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Coffee Senna

Scientific Name(s): Cassia occidentalis, Senna occidentalis
Common Name(s): Ant bush, Arsenic bush, Bana chakunda, Coffeeweed, Fedegoso, Mogdad coffee, Negro-coffee, Nigerian senna, Rubbish cassia, Senna coffee, Septicweed, Sickle pod, Stephanie coffee, Stinking pea, Stinking weed, Styptic weed

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 21, 2022.

Clinical Overview


Coffee senna has been used for its diuretic, laxative, blood purifier, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, as well as for treatment of hemorrhoids, gout, rheumatism, diabetes, whooping cough, convulsions, heart disease, snakebite, asthma, fever, and the flu. While clinical data support use of coffee senna as a laxative, limited clinical trials exist to support other uses.


For laxative use, the recommended dosage for sennosides in adults is 8.6 to 17.2 mg orally twice daily. It should be noted that various forms of senna are available, and dosing is not equivalent across the doseforms; dosing for sennosides is not equivalent to dosing with other forms of senna (eg, senna extract). Caution should be used and package labeling consulted to ensure correct product-specific dosing.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are no reported adverse reactions.


Consumption of C. occidentalis seeds has been shown to be toxic in children.

Scientific Family

  • Fabaceae


Coffee senna is a pantropical plant. It grows in open woodlands, waste areas, and road sides and is considered an invasive species in many parts of the world. It grows best in warm and humid conditions. The low-growing perennial plant produces yellow flowers with dark brown fruit and seeds.(Parsons 2001, Senna 2018)


Coffee senna plant originated in the Americas but is now present in all tropical parts of the world. The plant has traditionally been used for a wide variety of illnesses in India, China, and Jamaica but is considered an invasive species in most parts of the world.Brenan 1967, Senna 2018, Teem 1980 All parts of the plants can be used but its common name comes from use of the seeds as a coffee substitute, despite the fact that the seeds contain no caffeine.Senna 2018


Coffee senna contains numerous chemical compounds concentrated in different parts of the plant. The flowers contain large amounts of emodin, physicion, and beta-glucopyranoside. The seeds contain numerous fatty acids (eg, linoleic and oleic acids) as well as phenolic and cyclic compounds (eg, islandicin, tannic acid). The leaves and roots also contain quinones such as bianthraquinone and chrysophanol.(Manikandaselvi 2016)

Coffee senna also contains high levels of iron and other vitamins and minerals.(Manikandaselvi 2016)

Uses and Pharmacology

Traditionally, coffee senna has been used as a diuretic, laxative, and blood purifier. It has also been used for treatment of hemorrhoids, rheumatism, gout, type 2 diabetes, whooping cough, convulsions, heart disease, snakebite, asthma, and the flu.Duke 2002

Antianxiety/Antidepressant activity

Animal data

Ethanolic and aqueous extracts of coffee senna leaves have demonstrated antianxiety and antidepressant effects. In one study, rats and mice were given 500 mg/kg of either ethanolic or aqueous leaf extracts and then examined via swim and tail suspension tests. Rats and mice treated with the extracts had similar response times to those treated with diazepam and fluoxetine, with the ethanolic extract demonstrating more significant activity than the aqueous extract.Shafeen 2012

Antibacterial activity

In vitro data

An ethanolic extract of the roots of coffee senna was tested for antibacterial activity. When the compound emodin was identified and isolated, it demonstrated inhibitory effects against Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus.Chukwujekwu 2006

Anticonvulsant activity

Animal data

The anticonvulsant activity of chloroform, alcoholic, and aqueous extracts of the entire coffee senna plant has been studied in rats. The chloroform extract was the most effective against electric shock and pentylenetetrazole-induced convulsions, with anticonvulsant activity similar to phenytoin.Mahanthesh 2016

Antidiabetic activity

Animal data

In a study evaluating the antidiabetic effects of an ethanolic extract of coffee senna (100 and 200 mg/kg) in rats, the extract caused a decrease in blood sugar levels in normal rats and in rats with alloxan-induced diabetes. Treatment also restored growth of inlet cells in pancreatic tissue of diabetic rats.Verma 2010

Anti-inflammatory/Analgesic activity

Animal data

The wound healing effects of coffee senna have been studied in mice with skin wounds induced using snake venom. C. occidentalis leaf material was extracted using 95% ethanol. Mice were treated with the extract incorporated into a topical cream base for 7 or 14 days. The extract produced a decrease in inflammation and aided with wound healing, suggesting potential use as a treatment of snakebite.Delmut 2013

The antinociceptive and antipyretic effects of coffee senna have been studied in mice. Ethanolic and water extracts of the leaves demonstrated dose-dependent effects on reduction of fever and pain-blocking tendencies at a dose of 300 mg/kg.Sini 2010

CNS effects

Because coffee senna lacks caffeine, the typical CNS effects of caffeine are not applicable.

Laxative effects

Clinical data

Coffee senna has been explored mainly as a laxative and preparative bowel cleanser for colonoscopies and surgeries and is available as nonprescription preparations. In one study, a Cassia senna preparation (X Prep [Sarget]) given prior to elective colorectal surgery was associated with significantly more effective intestinal cleanliness than polyethylene glycol.Valverde 1999 Another study demonstrated that use of senna solution (SennaS [Purdue Pharmaceuticals]) with docusate decreases time to first bowel movement in patients undergoing pelvic reconstructive surgery and also reduces need for magnesium citrate.Patel 2010


Dosage recommendations for coffee senna exist only for use as a laxative. The recommended dosage for sennosides in adults is 8.6 to 17.2 mg orally twice daily.(Hughes 2018) It should be noted that various forms of senna are available, and dosing is not equivalent across the doseforms. Dosing for sennosides is not equivalent to dosing with other forms of senna (eg, senna extract). Caution should be used and package labeling should be consulted to ensure correct product-specific dosing.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There are no reported adverse reactions.


Consumption of anthraquinones from C. occidentalis seeds has been shown to be toxic in children and can cause hepatomyoencephalopathy. This effect does not appear to occur in adults, but has not been fully studied.Panigrahi 2015, Vashishtha 2009



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

More about coffee senna

Related treatment guides

Brenan JPM. Leguminosaesubfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Milne-Redhead E, Polhill RM, eds. Flora of Tropical East Africa. London, UK: Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations; 1967.
Chukwujekwu JC, Coombes PH, Mulholland DA, van Staden J. Emodin, an antibacterial anthraquinone from the roots of Cassia occidentalis. South African Journal of Botany. 2006(72):295-297.
Delmut MC, Parente LML, Paula JR, Conceição EC, Santos AS, and Pfrimer IAH . Cassia occidentalis: effect on healing skin wounds induced by Bothrops moojeni in mice. PharmTech Drug Res. 2013;2:10.
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of medicinal herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Hughes H, Kahl L. The Harriet Lane Handbook: A Manual for Pediatric House Officers. 21st ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2018.
Mahanthesh MC, Jalalpure SS. Pharmacognostical assessment and anticonvulsant activity of whole plant of Cassia occidentalis Linn.Int J Pharm Phytochem Res.2016;8(9):1444-1457.
Manikandaselvi S, Vadivel V, Brindha P. Studies on physicochemical and nutritional properties of aerial parts of Cassia occidentalis L. J Food Drug Anal. 2016;24(3):508-515.28911556
Omara T, Kagoya S, Openy A, et al. Antivenin plants used for treatment of snakebites in Uganda: ethnobotanical reports and pharmacological evidences. Trop Med Health. 2020;48:6. Published 2020 Feb 11. doi:10.1186/s41182-019-0187-032071543
Panigrahi GK, Ch R, Mudiam MK, Vashishtha VM, Raisuddin S, Das M. Activity-guided chemo toxic profiling of Cassia occidentalis (CO) seeds: detection of toxic compounds in body fluids of CO-exposed patients and experimental rats. Chem Res Toxicol. 2015;28(6):1120-1132.25915165
Parsons WT, Cuthbertson EG. Noxious Weeds of Australia. 2nd ed. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing; 2001.
Patel M, Schimpf MO, O’Sullivan DM, LaSala CA. The use of senna with docusate for postoperative constipation after pelvic reconstructive surgery: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010;202(5):479.e1-479.e5.20207340
Senna occidentalis (coffee senna) datasheet. CABI Invasive Species Compendium [database online]. CABI; 2018. Accessed March 1, 2018.
Shafeen S, Reddy ST, Arafath S, Nagarjuna S, Padmanabha RY. Evaluation of antianxiety and antidepressant activity of Cassia occidentalis leaves. Asian J Pharm Clin Res. 2012;5(3):47-50.
Sini KR, Karpakavalli M, Sangeetha PT. Analgesic and antipyretic activity of Cassia occidentalis Linn. World App Sci J. 2010;11(10):1216-1219.
Teem DH, Hoveland CS, Buchanan GA. Sicklepod (Cassia obtusifolia) and coffee senna (Cassia occidentalis): geographic distribution, germination, and emergence. Weed Science. 1980;28(1):68-71.
Valverde A, Hay JM, Fingerhut A, et al. Senna vs polyethylene glycol for mechanical preparation the evening before elective colonic or rectal resection: a multicenter controlled trial. French Association for Surgical Research. Arch Surg. 1999;134(5):514-519.10323423
Vashishtha VM, John TJ, Kumar A. Clinical & pathological features of acute toxicity due to Cassia occidentalis in vertebrates. Indian J Med Res. 2009;130(1):23-30.19700797
Verma L, Singour PK, Chaurasiya PK, Rajak H, Pawar RS, Patil UK. Effect of ethanolic extract of Cassia occidentalis Linn. for the management of alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Pharmacognosy Res. 2010;2(3):132-137.21808555

Further information

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