Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

The senna leaf, sometimes referred to as cassia senna, India senna, or Alexandrian senna, is recognized as a natural laxative that promotes regularity, and some claim it promotes the excretion of toxic substances. Advocates of alternative medicine suggest senna be used as an herbal supplement for the relief of constipation and for internal cleansing. Check with your doctor before using any alternative treatment.

Senna Leaf as a Cleanser

Many alternative health proponents say regular intestinal "cleansing" will relieve the body of toxins that build up from chemicals and additives in our diets and environment. These include substances such as artificial preservatives, flavorings and colorings, as well as alcohol, caffeine, smoking and drugs. It is thought that these toxins may contribute to fatigue, digestive illness, weight problems and health problems. Proponents of the senna leaf contend that it can be useful for relief of constipation, colon cleansing, parasite cleansing, intestinal cleansing of worms or intestinal infections. These claims have not been supported by sufficient data to have them approved as safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

How Much and How Often?

If you opt for senna as a laxative or cleanser, use only the amount directed on the package. Usually, if you take senna before going to bed, you will have a bowel movement six to 12 hours after waking up. Always consult with a health care practitioner before you try senna to ensure it is safe for you. Minor side affects may include cramps, bloating, gas, mild diarrhea, slight numbness, joint pain and discolored urine.

Cautions and Precautions

Currently, there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds. Some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or drugs. To minimize this risk, purchase all herbal supplements from a reliable source. Store senna where heat, moisture and light cannot penetrate. Ensure it is at room temperature. Do not use senna if you are pregnant or have an intestinal illness. Seek immediate emergency care if you experience symptoms that could indicate a serious side effect or allergy. These include intense pain in the stomach, diarrhea, constipation that gets worse after you quit using senna, swelling of fingers and toes, unusual thirst, muscle weakness, disorientation, weight loss, nausea, itching, and jaundice.

Types of Senna

Senna is available in many forms, such as tea, liquid drops, powder formula, capsules and pills. Do not take different forms of senna at the same time. Senna should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor.