Senna occidentalis: an alternative to coffee?

The seeds of Senna occidentalis are used as a substitute for coffee. In addition, other parts of the plant are used medicinally. Do you want to know more about it?

Last update: September 30, 2021

Senna occidentalis It is a herbaceous plant, native to the tropical regions of the world. Often It is cultivated for ornamental purposes, although it also has medicinal and culinary uses. It has thin stems, with an irregular and woody texture. Its leaves are made up of pairs of folios, while its flowers are arranged in inflorescences with up to 4 flowers. The latter are of a yellow color that varies from intense to opaque.

It also bears fruits in the form of elongated pods that can reach 10 centimeters in length. Inside they have numerous round, dark brown seeds, which are often used to replace coffee. In fact, the commercial derivatives of this plant are known as «coffee senna», «brusca coffee» or "Coffee senna".

Uses of Senna occidentalis

All parts of Senna occidentalis they are used both on a culinary and medicinal level. The most used part is the seeds contained in the pods, since Roasted and ground are an alternative to coffee. This is even known in the market as «coffee Mogdad"Or" black. "

Meanwhile, the young leaves, immature pods and flowers are often steamed for later consumption as a vegetable. Although the evidence on its properties is limited, it is said to act as an antioxidant, diuretic, anticonvulsant and antibacterial, among others. However, it is not exempt from causing side effects.

The beans of this plant are commercially presented as an alternative to coffee that would be healthier.


Senna occidentalis as an alternative to coffee

In the market, the roasted seeds of Senna occidentalis They are usually distributed as brusque coffee or sen of coffee. According to a post on Trends in Applied Sciences Research, stands out for its content of amino acids, vitamins and fatty acids. It also concentrates alkaloids, tannins, tocopherols, carotenoids, mucilages and saponins, among other bioactive compounds.

A remarkable feature is that it does not contain caffeine. In addition, it is usually consumed for medicinal purposes. According to the pharmaceutical encyclopedia Drugs.com, Its uses include the following:

  • Natural laxative.
  • Antibacterial and antifungal.
  • Heart diseases.
  • Rheumatism and gout.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Diabetes.
  • Snake bites
  • Seizures
  • Whooping cough.
  • Asthma and flu.
  • Episodes of fever.

This same source states that, although there are clinical data that support its laxative properties, evidence supporting its other benefits is insufficient. Therefore, it should be used with great caution.

Suggested dosage

There is no guideline to determine the exact dose of Senna occidentalis. Drugs.com states that, in adults and children over 12 years of age, the suggested dose of sennosides (pharmaceutical extracts of plants of the genus Senna) ranges from 8.6 to 17.2 milligrams orally, twice a day.

Now, this plant is available in several presentations and the dose is not equivalent in all its forms. Therefore, it is best to consult the package label to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Side effects and contraindications

Despite the popularity that the seeds of Senna occidentalis As an alternative to coffee, some reports warn that its consumption can be dangerous for health. Through International Journal of Pharmacognosy Information was collected on cases of poisoning caused by these seeds, both in humans and in domestic animals.

In particular, it was determined that it can induce mitochondrial damage, which leads to a wide variety of consequences, such as motor disorders, strokes, visual diseases, liver and pancreatic dysfunctions, diabetes and kidney disease, among others.

It is believed that this occurs due to excessive and prolonged consumption of the seeds. There are no data reporting side effects from moderate or occasional intake of the product.

Despite this, its use is discouraged in pregnant or lactating women, children and people with an underlying disease. Nor should it be used simultaneously with medications such as digoxin, warfarin and diuretics.

The grains of the seeds of this plant are roasted for their commercialization as an alternative to coffee.


What is there to remember about the Senna occidentalis?

The Senna occidentalis It is a plant with a long history in natural medicine and culinary matters. Its nutrient content makes it stand out as a food in many cultures.

However, for some time it has been noticed that it also has compounds that can be toxic. Therefore, its intake should be punctual, moderate and, if possible, under professional supervision.

The sen of coffee, a product derived from the seeds of this plant, is distributed as a substitute for the traditional drink. It does not contain caffeine and its promoters point out that it provides health benefits. Nevertheless, the evidence on its properties is quite limited and with controversial results.

Therefore, its use as a first-line treatment is not recommended. Should be avoided in case of illness or special conditions.