Senna Tea: Health Benefits, How to Make & Side Effects

Updated in December 2023

Senna tea is commonly used to treat constipation. The sennosides in its composition contain strong laxative and purgative properties that irritate the intestines and promote bowel movements. 

Active substances from this plant are extracted from the leaves, which are the parts of the plant that are most used. These substances are used to prepare tea or to make capsules. 

Senna, also known as Senna alexandrina, Cassia angustifolia or Cassia Senna, can be found in natural health stores and in some compound pharmacies. It should be used as prescribed by a doctor or by a medicinal plant specialist. 

Imagem ilustrativa número 1

Health benefits

Senna tea contains laxative, purgative, depurative and anthelmintic properties. Therefore, it is commonly used to treat gastrointestinal issues, particularly occasional constipation. It softens the stools and can be used to alleviate discomfort in people with anal fissures and hemorrhoids.  

Its laxative effect is caused by the active substances’ ability to irritate the intestinal lining. This makes bowel movements more quick to allow for effective elimination of stools. 

Despite its benefits, senna tea should be used with caution under the guidance of a doctor. Constant use can impact intestinal flora and cause severe cramps. It can also increase your likelihood for rectal cancer.

Weight loss with senna tea

Senna tea is popularly used during weight loss diets. However, this plant does not contain any properties that help to burn fat. It can appear to help with weight loss due to frequent bowel movements, which inhibit water absorption and prevent water retention. 

The best way to lose weight permanently is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Learn more about the weight loss diet our in-house dietitian recommends. 

How to make senna tea

To make this tea, you should use fresh senna leaves, as these tends to have a more active effect on the body when compared with dried senna leaves. The fresher the leaf, the more potent it will be. 


  • 1 to 2 g of senna leaves 
  • 250 mL of boiling water 


Place the leaves in a pot with the boiling water and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Wait for it to cool, then strain and drink 1 cup, without any added sugar, ideally before going to bed. This tea should only be used until constipation has resolved, or for a maximum of 3 days.

Although making tea is a great way to consume senna, it can also be sold in capsule form in natural health stores and some pharmacies. The recommended dose is one 100 to 300 mg capsule per day. 

You are advised to only consume senna as directed by a doctor, medicinal plant specialist or naturopath. It should not be taken for more than 7 straight days. If constipation persists after this time, you should see a doctor or gastroenterologist for assessment. 

How long does it take to work? 

Senna tea takes 8 to 12 hours to be effective, therefore you are advised to take it before bedtime, so that you can time your bowel movement for the morning. 

Check out other ways you can relieve constipation naturally. 

Senna capsules

Although tea is a practical option for consuming senna, this plant can also be found in capsule form, which can be sold in health food stores and some pharmacies. The usual recommended dose is one capsule of 100 to 300 mg per day.

How long can you take senna for?

Ideally, senna should only be used if recommended by doctor, herbalist or naturopath. It should be used for a maximum of 7 consecutive days. If constipation persists after this period, it is advisable to consult a general practitioner or gastroenterologist.

Possible side effects 

Senna tea is considered to be sage, as long as it is used by less than a week, or as a dose of 34.4 mg per day. If taken for over a week or at high doses, side effects like cramping, stomach fullness, abdominal bloating and increased intestinal gas can occur. 

In addition, some people may also notice vomiting, diarrhea, increased period flow, hypocalcemia, poor intestinal absorption and decreased hemoglobin in their blood test. 

Senna tea can also give urine a more yellow or brown-red color, due to the presence of anthraquinones in its composition. This can interfere with urine test results. Urine color will usually return to normal after discontinuing the tea. 

Is senna tea harmful?

Using senna tea for under a week is safe, however it can be harmful if used frequently or for prolonged periods. It can make your intestines more "lazy" and may make you dependent on laxatives for bowel movements. 

Using senna, other teas or other laxative medication can lead to poor absorption of vitamins, minerals or other medications in the intestines, which can negatively impact your health.

It is important for treatment of constipation to be monitored by a gastroenterologist or dietitian. A health care professional may recommend diet changes (like drinking more fluids and increasing fiber intake) and exercising regularly) to improve intestinal health and bowel movements. 

Can senna tea cause cancer?

Some studies [1,2] show that the anthranoids in senna plants can help to destroy cells in the intestines and can increase your risk for intestinal cancer, especially when used for prolonged periods. 

The risk for intestinal cancer from senna tea is controversial, however, because constipation is a common symptom of intestinal cancer, and this tea is often used to help with constipation. 

For this reason, more studies are needed to prove the relationship between cancer risk and senna tea. 

Contraindications for use

Senna should not be used by children under 12, pregnant women and breastfeeding women. It should be avoided by patients with a history of bowel obstructions, acute appendicitis, diarrhea, intestinal inflammation, stomach inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, stomach pain for unknown reasons or senna allergies. 

Senna should also not be used by patients taking heart medication, laxatives, cortisone or diuretics. It should not be used for more than 7 days, as it is associated with many side effects. 

Senna tea should be used cautiously by women who take combination birth control that contain estrogen, and hormonal replacement therapy during menopause. This tea can decrease the effect of these medications, due to decreased absorption of estrogen in the intestines. 

It should be used as directed by a doctor or medicinal plant specialist to prevent complications.