How Effective is Senna for Constipation?

If you’ve experienced constipation before, you may have heard of Senna. We see a lot of the residents at our assisted living homes taking Senna. It is a drug that is derived from a plant and it is utilized as a laxative. Senna belongs to a group called stimulant laxatives which irritates your intestinal lining. The stimulation causes it to promote bowel movement. That’s why doctors prescribe Senna for constipation. However, long-term usage of certain types of laxatives is not recommended as it can cause dependence and electrolyte imbalance. So how effective is Senna for constipation?


Precautions Prior to Taking Senna for Constipation

Prior to taking Senna for constipation, inform the doctor if your loved one is allergic to Docusate, Sennosides or any other form of allergies.

It is wise to take caution since Senna may contain inactive ingredients that might trigger allergic reactions and other issues. Ask your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist for additional information.

Other than informing the doctor regarding your loved one’s history of allergies, it is also important to disclose his/her medical history. Especially if they experienced

  • Appendicitis or its symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or unexplained stomach/ abdominal pain)
  • Blockage in the intestines
  • Bleeding in the rectum, and/or
  • A sudden shift in bowel movements that lasted for more than two weeks.

If your elderly parent is set to have a surgery, be sure to inform their doctor or dentist about the medications he/she is taking, such as prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, and/or herbal products.

Ask your loved one’s doctor, healthcare provider, or pharmacist whether it is safe to use Senna for constipation if you have one of the following illnesses:

  • A bowel disorder like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis,
  • Heart disease,
  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain

How Effective is Senna for Constipation as a Natural Laxative?

Senna is a plant-based medication which contains sennosides – which came from the leaves of the Senna plant. Sennosides are responsible for the irritation of the bowel lining. Senna for constipation is not a new discovery when it comes to alternative medicine. In fact, it has long been used as a laxative to treat constipation. Senna provides relief in the short-term from constipation. It’s not a great idea for long-term issues.

How effective is Senna for constipation? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved all uses for Senna. The drug is not supposed to be used as an alternative to the medication prescribed by your doctor.

Senna is commonly sold in the market as an herbal supplement. As of now, most of the herbal compounds found in supplements do not have regulated manufacturing standards. It is possible that some supplements in the market are riddled with toxic metals or other harmful drugs. Should your loved one wish to take herbal medications, it is best to purchase them from a reliable source to lower the risk of contamination.

Senna provides relief only it is taken exactly how it is directed on the label or as the doctor prescribed. Do not take the product longer than recommended or in larger amounts as it may result in overdose or other health issues.

Contact your loved one’s doctor or healthcare provider if the symptoms do not improve or if it worsens even while using Senna. Never use the product for more than a week without asking your healthcare provider.


What Are Senna’s Side Effects?

Be sure to call emergency medical help as soon as possible if your loved one experiences the following signs of allergic reaction to Senna:

  • Breathing difficulties;
  • Swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat

On the other hand, call your elderly loved one’s healthcare provider or doctor if he/she experiences the following side effects:

  • Severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and watery diarrhea;
  • Nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
  • Worsening constipation after you stop taking Senna;
  • Enlargement of your fingers and toes;
  • Low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling); or
  • Sudden weight loss

Other less serious side effects of Senna may include:

  • Joint pain;
  • Tingly feeling or numbness;
  • Bloating, stomach cramps, gas, mild diarrhea; or
  • Discolored urine

Disclaimer: This list is not a complete list of side effects and there may be others that may occur. Inform your doctor or healthcare provider if your loved one feels anything unusual or bothersome while taking Senna for constipation. You may also want to inform the FDA about other side effects. You can call them at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What Drugs Interact With Senna?

If you are using any of the following medications, do not let your loved one take Senna without notifying your loved one’s healthcare provider or doctor. Some drugs may interfere with the way Senna provides relief:

  • A diuretic (water pill); or
  • Digoxin (Lanoxin)
  • Blood thinners such as Warfarin (Jantoven or Coumadin)

Disclaimer: Again, this list does not contain all the other drugs that may potentially interact with Senna. It is important to completely inform your healthcare provider regarding the medications you use. It should cover prescription drugs, over-the-counter meds, supplements, and herbal products. While taking Senna, be sure not to let your loved one start taking new medications without the knowledge of a doctor.

How Effective is Senna for Constipation in Tablet Form?


Take the medication by mouth accompanied by a glass of water or as directed by the physician. If your loved one is uncertain about the information on the label, do not hesitate to consult a doctor or pharmacist.

The amount of dosage prescribed by the physician is generally based on the patient’s age, medical condition, and the response to the treatment. Ask your loved one not to self-medicate or increase the dosage more than what is prescribed. Do not take Senna for more than a week unless otherwise stated by the doctor. Taking it for more than seven days may increase the risk of a drug overdose and other health issues.

Give the drug 6-12 hours to take effect and cause a bowel movement. If your parent’s symptoms do not get any better despite taking Senna of if there is bleeding from the rectum, talk to a doctor. If serious side effects manifest, seek medical help immediately.

What Are The Safety Concerns?

Since the drug is an FDA-approved non-prescription medicine, Senna for constipation is generally safe for most adults and even children over the age of 2 when taken by mouth and if taken less than seven days. The drug may possibly be unsafe when taken long-term and in higher doses.

The longer your loved one takes the drug, the more likely will it cause bowel dysfunction and may increase the body’s dependence on laxatives. Another risk of taking Senna long-term is that is can potentially cause a number of health problems such as heart function disorders, liver damage, muscle weakness, and more as it can alter the balance of chemicals present in the blood.

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From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

Mr. Cranmer went from Air Force Special Operations Pilot to Airline Pilot to running a multimillion dollar manufacturing plant after 9/11 ended his flying career. Now he is bringing his business expertise to his true passion - taking care of seniors in his 'A Paradise for Parents' assisted living homes in Surprise and Goodyear, AZ. Read Hal's crazy career story, 'From Air Force Pilot to Assisted Living Owner'. Click the button to send Hal a message!

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