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The name attributed to it was “sena”, which came from the Arabic “sennar”, term indicating the region running along the inferior coast of the Blue Nile, where the plant was particularly wide-spread.
Sene de la palthe. Tinnevelly Senna.
East Indian Senna.
Plantae,Spermatophyta, Angiospermae-Flowering plants, Dicotyledonae, Rosiflorae/Rosidae, Fabales/ Leguminosae, Fabaceae/Papilionaceae - Legume Family / Pea Family
Proved and introduced by Wigan, , Lancet 1846 and Bley and Dissel, Pharm. Journal 1850
Description of the substance
Egypt, Nubia, Arabia, Sennar.
Several species of Cassia contribute to the drug of commerce, and were comprised in a single species by Linnaeus under the name of Cassia Senna. Since his day, the subject has been more fully investigated, and it is known that several countries utilize the leaves of their own indigenous varieties in the same way. The two most widely exported and officially recognized are C. acutifolia and C. angustifolia (India or Tinnevelly Senna).
C. acutifolia, yielding the finest and most valuable variety of the drug is a small shrub about 2 feet high. The stem is erect, smooth, and pale green, with long, spreading branches, bearing leaflets in four or five pairs, averaging an inch long, lanceolate or obovate, unequally oblique at the base, veins distinct on the under surface, brittle, greyish-green, of a faint, peculiar odour, and mucilaginous, sweetish taste. The form of the base, and freedom from bitterness, distinguish the Senna from the Argel leaves, which are also thicker and stiffer. The flowers are small and yellow. The pods are broadly oblong, about 2 inches long by 7/8 inch broad, and contain about six seeds.
Commercial Senna is prepared for use by garbling, or picking out the leaflets and rejecting the lead-stalks, impurities, and leaves of other plants. The amount annually exported is about 8,000 bales of each of the varieties, and the price is high, owing to the failure of the crops at certain seasons. Good Senna may be known by the bright, fresh, yellowishgreen colour of the leaves, with a faint and peculiar odour rather like green tea, and a nauseous, mucilaginous, sweetish, slightly bitter taste. It should be powdered only as wanted, because the powder absorbs moisture, becomes mouldy, and loses its value. Boiling destroys its virtues, unless it be in vacuo, or in a covered vessel.
Adulterations and Other Species Used:
Owing to the high price, what is known as 'broken Senna' is found on the market and sold for the genuine article with government sanction in the United States of America. Also, 'Senna siftings,' containing sand and other foreign matter have been offered for sale, causing trouble to government inspectors.
Formerly there was an intentional mixture of 5 parts of C. acutifolia, 3 of C. obovata, and 2 of Cynanchum, but now Alexandrian Senna is more uniform. It is often called in the French Pharmacopoeia séné de la palthe, because of the duty formerly laid upon it by the Ottoman Porte. A parcel of Alexandrian Senna in the market formerly consisted of (1) leaflets of C. acutifolia, (2) leaflets of C. obovata, (3) the pods, broken leaf-stalks, flowers, and fine fragments of either, (4) leaves of Cynanchum oleofolium. The last are larger, thicker, regular at the base, and have no lateral nerves visible on their undersurface. They must be regarded as an adulteration.
C. angustifolia or Tinnevelly Senna, Senna Indica, C. elongata is an annual growing in the Yemen and Hadramaut provinces of Arabia Felix, in Somaliland, Mozambique, Scind, and the Punjab. In Southern India it is cultivated and grows to a larger size. In the German and Swiss Pharmacopoeias, the official drug is restricted to Tinnevelly Senna, and also in the British Pharmacopoeia and the Pharmacopoeia of India. Senna Indica also includes the variety known as Arabian, Mocha, Bombay, or East Indian Senna. Both varieties, as well as Alexandrian Senna, are official in the United States Pharmacopoeia.
There is a certain difference in the qualities and also in the names of the species imported into Britain and America. The fine Tinnevelly Senna goes from Madras or Tuticorin to Britain. The leaflets are unbroken, from 1 to 2 or more inches long, thin, flexible, and green.
It has been stated that it contains only two-thirds as much of the active principle as the Alexandrian.
The other, or Arabian variety, comes via Mocha and Bombay, and is less pure and less carefully prepared. The leaflets are long and narrow, pike-like, so are called in France séné de la pique. Leaflets resembling these were brought by Livingstone from Southeast Africa. Mecca Senna, also known in America as Arabian or Bombay Senna, is obtained from both the wild and the cultivated kinds of C. angustifolia. The best comes from British India. The variety has sometimes a yellowish or tawny colour, more like the Indica than the Alexandrian, and may be the product of C. lanceolata of Forskhal. C. obovata, C. obtusa or Senna obtusa is usually a perennial, found wild in Egypt, Nubia, Abyssinia, Tripoli, Senegal and Benguella, Arabia and India. It was the first kind of Senna known, and being brought by the Moors into Europe, was formerly cultivated in Northern Italy, Spain, and Southern France, and called S. italica. It is official in the British Pharmacopceia and the Pharmacopoeia of India as one of the botanical sources of Alexandrian Senna, but now few of its leaflets are included. It is called by the Arabs S. baladi, i.e. indigenous or wild Senna, to distinguish it from C. acutifolia, S. jebeli, or Mountain Senna. It is common in Jamaica, where its cultivation has been suggested, and where it is called Port Royal Senna or Jamaica Senna.
C. Marilandica or American Senna, Wild Senna, Poinciana pulcherima, formerly Maryland Senna, is a common perennial from New England to Northern Carolina. Its leaves are compressed into oblong cakes like other herbal preparations of the Shakers. It acts like Senna, but is weaker, and should be combined with aromatics. The dose in powder is from 1/2 to 2 1/2 drachms. For the infusion, add 1 ounce of the leaves and 1 drachm of coriander seeds to 1 pint of boiling water. Macerate for an hour in a covered vessel, and strain. Dose: 4 to 5 fluid ounces. These leaves are also found mixed with or substituted for Alexandrian Senna.
C. Chamoecrista, Prairie Senna, Partridge Pea, Dwarf Cassia, or Sensitive Pea, found on the Western Prairies, is an excellent substiture for the above.
C. fistula, or Purging Cassia, C. Stick, Pudding Pipe-Tree, or Alexandrian Purging Cassia, is a tree rising to 40 feet in height, the pulp of the pods being used in the electuary of Senna. It is found in Egypt, the Indies, China, etc.
Colutea arborescens, or Bladder-Senna (see SENNA, BLADDER), Baguenaudier, Séné Indigene, the Sutherlandia frutescens of the Cape, formerly often met with as a substitute, is now usually replaced by Globularia Turbith or Alypum, the leaves of which are milder, so that a double dose may be taken. It is the Wild Senna of Europe.
Coriaria Myrtifolia is a Mediterranean shrub and highly poisonous, so that it should be recognized when present. The leaves are green, very thin, and soft, three veined, ovate-lanceolate, and equal at the base. It grows wild in Southern Europe, and its leaves are used as a black dye. It is also used to adulterate sweet marjoram. Deaths are recorded from eating the small, black berries. A Mexican drug, Tlolocopetale, containing coriarin and coriamurtin, is said to be a product. Other names are Currierts Sumach and Redoul.
Argel leaves (Solenostemma or Cynanchum Argel), from Nubia, are paler in colour, have less conspicuous veins, and an equal base.
Tephrosia leaflets and legumes (Tephrosia Apollinea), from the banks of the Nile, are silky or silvery, equal at the base and usually folded longitudinally on their mid-rib.
Jaborandi Leaflets (Bilocarpus Microphyllus) have been imported under the name of Senna.
Aden Senna is believed to be obtained from C. holosericeae.
C. montana yields a false Senna from Madras, partly resembling the Tinnevelly Senna, though the colour of the upper surface of the leaves is browner.
It must be remembered that the Senna leaf contains no tannic acid and does not alter a ferric solution, while most of those encountered as adulterations precipitate ferric-chloride.
Other varieties used in their native countries, of which little appears to be known, are also:
C. cathartica, C. rugosa, C. splendida, C. leavigata, C. multijuja, Coronilla Emenls or Scorpion Senna, C. obovata or Senegal Senna.
Bear in mind "A Modern Herbal" was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900's. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.