Senna occidentalis (L.) Link

Last updated: 20 May 2016

Scientific Name

Senna occidentalis (L.) Link


Cassia caroliniana Walter, Cassia ciliata Raf., Cassia falcata L., Cassia foetida Pers., Cassia laevigata sensu auct., Cassia macradenia Collad., Cassia obliquifolia Schrank, Cassia occidentalis L., Cassia occidentalis (L.) Rose, Cassia planisiliqua L., Ditramexa occidentalis Britton & Rose, Ditremexa occidentalis (L.) Britton & Wilson [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Kachang kota, ketepeng hutan [2]
English Negro coffee, coffee senna, stinking weed [2]
China Jue ming zi [3]
India Kasamarda (Sanskrit); gajarság, kasondi [3], kassauimdhi, barrikassaumdhi (Hindi); doddaagace (Kannada); panniviram, ponnaniviram (Malayam); ponnavirai, peravirai, nattam takarai (Tamil); kasinda (Telagu) [4]
Indonesia Menting (Javanese); kasingsat (Sundanese); kopi andelan (Sumatra) [2]
Thailand Khilek-thet (Northern); khilek-pi (Central); chumhet-thet (Peninsular) [2]; chum het tet [3]
Laos Kh'et, lang kh'et [2]
Philippines Balatong-aso (Tagalog); andadasi (Ilokano); duda (Bisaya) [2]
Cambodia Sanndaek khmaoch [2]
Vietnam V[oj]ng giang nam, mu[oof]ng c[oos]t kh[is] [2]
Nepal Barkichakor, chilmile, gahat (Danuwar); kwnar, tapre (Magar); chhinchhin, kodari phul, panwar, sani, syang syange, tulo tapre (Nepali); tapre (Rai) [5]
Kenya Inglatiang, msalafu, mnubobundo, mnika uvunda, mwingajini, mrumbuzi, mrambazi, mbukomavi [6]
Korea Soggjolmjong [3]
Japan Habuso [3]
Argentina Cafelilo, cafetón [3]
Africa Fedegoso, mata pasta, paramarioba [3]
France Cafe negre, casse-cafe, casse puante [2]
Mexico Vainillo [3].

Geographical Distributions

The origin of Senna occidentalis is unknown; tropical South America and the Old World tropics are thought to be the possible origins. Now, it is a common weed throughout the tropics and subtropics. In Southeast Asia, it occurs everywhere, so if it has been introduced, this must have happened in ancient times. In Indonesia, it is sometimes also cultivated. [2]

Botanical Description

S. occidentalis is an erect, annual or perennial, malodorous, nearly hairless herb that can grow up to 2.5 m tall and with black roots. The stem is obtusely angled or sulcate and often richly branched. [2]

The leaves are arranged spirally and they are pinnately compound. The stipules are triangular to long lance-shaped, more or less falcate and measuring 3-13 cm x 1.5-5 cm. The petiole is 2.5-5.5 cm long, grooved and bearing a large, sessile, nearly ovate, reddish gland at the base that is just above the pulvinus. The rachis is 4-14 cm long with 3-6 pairs of leaflets. The size of leaflets increases from the base to apex of rachis. The leaflet stalk is 2-4 mm long. It is ovate to ovate-oblong, measuring 2.5-17 cm x 1-4 cm, more or less unequal-sided, with rounded base, entire margin, acuminate at apex and the lower surface is pruinose to finely hairy. [2]

The inflorescence is raceme-like, axillary or terminal and 2-4-flowered. The peduncle is 1-7 mm long. The bracts are lance-shaped and measuring 5-18 mm x 1-4.5 mm. The pedicel is 0.5-2 cm long. There are 5 sepals which are unequal and white. The outer ones are orbicular and measure 5-7.5 mm in diametre while the inner ones are ovate and measure 6.5-10 mm long. The 5 petals are obcordate (ventral one), obovate (2 lateral ones) or oblanceolate (2 dorsal ones). The longest is 12-17 mm long, bearing a short claw, yellow and with violet veins. The 10 stamens are unequal in size. The 2 long ones are with filaments 5-7 mm long and anthers 4-7 mm long. The other 4 stamens are with filaments 2-3 mm long and anthers 3-5 mm long, while the remaining 4 are with filaments 3-4 mm long and very small anthers. The pistil is with a hairy ovary, with style 3-5 mm long and small lateral stigma. [2]

The fruit is a flattened-cylindrical legume, measuring 8-13 cm x 0.7-1 cm, straight or slightly incurved, brown with pale margins, nearly smooth and 30-45-seeded. [2]

The seed is flattened-orbicular, measures 3-5 mm in diametre, olive-brown and with an elliptical areole on either side. [2]


S. occidentalis mainly occurs below 500 m, with 1750 m as its altitudinal limit. It grows as a weed in disturbed forest areas, on wastelands, fields, roadsides and around villages and farms. It is especially abundant in ditches and seasonally wet depressions. Although it is resistant to dry conditions, it grows best in a moist environment. [2]

Chemical Constituent

S. occidentalis has been reported to contain chrysophanol, emodin, physcion, 4,4’,5,5’-tetrahydroxy-2,2’-dimethyl-1,1’-bianthraquinone, germichrysone, occidentalins A, occidentalins B, 1,8-dihydroxy-2-methylanthraquinone, 1,4,5-trigydroxy-7-methoxy-3-methyl anthraquinone, rhein, aloe-emodin, occidental-I, occidental-II, , a-hydroxy anthraquinone, pinselin, islandicin, helmithosporin, xanthorin, metteucinol-7-rhamnoside, jaceidin-7-rhamnoside, questin, torosachrysone, germintorosone, methylgermitorosone, helminthosoporine, N-methylmorpholine, singueanol I, 7-O-mehtyl-quercetin, 3,5,3’-trimethoxy quercetin, torosaflavon B, cassiaoccidentalin C, galactomannan, lignoceric acid, linoleic acid, linolenic acid and oleic acid. [6][7][8][9][10]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, seeds, roots. [4][5][11]

Traditional Use

S. occidentalis has purgative, laxative, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, febrifuge, sudorific, diaphoretic, expectorant, hepatoprotective, anti-malarial, analgesic, vermifuge and febrifuge effect [11]. It is also considered as an immune stimulant thus widely used to treat various forms of fever from viral to parasitic. Besides expelling intestinal parasites [5], it is also used in many bacterial inflammatory conditions topically and internally [11]. Many use different parts of the plants to treat gastrointestinal complaints like stomachache, dyspepsia, flatulence and constipation [4][12][13]. It is considered hepatoprotective and used to treat hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and liver failure [7]

The plant has expectorant properties and is used to treat whooping cough by the Indians [11]. It can also treat respiratory infections or other infection such as tuberculosis, leprosy, erysipelas, elephantiasis and malaria. Many communities advocate the use of the plant parts to treat snake bites and other painful bites such as scorpion bites [5]. African community consider this plant to be an excellent oxytocic and is used to aid delivery of both the baby and the placenta [7]. Mistiko Indians of Nicaragua uses the decoction of the whole plant to treat uterine pains and dysmenorrhoea. It is widely used in the treatment of women’s problems. As a tonic it is being used to uplift general weakness and improve anaemia during the immediate postpartum period. [12]

Fresh leaves are prescribed to make tea for the treatment of stomachache in Panama. This plant is widely used for constipation with all agreed that the leaves seem to be the best [4][12][13]. In some countries in Africa, the leaves are used in the treatment of hepatitis. In Benin, an aqueous decoction of the leaves or the whole plant is used to treat jaundice and fever [7]. The fresh crushed leaves are given to their children by people of Panama to expel vermin [5]. In Africa (Gabon) and some societies in Brazil, the leaves are considered diuretic [7][12]. Convulsions are treated by exposing the patient to vapours from boiling leaves in Benin. The pulp of the pounded leaves is applied to relieve the pain for intercostal neuralgia. In Benin, pounded leaves mixed with the blood of a rooster are applied over the lesion in snake bite cases [7]. Leaves are used to treat gonorrhoea and urinary tract disorders in some Brazilian society [11][12]. Many practitioners around the world make use of S. occidentalis to treat skin related problems. The leaves whether fresh or dried has been found to be suitable for use in treatment of skin disorders, pruritus, wound, ulcers, fungal and parasitic skin diseases and inflammatory skin conditions. In Suriname it is considered an excellent remedy for fungal skin infections [13].

The seeds are brewed into coffee-like beverages and given in cases of asthma while the flower infusion is used for bronchitis [11]. In Suriname, coffee senna is used in treatment of sore throat, colds & flu and asthma [13]. The seeds are considered cardiotonic and the Creoles use it to ally palpitation and treat congestive cardiac failure [14]. The Chinese use it to treat hypertension [6]. The seeds can be used for sinister skin infections like leprosy and erysipelas [4].          

The roots are used to treat and fortify the liver in Peru and Brazil [7]. In Nepal, juice of the roots is anthelmintic and taken 6 teaspoon at bed time and is also given for fever [5]. The root is considered a good remedy for convulsions and epilepsy by the Indians [4]. The roots in the form of decoction are used to treat fever in Peru and Brazil [13]. Indians make use of the whole plant, the leaves or the seeds to control fever [4]. African healers prescribe infusion of the leaves or boiled roots to treat their fevers, but the Congo healers warm leaves, macerate them in water and use this to bathe their patients with [7]. Venereal diseases are also treated using this plant. The Malays used a decoction of the roots to treat this condition especially those associated with bleeding [11][12]. In the Congo, the decoction of the roots is being used to ease delivery [7]. The Creole society used the root decoction and infusion for inflammation of the uterus and to induce abortion [14].

In India the roots and seeds are the parts used to treat stomachache, dyspepsia and flatulence. Indians also use the leaves and seed to treat hiccough [4][12][13]. A decoction of the leaves, roots and flowers is useful in relieving flatulence of dyspeptic and nervous women [15]. The plant is considered as a diuretic and this property is recognized in the roots, leaves and seeds. This property can be used in the treatment of hypertension, oedema, and urinary problems. The Peruvians and the Brazilians used the roots to cause diuresis while the Indians advocate the use of seeds as diuretic [4][12]. The Brazilians use the roots and the leaves to address menstrual problems [12].

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity 

The anti-inflammatory activity of S. occidentalis leaf powder was able to suppress the transudative, exudative and proliferative components of chronic inflammation. Further, it was observed that is was able to lower the lipid peroxide content and gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and phospholipase A2 activity in the exudate of cotton pellet granuloma. The increased alkaline phosphatase activity and decreased A/G ratio of plasma in cotton pellet granulomatous rats were normalized after treatment with the drug. S. occidentalis powder extract was able to stabilize the human erythrocyte membrane against hypotonicity-induced lysis. It is likely that S. occidentalis powder extract may exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of phospholipase A2, resulting in the reduced availability of arachidonic acid, a precursor of prostaglandin biosynthesis, and/or by stabilization of the lysosomal membrane system. [16]

Hepatoprotective activity 

S. occidentalis commonly known as 'Kasondi', is used in Unani medicine for liver ailments and is an important ingredient of several polyherbal formulations marketed for liver diseases. The hepatoprotective effect of aqueous-ethanolic extract (50%, v/v) of leaves of kasondi was studied on rat liver damage induced by paracetamol and ethyl alcohol by monitoring serum transaminase (aspartate amino transferase and serum alanine amino transferase), alkaline posphatase, serum cholesterol, serum total lipids and histopathological alterations. The extract of leaves of the plant produced significant hepatoprotection. [17]

Antimalarial activity 

EtOH and CH2Cl2 extracts of the leaves of S. occidentalis exhibit more than 60% inhibition of growth of Plasmodium falciparum in vitro. [18]

In a study of the effects of ethanolic, dichloromethane and lyophilized aqueous extracts of S. occidentalis root bark for their antimalarial activity in vivo. It was found that the ethanolic and dichloromethane produced significant chemosippression of parasitaemia of > 60% when administered orally in doses of 200 mg/kg. [19]

Anticancer & Antimutagenic activity 

A number of studies have been done to look into the anticancer and antimutagenic properties of S. occidentalis. In a study reported in November 1999 the investigators concluded that the aqueous extracts of the leaves of S. occidentalis showed antimutagenic properties could be due to its ability to modulate the xenobiotic activation and detoxification mechanism. They found that pretreatment with aqueous extracts of the leaves was able to reduce the incidence of chromosomal aberrations induced by benzo[a] pyrene (B[a]P) and cyclophosphamide (CP) in mice. They also established the fact that S. occidentalis is non-genotoxic per se and did not exert other toxic signs and symptoms in the treated animals.  In another study on the antimutagenic properties of S. occidentalis using a different model the same investigators concluded that this effect could possibly be due to its ability to interact with the microsomal activating enzymes to inhibit chromosomal aberrations caused by benzo [a] pyrene and aflatoxin B1 (AFB1). [20][21]

Immunostimulatory activity 

In a study using aqueous extract of S. occidentalis the administration of this extract to Cyclophosphamide exposed animals had resulted in improved humoral responses. This is evidenced by the enhancement of plaque forming cells response in CP-treated animals, protection against quantitative haemolysis of SRBC, significant reversal of bone marrow cell count. These activities were thought to be due to its ability to modulate hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes. [22]

Anitmicrobial activity 

Antibacterial – In a screening study of 30 Indian plants for their antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella aerogenes, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aerogenes and Staphylococcus aureus it was found that S. occidentalis leaf extract exhibited significant broad spectrum activity against B. subtilis and S. aureus. [23]


Toxic principle in seeds is dianthrons. The following symptoms occurs in animals when fed on excessive amounts of the plant: incoordination, recumbancy, reluctance to move, anorexia, muscle weakness, ataxia, diarrhoea, muscle tremors, stubbing, body weight loss and death. Those ingesting the seeds show profound skeletal muscle degeneration also degenerative myopathy of the cardiac muscle, congestion and pulmonary oedema and hepatic cell hypertrophy and necrosis. In humans ingestion of raw seeds will cause gastro-intestinal symptoms. [24]

Treatment of poisoning is by intravenous rehydration and electrolyte replacement, and antiemetic in patients with severe gastrointestinal symptoms or in children. However, poisoning is very rare and occurs only when significant amount of raw seeds are ingested. Roasted seeds do not seem to cause these gastrointestinal symptoms. [25]

A study on the effects of sub-acute oral administration of S. occidentalis during pregnancy in female Wistar rats was performed. While the results did not show significant difference between the control and the tested groups in terms of offspring/dam relationship; fetuses, placentae and ovaries weights; number of implantation and resorption sites; number of corpora lutea in the ovaries and pre- and post-implantation loss rates, there were presence of dead fetuses in both does of (250 and 500 mg/kg.) S. occidentalis. This is enough evidence to put a cautionary note on its use during pregnancy. [26]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation


In certain conditions.

Side effects

No documentation

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

The study on Wistar rats had shown some death of fetuses with the consumption of the plant. This should excite some caution is the use of the plant for whatever purpose during pregnancy. There have been communities using some preparation of the plant as a lactagogue however it should not be done selectively. [26]

Age limitation

This plant has been used traditionally to treat children and adults all the same. However the seeds should not be given to children for whatever purpose since there has been adverse reaction reports on accidental consumption of the seed some leading to coma and death. [27]

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation


No documentation

Case Report

There have been annual reports of death resulting from obscure development of hepato-myo-encephalopathy amongst young children in the Uttar Pradesh in India. A preliminary study found that there were enough evidence to implicate this to the consumption of C. occidentalis seeds by these children. [27][28]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

Toxic parts

Whole plant, seeds. [24][25]


The seeds are believed to contain two forms of toxins which are on heat stable and on heat labile. Earlier records indicated the presence of a toxalbumin and chrysarobin which can cause kidney and liver damage, however the toxicity can be removed by heat. More works identified a volatile toxic alkaloid or oxymethylanthraquinone in the fruit, leaf and root. Another study identified dianthrone, anthraquinone-derived compound being responsible for the characteristic mitochondrial myopathy. Dianthrone causes disruption of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation leading to death of the organelle, resulting in tissue necrosis in skeletal and cardiac muscles. [24][25][29][30]

Risk management

S. occidentalis is not used in landscaping and thus, does not pose danger to humans. It is of importance to the livestock industry where there exist dangers of these animals consuming it and resulting in poisoning. It is best to avoid animals grazing in waste areas where this may be found growing. [24[[25][30]

Poisonous clinical findings

The symptoms recorded here are those of livestock being fed with feed contaminated with seeds of S. occidentalis. Ingestion of large amounts of the plant causes incoordination, recumbency, reluctance to move, anorexia, muscle weakness, ataxia, diarrhoea, muscle tremors, stubbing, body weight loss and death. [30]

Autopsy showed skeletal muscle degeneration, degenerative myopathy of myocardial muscle, congestion and pulmonary oedema, hepatic cell hypertrophy and necrosis. [24]


The treatment of poisoning is mainly supportive. In cases with severe gastrointestinal symptoms would require intravenous fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy and antiemetics. [30]

Line drawing


Figure 1: The line drawing of S. occidentalis. [2]


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