaves and pods of the Senna plant are important ingredients of laxatives sold in most pharmacies. It is a recognised cure for constipation which begins to work 10-12 hours after ingestion. It detoxes the body and cleanses the colon. Sihab Al-Badry Yassin a researcher in Egypt compiled a chemical analysis proving the advantages of senna. In it he shows how senna cured a patient who had bacteria in the stomach that was preventing iron absorption in his body. He was treated with cupping and Senna as a detox to cleanse his stomach and colon. For further reading please refer to his book “Medicating with Senna, A prophetic way of life”
For constipation – Boil a desert spoonful of Senna leaves with two glasses of water and brew for about 10 to 15 minutes or until it is reduced by half. Strain the leaves and drink the liquid before going to sleep.
For conditioning the hair – mix some Senna leaf powder with warm water until it becomes a paste. Apply the paste to the hair and leave in for about 10 to 15 minutes before washing off.
Flavanoids, Mucilage, Antraquinones (Sennosides)
Since Senna is a strong laxative it can lead to stomach or abdominal pains. For this reason it is advisable to take it with aromatic or carminative (something that expels gas from the body) herbs.
Repeated use of Senna can aggravate constipation. It should not be given to children under the age of 12 years. It should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. It should not be taken by persons who have intestinal blockage or inflammation. It should not be taken by persons who suffer from haemorrhoids. It should not be taken at the same time as drugs containing antraquinones.