Senna pods are the seed pods of the senna plant. Herbalists and natural doctors recommend senna pod supplements to treat mild cases of constipation. You should, however, take precautions when you use any laxative to treat constipation, including senna pods. Speak with a medical professional prior to consuming any laxative, such as senna pods, even though they are available over-the-counter.
Gentle Laxative Effects
The senna plant contains a strong laxative called anthraquinones. The fruit and pod of the senna plant have a lower concentration of anthraquinones than the plant's leaves. Pharmaceutical companies use the anthraquinones from the senna pods to manufacture a gentle laxative. The leaves of the senna plant, on the other hand, can cause cramping and severe diarrhea.
Relief for Constipation
Constipation can result from infrequent bowel movements and typically manifests as difficulty passing stools. According to “Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function,” clinical constipation occurs if you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week and you have dry and hard stools. Senna pods function by causing your intestinal muscles to spasm and contract. This action produces an almost immediate effect and causes you to have a bowel movement.
Not for Long-Term Use
Lazy bowel syndrome is a condition you can develop if you use laxatives, such as senna pods excessively. As you increase the use of laxatives such as senna pods, your intestines become dependent on them, and you can't have normal bowel movements without them. Lazy bowel syndrome may result in chronic constipation. Avoid using senna pods for more than seven consecutive days.
Serious Side Effects
Anthraquinones, the compounds found in senna pods, may cause serious side effects, including electrolyte imbalances, loss of body fluids, nausea, weight loss, swelling of the fingertips, and abdominal pain and cramps. You should not use any senna pod supplement if you have liver or kidney disease, blood vessel disease, severe hemorrhoids, abdominal hernia or other digestive disorders. Consult your doctor before using senna pods.
- "The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook: Forty Natural Prescriptions for Perfect Health"; Dr. David Simon et al; 2000
- "Handbook of Arabian Medicinal Plants"; Shahina Ghazanfar; 1994
- “Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function”; Arthur Vander et al; 1998
Jessica Jacobs is a registered dietitian and professional writer, contributing to "Fitness Magazine" since 2003. She received a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University and an M.S. in nutrition and food sciences from the University of Texas at Austin.