Senna alexandrina

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Senna alexandrina
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Genus: Senna
S. alexandrina
Binomial name
Senna alexandrina

Many, see § Names and taxonomy

Senna alexandrina (Alexandrian senna, in Arabic عشرج or عشرق or سنامكي and see below) is an ornamental plant in the genus Senna. It is used in herbalism. It grows natively in upper Egypt, especially in the Nubian region, and near Khartoum (Sudan), where it is cultivated commercially. It is also grown elsewhere, notably in India and Somalia.


Alexandrian Senna is a shrubby plant that reaches 0.5–1 metres (20" to 40"), rarely two metres (6') in height with a branched, pale-green erect stem and long spreading branches bearing four or five pairs of leaves. These leaves form complex, feathery, mutual pairs. The leaflets vary from 4 to 6 pairs, fully edged, with a sharp top. The midribs are equally divided at the base of the leaflets.

The flowers are in a raceme interior[2] blossoms, big in size, coloured yellow that tends to brown. Its legume fruit are horned, broadly oblong, compressed and flat and contain about six seeds.


When cultivated as medicinal herb, the plants are cut down semi-annually, dried in the sun, stripped and packed in palm-leaf bags. They are then sent on camels to Essouan and Darao, then down the Nile to Cairo or else to Red Sea ports. Trade in senna provides a significant source of income for the nomadic Ababda.

Names and taxonomy[edit]

Senna alexandrina is also known under the names Egyptian senna, Tinnevelly senna, East Indian senna or the French séné de la palthe.

It received the names Alexandrian senna and Egyptian senna because Alexandria in Egypt was the main trade port in past times. The fruits and leaves were transported from Nubia and Sudan and other places to Alexandria, then from it and across the Mediterranean sea to Europe and adjacent Asia.

Though it might look like a scientific name, Cassia Officinalis is actually the apothecary term for this plant, and hence Officinalis—the Latin adjective denoting tools, utensils and medical compounds—is written with an initial upper-case letter, unlike specific epithets, which are always written with an initial lower-case letter today.


  • Cassia acutifolia Delile
  • Cassia alexandrina (Garsault) Thell.
  • Cassia angustifolia M. Vahl
  • Cassia lanceolata Collad.[4] (former name)
C. lanceolata Link is a synonym of Senna sophera var. sophera
C. lanceolata Pers. is a synonym of Chamaecrista desvauxii var. mollissima
  • Cassia lenitiva Bisch.[5]
  • Cassia senna Linn.
  • Senna acutifolia (Delile) Batka
  • Senna alexandrina Garsault
  • Senna angustifolia (Vahl) Batka

Medicinal use[edit]

Historically, Senna alexandrina was used in the form of senna pods, or as herbal tea made from the leaves, as a laxative.[6] It also serves as a fungicide.[6]

Modern medicine has used senna extracts since at least the 1950s[7] as a laxative.[8][9] If accidentally ingested by infants, it can cause side effects such as severe diaper rash.[8] The active ingredients are several senna glycosides[10] which interact with immune cells in the colon.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) & IUCN SSC Global Tree Specialist Group (2019). "Senna alexandrina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T19375516A149051614. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Senna alexandrina Mill". National Parks Flora & Fauna Web.
  3. ^ ILDIS (2005)
  4. ^ Duke, James (2012). Handbook of LEGUMES of World Economic Importance. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 49. ISBN 9781468481518.
  5. ^ "Cassia angustifolia". Plainfield Garden Club org.
  6. ^ a b Duke, James A. (2002). Handbook of medicinal herbs. Duke, James A., 1929- (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. ISBN 978-0849312847. OCLC 48876592.
  7. ^ Duncan, As (February 1957), "Standardized Senna as a Laxative in the Puerperium", British Medical Journal, 1 (5016): 439–41, doi:10.1136/bmj.1.5016.439, ISSN 0007-1447, PMC 1974525, PMID 13396280
  8. ^ a b Spiller, Ha; Winter, Ml; Weber, Ja; Krenzelok, Ep; Anderson, Dl; Ryan, Ml (May 2003), "Skin breakdown and blisters from senna-containing laxatives in young children", The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 37 (5): 636–9, doi:10.1345/aph.1C439, ISSN 1060-0280, PMID 12708936, S2CID 31837142
  9. ^ Kinnunen, O; Winblad, I; Koistinen, P; Salokannel, J (October 1993), "Safety and efficacy of a bulk laxative containing senna versus lactulose in the treatment of chronic constipation in geriatric patients", Pharmacology, 47 (Suppl 1): 253–255, doi:10.1159/000139866, ISSN 0031-7012, PMID 8234438
  10. ^ Hietala, P; Marvola, M; Parviainen, T; Lainonen, H (August 1987), "Laxative potency and acute toxicity of some anthraquinone derivatives, senna extracts and fractions of senna extracts", Pharmacology & Toxicology, 61 (2): 153–6, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0773.1987.tb01794.x, ISSN 0901-9928, PMID 3671329
  11. ^ Lemli, J (November 1995), "Mechanism of action of sennosides", Bulletin de l'Académie Nationale de Médecine, 179 (8): 1605–11, ISSN 0001-4079, PMID 8717178

Further reading[edit]

  • el Sayid Haykal, Mohamed & Abd Razik Omar, Abdalluh[verification needed] (1993): Medicinal plants & Aromatic plants - Its chemistry-production-benefits (2nd ed.). Dar el Maaref, Alexandria. النباتات الطبية والعطرية : كيمياؤها ، انتاجها ، فوائدها / تاليف محمد السيد هيكل ، عبد الله عبد الرزاق عمر. منشاة المعارف ]
  • International Legume Database & Information Service (ILDIS) (2005): Genera Cassia and Senna. Version 10.01, November 2005. Retrieved 2007-DEC-20.
  • Irwin, H.S. & Barneby, R.C. (1982): The American Cassiinae. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 35: 1-918

External links[edit]