Substances & Homeopatic Remedies


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Water and diluted alcohol extract the active principles of Senna. Pure alcohol only extracts them imperfectly. The leaves yield about one-third of their weight to boiling water.

The purgative constituents are closely allied to those of Aloes and Rhubarb, the activities of the drug being largely due to anthraquinone derivatives and their glucosides. It contains rhein, aloe-emedin, kaempferol, isormamnetin, both free and as glucosides together with myricyl alcohol, etc. The ash amounts to about 8 per cent, consisting chiefly of earthy and ashy carbonates.

The active purgative principle was discovered in 1866. It is a glucoside of weak acid character, and was named Cathartic Acid. By boiling its alcoholic solution with acids it yields Cathartogenic Acid and sugar. There were also found Chrysophanic Acid, Sennacrol and Sennapicrin, and a peculiar non-fermentable saccharine principle which was named Cathartomannite or Sennit.

SENNA PODS, or the dried, ripe fruits, are official in the British Pharmacopceia, though the quantity is restricted, as an adulterant, in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

The pods are milder in their effects than the leaflets, as the griping is largely due to the resin, and the pods contain none, but have about 25 per cent more cathartic acid and emodin than the leaves, without volatile oil. From 6 to 12 pods for the adult, or from 3 to 6 for the young or very aged, infused in a claret-glass of cold water, act mildly but thoroughly upon the whole intestine.

The fluid extract was formerly treated with alcohol for the removal of the griping principles, but the process was deleted from the United States Pharmacopoeia. The fluid extract is a dark, blackish, thick and somewhat turbid liquid, with a strong flavour of Senna. It is well adapted for exhibition with saline cathartics, such as Epsom salt or cream of tartar. In this ease not more than half the full dose should be given at once. The British Pharmacopoeia 1898 'Liquor Sennae Concentratus' was more like a concentrated infusion than a fluid extract, but had the same strength as the latter, the menstrum being distilled water; tincture of ginger and alcohol being added.

Medicinal Action and Uses:
Purgative. Its action being chiefly on the lower bowel, it is especially suitable in habitual costiveness. It increases the peristaltic movements of the colon by its local action upon the intestinal wall. Its active principle must pass out of the system in the secretions unaltered, for when Senna is taken by nurses, the suckling infant becomes purged. It acts neither as a sedative nor as a refrigerant, but has a slight, stimulating influence. In addition to the nauseating taste, it is apt to cause sickness, and griping pains, so that few can take it alone; but these characteristics can be overcome or removed, when it is well adapted for children, elderly persons, and delicate women. The colouring matter is absorbable, and twenty or thirty minutes after the ingestion of the drug it appears in the urine, and may be recognized by a red colour on the addition of ammonia.

Another excellent febrifuge used both in Haiti and the Ozarks is senna. An infusion (tea) of senna is given to expel worms, reduce biliousness (belching and indigestion), and as an all-purpose laxative (Kloss, 312; Santillo, 175). Senna is the main ingredient in many modern day American laxatives. But in Haiti, where worms are a more prevalent problem among the population, senna is gathered and used for its febrifuge properties. (Colon, 154)..