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Senna 101

What’s the most underrated herb? Senna. Alright, there are probably many more on our list, but if you’ve ever needed this trusty plant ally, you can’t deny its irreplaceable power. This small but mighty shrub is topped with yellow star-like flowers and is unforgettable when you’re in a jam.

Now you may be wondering, “Ok, so what exactly does this little plant do?” It’s one of the best herbs to aid in occasional constipation—a.k.a. it’s an all-natural herbal laxative!* This North African native is used worldwide and is the key active ingredient in our Smooth Move® herbal teas and capsules.

While there are many plants under the common name “senna,” Cassia angustifolia (syn. S. alexandrina), Cassia senna and Cassia acutifolia are most commonly utilized in herbal medicine. Senna’s species name “cassia” derives from the Greek word kasia, which means “aromatic shrub” and was later adopted by Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who is known as the “father of taxonomy.” Its common name “senna” originates from the Arabic word sanaa, which means “thorny bush,” along with sana in Persian and sena in Urdu. This hearty shrub is also part of the Fabaceae family, making it a relative and somewhat lookalike to our everyday peas and beans.

Dry ecosystems, which are challenging for most plants, are where senna thrives. It’s drought-tolerant, making it ideal for desert ecosystems that need dune stabilization and have low annual rainfall. Originally this botanical comes from North Africa and it still grows natively and commercially in the Nubian region, near the Nile and along the border of Egypt and North Sudan. In the early 20th century, this medicinal herb was brought to the Thar Desert and state of Rajasthan, where the plant is now naturalized and a key crop for nearby states and many generations of farmers. In fact, India is now the world’s largest senna-producing country.

The medicinal uses of senna have been documented since around the 9th century AD by Arabian physicians. More recently, its residue has been found in Egyptian pottery jars dating to about 3150 BCE. While we generally consume this herb as tea, ancient artifacts suggest senna was preserved and used as a medicated wine, and taken as powders, decoctions and syrups before that time. Arabian physicians are credited for bringing senna into the European medical system, and since then, many formulas have been made to round out senna’s stimulating effects.* In the early to mid-1800s, the United States Pharmacopeia documented a few senna-forward formulas, notably “Warner’s Gout Cordial” with coriander and fennel, along with a more straightforward “Infusion of Senna and Tamarind.”

For every batch we source, we look out for key constituents called “sennosides.” As herbalists, we insist on using the whole plant, rather than an extraction of a single chemical compound. The leaves and pods of the plant contain higher amounts of sennosides, which is why we always use aerial parts of the plants and insist on regular testing. These unique compounds increase transit time and mobility to make your number twos finally feel like a number one priority!

We proudly partner with Rajasthani farmers to bring you certified organic senna and relief in every cup.* This special region of India is home to many vibrant and ancient cultures. Rajasthan is well known for vibrant textiles, jaw-dropping architecture, and flavorful foods. The farmers here produce crops for the entire country of India and export (literally) tons of herbs annually for use worldwide. In 2009 we launched the Revive Project, now led by our partner WomenServe, in efforts to lessen the equity gaps—like access to water and education—in these rural farming communities. This work reminds us that sustainable sourcing is more than just going organic; it builds and nourishes relationships across the entire supply chain.

Whether you found our products at your local retailer or were recommended to us by a nurse or doctor, the use is the same. Our Smooth Move line works by gently stimulating your intestines and aiding your body’s natural elimination process.* As a reminder, it’s best to follow the instructions on the package. We suggest utilizing this formula just before bed as it’s best to be avoided when out and about. We have four senna-based blends, all with unique benefits. In addition to our original Organic Smooth Move®, our Smooth Move® Peppermint offers the same support with a minty twist and is perfect for those who experience bloating with their constipation. Smooth Move® Chamomile is pleasantly floral and provides soothing relief when digestive cramping accompanies constipation.* You can also find Smooth Move in convenient capsule form.

If you’re eager to make some moves, head to our store locator to find this gentle, natural laxative at a store near you!

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