Senna Tea: Should You Sip It or Snip It?

Senna tea reveals benefits associated to the digestive system, though it may come with health risks and special precautions. With such conflicting sides of the story, should you be welcoming senna to the tea party?

What Is Senna Tea?

Senna tea is an herbal tea produced from the Cassia senna plant. The tea is described to be slightly sweet while also baring a strong, bitter undertone. To dilute the strong flavor and make it more palatable, green tea or honey is often added.

The tea was customarily used to treat a number of health ailments, including conditions affecting the skin, lungs, and digestive tract. Fast forward to modern day alternative medicine, senna is an FDA-approved nonprescription drug for adults and children aged two years and older and predominately used to treat constipation.

Senna Tea Benefits

The starring function of senna laxative tea is, well, its laxative property.

Senna relieves constipation thanks to the sennosides it contains, which work by retaining water in the bowel, irritating the intestinal lining, and smoothing the muscles. The process ultimately helps food travel down the digestive tract and become eliminated from the colon.

It is also sometimes used as a conjunctive method to cleanse the colon prior to undergoing a colonoscopy. Though the evidence is insufficient, senna may help manage hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Dieters also look to the laxative properties of senna to lose weight, though taking it as a weight loss regimen is not recommended and can be extremely dangerous.

How long does senna take to work?

To put a number on it, the NHS suggests senna (or senokot) takes about eight hours to work. Specific to senna tea, the effects are mostly individualized, though it generally starts to kick in within six to 12 hours. Senna is often taken before going to bed, which helps create the urge to use the bathroom the next morning.

It is important to note not everyone responds to the effects of senna. If there are no noticeable changes in your bowels after taking the recommended amount (which is about 17 milligrams daily), do not up your intake. Although increasing dosage is not always harmful, it could could result to unwanted and undesirable side effects.

Senna Tea Side Effects and Risks

Side Effects

The side effects of senna relate to its laxative effects and tend to be immediate. These include:

  • Abdominal cramps and discomfort
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Faintness
  • Urine discoloration


While short-term use has shown to be safe, long-term use may cause laxative dependence, damage to the digestive lining, and electrolyte imbalances, which may be harmful to the heart, liver, muscles, and other parts of the body.

Special precautions and warnings are also indicated for those who:

  • Manage a gastrointestinal disorder, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea.
  • Have any form of heart, liver, or kidney condition.
  • Take certain medications, including heart medicines such as digoxin, warfarin, and diuretics.
  • Are trying to get pregnant, pregnant, or breastfeeding.

So, should you sip it or snip it?

Senna tea can certainly be beneficial for managing constipation, though it is always a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider before using. In fact, constipation can be a symptom of an underlying health condition and their expertise can help identify and target the root of the problem.

There are also numerous remedies for managing constipation, including increasing dietary fiber, water intake, and physical activity. Making such lifestyle modifications can ease constipation without posing the risk of unpleasant side effects of senna.