The senna plant is a small shrub in the cassia genus, which belongs to the fabaceae family, and is native to regions of West Asia. It is not uncommon for people to confuse this plant with the senna genus; however, in 1754, the Scottish botanist Phillip Miller divided the senna from the cassia, but the common name of senna remained with the cassia angustifolia. These plants are erect, branching shrubs that can reach between 2 to 3 feet in height. They are made up of tiny yellow flowers; smooth, light green stems; and long branches that hold four to five pairs of thick, veiny, apexed leaves which are gray-green on top, and yellow-green at the bottom.
The senna plant is best known as one of the most powerful natural laxatives available, but these small, lovely shrubs are used for a variety of applications. Several parts of this plant – including the leaves and the small, green-brown pod fruits – contain a wide array of beneficial agents, including the vitamins A and B, C and D. Its initial usage was brought about by the Arabian doctors Mesue and Serapion; however, it began a wider distribution when in Greece, Achiarius – who had realized the potential of the senna plant – recommended using the fruit pods in place of the leaves, as they do not cause painful “gripping” sensations. Although these plants were used primarily to help cleanse the body, in more modern times, they are used to treat a number of ailments. For instance, these plants aid in expelling worms and parasites from the system; to encourage weight loss, or discourage loss of appetite; they act as a diuretic to help restore proper secretions of vital enzymes; and they may also be useful in treating arthritis, gout and skin inflammation. Although the senna plant is exceptionally useful in a number of ways, it is not, unfortunately, without side-effects. It is not recommended that these plants be used by pregnant or lactating women, as over-use may cause a decrease in nutrients. Over-use by anyone may create a weakening of the colon, sore joints, and a weakness of muscles.
Dried senna plants were once given in sachets to help attract romantic partners. Because of this, they are now considered one of the many symbols of love. As a gift, they may very well make for an original Valentine’s Day or anniversary present, as they are not only lovely in appearance, and useful in a variety of ways, but they are also quite uncommon.