Senna, an herbal stimulant laxative, is an extremely effective method for faciliating bowel movements in people with constipation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the use of senna as an over-the-counter laxative, and it is included in many conventional and holistic formulas designed to enable bowel movements. Although it can be safe when used cautiously, senna is not appropriate for everyone. There are several senna contraindications, which are situations that make it inadvisable or dangerous to use senna supplements.
Do not use senna, or products made from senna, if you are in any of the following groups of people.
Senna is safe when used short-term in pregnant women, but pregnancy is a major senna contraindication when high doses are used. Long-term, frequent use of senna can cause seriosu side effects, including dependence and liver damage. These side effects are particularly serious for pregnant mothers. Many other herbs are also inappropriate for use during pregnancy, so consult your health care provider before using any supplement during any stage of gestation.
If you have potassium deficiency or other electrolyte imbalances, do not use senna. Because it is a laxative, senna can worsen this condition, leading to potentially serious consequences. Consult your health care provider for help finding a safe laxative that will not worsen your electrolyte imbalance.
People with Diarrhea
Senna can be a very harsh laxative, particularly when it is overused, so pre-existing diarrhea is regarded as a senna contraindication. Senna can worsen this condition, leading to complications such as hemorrhoids, dehyrdation and rectal bleeding.
People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
If you have any form of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, suc as Crohn’s disease, proctitis or ulcerative colitis, you should not use senna. It can worsen these conditions, possibly leading to life-threatening consequences. Only a few laxatives are safe for people with IBD; check with your gastroenterologist for assistance choosing a product.
People with other Digestive Conditions
Senna may worsen anal prolapse, hemorrhoids, undiagnosed abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, narrowign of the digestive tract and bowel obstruction. Consult a qualified practitioner before using a laxative if you have any of these conditions.
There are a few other risks and side effects associated with senna. The National Institutes of Health offers more information about senna contraindications.