Dependence on Herbal Stimulants

Dependence on Herbal Stimulants

Herbal stimulants are herbs with laxatives effects and they are used in making variety of dietary supplements, weight loss and colon cleansing products. They are commonly used to treat constipation and clear the colons before bowel examination or surgery. They are sold in multiple forms including chewable tablets, powder, dissolving strips and liquid.

Purgative herbs are formulated into stimulant laxatives and sold at pharmacies. These category of herbs include Aloe Latex, Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada, Rhubarb and Senna. They contain strong and irritating chemical compounds called Anthranoids that stimulate cells in the colons causing it to contract and force movement of stool.

senna laxatives
senna plant

Senna is the ingredient mostly used for commercial laxatives making, into products such as Black Draught®, Ex-Lax®, Fletcher’s Castoria®,Nature’s Remedy®, Senexon®, Senna X-Prep® and Senokot®. Even though it is natural remedies but due to its’ strong laxatives effect, it is important to understand their risks, effectiveness and side effects before using them.

Consumption Guidelines

  • Read product labels carefully to understand the ingredients
  • Senna chewable tablets and dissolving strips contain sugar
  • Follow directions and dosage recommendations on the product label
  • Do not use herbal laxative products for more than a week
  • Do not take other drugs same time with herbal products
  • It may take up to 12 hours before creating the bowel movement
  • Pregnant women and those with ulcers should avoid taking these strong laxatives


Risk of Taking Herbal Stimulant Laxatives

It was claimed that herbals stimulant laxatives may cause melanosis coli, a dark-brown pigmentation of colon’s lining that happen after four months of Anthranoid-containing herbs intake. This symptoms usually will disappear within six months to a year after cessation of the herbs consumption. However, it was not clear whether melanosis coli is a factor contribute to the development of colorectal cancer.

Side Effects

People who consumes senna may have urine discoloration but this is normally harmless. However, if senna is used too frequent, it may cause laxative dependence, electrolyte deficiency and loss of normal bowel function. Some common side effects may include bloody stools, stomach pain or cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea or rectal bleeding.

Herbal stimulant laxatives should be used only for short term due to it’s strong effect. If the intent is for longer duration usage, more gentle bulk herbal laxatives like flaxseed and phyllium should be used.