What science says about coffee senna

The scientific name of the coffee senna is Cassia occidentalis Linn.  It is also known as Coffeeweed, Antbush, Negro-coffee, Septic weed, and Stinking weed.

Other names include

ASSAMESE: Hant-thenga.
BENGALI: Kalkashunda.
BURMESE: Ka.sau.poap, Sham:ka.sau., Sham:ka.zau, Tan.kywè:kri:
CAMBODIA: Phak ngot.
CHINESE: Wang jiang nan, Li cha, Ye bian dou, Gou shi dou, Yang jiao dou, Jiang mang jue ming.
CZECH : Kasie západní.
DANISH : Negerkaffe, Neger-kaffe.
EAST AFRICA: Mnuka uvundo, Mwingajini.
ESTONIAN : Läänekassia.
FRENCH : Bentamaré, Bonne casse, Pois-puant, Café bâtard, Casse-café, Cassie puante, Herbe puante, Séné d’occident.
GERMAN : Kaffeekassie, Stink-kassie.
GUJARATI: Kasundri.
HAUSA : Raiídor.
HINDI: Bari kasondi.
INDONESIA: Menting, Kopi andelan.
JAPAN: Habuso.
KOREAN: Gang nam cha, Seok gyeol myeong, Seok gyeol myeong pul, Soggjolmjong.
LAOS: Phet.
MALAYALAM: Mattantakara.
MALAYSIA: Kacang kota, Ketepeng hutan.
MARATHI: Rantakda, Kasivda, Kasoda, Rankasvinda.
NEPALESE : Kasaudi, Panvar.
PORTUGUESE : Balambala, Café-negro, Folha-do-pajé, Fedegoso-verdadeiro, Ibixuma, Lava-prato, Mangerioba, Mamangá, Mata-pasto, Maioba, Pajamarioba, Pereriaba, Taracurú.
SANSKRIT: Kasamarda, Vimarda, Arimarda.
SINHALESE : Pani thora.
SPANISH : Bricho, Brusca, Caffecillo, Frijolillo, Guanina, Rematilla, Taperiba.
SWAHILI : Mwengajini, Mwengia.
TAMIL: Nattam takarai, Payaverai.
TELUGU: Chennangi chettu, Thangedu.
THAI : Chumhet lek, Chumhet tet, Lang khet, Khet.
VIETNAMESE : Cây muồng hòe, Muồng hòe, Muồng tây.

Coffee senna is an erect, somewhat branched, smooth, half-woody herb or shrubby plant, 0.8 to 1.5 meters high. Leaves are pinnate and about 20 centimeters long. Rachis has a large gland at the base. Leaflets are rank-smelling, occurring in 5 pairs, oblong-lanceolate, 4 to 9 centimeters long, and somewhat pointed at the base and tapering gradually to a fine, pointed tip. Flowers are yellow, 2 centimeters long, and borne on axillary and terminal racemes. Calyx tube is short, sepals imbricate; petals are 5, subequal. Stamens are 10, rarely all perfect, 3 to 5 being reduced to staminodes or sometimes absent; anthers mostly basifixed opening by terminal pores or with the slit more or less continued downward. Ovary is sessile or stalked. Fruits are pods, about 10 centimeters long, 9 millimeters wide, thickened and containing about 40 seeds.


– Throughout many countries at low and medium altitudes as a weed in waste places in and about towns.

– Native of tropical America.

– Now pantropic.

Constituents of Coffee senna

• Seeds yield fatty matter (olein and margarine), 4.9; tannic acid, 0.8; sugar, 2.1; gun, 28.8; starch, 2.0; cellulose, 34.0; water, 7.0; calcium sulphate and phosphate; chrysophanic acid, 0.9; malic acid, sodium chloride, magnesium sulphate, iron, and silica, together, 5.4; and achrosine (coloring matter), 13.58 parts in 100.

• Stem yields considerable alkaloid.

• Leaves yield cathartin, a coloring matter.

• Roots yield a resin – a bitter, non-alkaloidal principle.

• Oxymethylanthraquinone is isolated from the plant; traces of it from the leaf; 0.25% from the fruit; and 0.3% from the root.

• Toxic components are anthraquinones, emodin glycosides, toxalbumins and alkaloids.

• Phytochemical screening yielded anthraquinones, carbohydrates, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, steroids, flavanoids, saponins, phytosterols, gums and mucilages.

• Phytochemical analysis yielded tannins (leaf, seed), alkaloids (S), saponins (LS), carbohydrates (LS), glycosides (S), phytosterols (LS), oils and fats (LS), phenols (LS), protein and amino acid (LS) and flavonoids (S). (see study below) (30)

• Leaf extract yielded tannins, anthraquinones, saponins, and flavonoids. (see study)

• Proximate analysis of seeds yielded

high dry matter (92.50%),

crude protein (29.54%) and

crude fiber (10.18%), but with low ether extract, nitrogen free extract, ash, and calorific values.

Vitamin analysis showed the seeds to be rich in vitamin B3 (1.85 mg/100 g), but low in vitamins B2, B1, C, and A.

Mineral analysis showed (per 100 g) calcium 960 mg, potassium 1,200 mg, phosphorus 810 mg, sodium 600 mg, magnesium 640 mg, iron 234.60 mg, zinc 53.12 mg, and copper 10.48mg.

Amino acid profile (per 100 g protein) showed a high concentration of leucine 7.60 g, histidine 2.11 g, proline 2.33 g, and glycine 4.11 g. (see study)

Medicinal Properties of Coffee Senna

• Roots are very bitter.

• Considered anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antimutagenic, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, vasoconstrictor, antioxidant, laxative, insecticidal and antidote.

• As domestic medicine, considered tonic, diuretic, stomachic, febrifuge.

• Seeds considered antiperiodic, analogous to quinine.

Part utilized

Entire plant– roots, leaves and seeds.


– Seeds can be roasted and sometimes substituted for coffee.

– In Senegal and the Antilles, seeds used as a substitute for coffee.

– Leaves and flowers, cooked, are edible.

Folkloric traditional medicine benefits, uses, remedies with coffee senna

· Seeds used as emeto-cathartic. Also, employed as febrifuge, usually as an infusion in coffee.

· Used for chronic gastroenteritis, constipation, indigestion, gastric pains, asthma and fever, poisonous snake and insect bites.

· Pounded fresh material applied as poultice for snakebites.

· Plant used for dropsy, rheumatism, fevers and venereal diseases.

· Ointment used for ringworm, eczema and variety of skin diseases.

· Roots used for gonorrhea, black-water fever, malaria, and dysentery.

· In Peru, decoction of roots used for fevers; seeds brewed for asthma.

· In Brazil, roots are used as tonic, febrifuge, diuretic and anthelmintic; also used for fevers, menstrual problems, tuberculosis.

· Infusion of roots and bark used for malaria and hematuria.

· Infusion of bark used for diabetes.

· Leaves used as purgative and antiherpetic.

· Poultice of leaves used for skin irritation and eczema.

· In Lagos, leaf infusion used as specific for black-water fever.

· In Lagos and Liberia, infusion of leaves used as purgative.

· In Dahomey, decoction of leaves used as febrifuge.

· In the Dutch Indies, poultice of leaves used for toothache.

· In the French colonies of western Africa, infusion of leaves used for yellow fever.

· In Malaya, poultice of leaves used for headache.

· In the West Indies, root used as diuretic.

· In Panama, leaf decoction used for stomach colic; poulitce of crushed leaves as anti-inflammatory; and fresh crushed leaves to expel intestinal worms.

· Used as abortifacient.

· In Jamaican folk medicine, used for diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, fever, cancer, eczema, and venereal diseases.

· In India, used for fever, menstrual problems, tuberculosis, anemia, sore eyes, rheumatism, hematuria. Bark infusion used in diabetes.

· In Northern Nigeria, leaves used as a cure for hepatitis. (see study)

Scientific proven health benefits and  uses of coffee senna

· Hepatoprotective / Protects the liver/ Carbon Tetrachloride:

Study evaluating the effects of Cassia occidentalis on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damage in rats concludes that the antioxidant content of Cassia occidentalis might play a major role in hepatoprotection and controlling tissue damage caused by reactive oxygen species.

Protective effect of Cassia occidentalis L. on cyclophosphamide-induced suppression of humoral immunity in mice:

C. occidentalis possesses antimutagenic activity against cyclophosphamide-induced mutagenicity in mice. The study suggests that through the modulation of hepatic drug metabolizing enzymes, C. occidentalis may be influencing the hematotoxic and immunotoxic responses of cyclophosphamide.


Antimicrobial screening of Cassia occidentalis L. in vivo and in vitro: Ethanol extracts of C. occidentalis and metabolite-rich fractions (anthraquinones, sennosides and flavonoids) of leaves, pods and flowers were tested against human pathogenic bacteria and fungi. The anthraquinones were found to be more active against E. coli and S. aureus.


In a study of various extracts, methanol and aqueous extracts showed significant antimicrobial activity against seven human bacterial pathogens and two fungal strains. The most susceptible organism was P. aeruginosa followed by P. mirabilis and C. albicans.

Antihepatotoxic Activity of Cassia occidentalis:

An ethanol extract of leaves of Cassia occidentalis was evaluated for antihepatotoxic activity against carbon tetrachloride and thioacetamide as hepatotoxins.


Study of the aqueous extract of CO on its mutagenic potential against chromosomal aberrations showed antimutagenic activity by modulating the xenobiotic activation and detoxification mechanisms.


The antimalarial activity of C occidentalis has been confirmed. The plant showed more than 60% inhibition of parasite growth in vitro.

Antimalarial Activity:

In a study of the extracts of 3 medicinal plants for antimalarial activity, M morindoides and P niruri showed 74 and 72% suppression, while C occidentalis was slightly less active at 60% chemosuppression of Plasmodium berghei in mice.


In an Argentinian study of 132 water extracts from 54 plant families, C occidentalis was one of those that showed greater antibacterial activity against Salmonella typhi.


Ethanolic extract of C. occidentalis exhibited significant antidiabetic activity in normal and alloxan-induced diabetic rats, with improvement in parameters of body weight, lipid profiles and histopathologic changes showing regeneration of pancreatic B-cells.

A methanolic extract of leaves tested against alloxan-induced diabetic mice showed significant reduction of blood glucose in diabetic mice.

Study evaluated a methanol fraction of C. occidentalis leaves against streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Results showed significant and dose-dependent effect on biochemical parameters and hepatic marker enzymes (p<0.05) with histopathologic pancreatic protective effect.

Antimicrobial / Phytochemicals:

Preliminary screening showed anthraquinones, carbohydrates, glycosides, cardiac glycosides, sterols, flavanoids, saponins, phytosterols, gums and mucilages. Of the extracts studied, the methanol and aqueous extracts showed significant antimicrobial activity against tested organisms, esp: P aeruginosa, P mirabilis and Candida albicans.

Toxicological Reproductive Study:

In the rain forests and other tropical regions of South America, CO is considered a potent abortifacient. Results of this study showed no statistically significant difference between the control and treated groups in many of the observed parameters. However, there was the presence of dead fetuses registered in both doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg of CO. Further studies are needed and its use is not recommended in pregnancy.

Poisoning / Hepatomyoencephalopathy:

Recurrent outbreaks of an acute encepalopathy illness to in India, earlier attributed to a viral encephalitis, were probably caused by the consumption of C. occidentalis beans with its phytotoxins. causing a multisystem disease – a hepatomyoencephalopathy syndrome. Public education has the potential to prevent future outbreaks.

Wound healing:

Study showed the topical application of a methanol extract of C. occidentalis and a pure compound Chrysophanol, an anthraquinone derivative, promoted wound healing activity in excision, incision and dead space models in rats.

Anti-Allergy / Anti-Inflammatory / Anti-Lipid Peroxidation :

Study showed CO inhibited mast cell degranulation, stabilized HRBC membrane thereby alleviating immediate hypersensitivity besides showing antioxidant activity.

Cytotoxicity / Antibacterial:

Study showed dose-dependent in vitro cytotoxicity against human cancer lines and antibacterial potential activity against B subtilis.

Relaxant Effect / Antihypertensive:

Study of the relaxant effects in rat aortic rings of an aqueous extract of the leaf of C occidentalis showed dose-dependent inhibition of contraction elicited by noradrenaline and potassium chloride. Results suggest the effect may be due to a direct relaxant effect and may justify its extensive use in folk medicine as an antihypertensive agent.

Analgesic / Antipyretic:

Ethanol and water extracts of Cassia occidentalis showed significant dose-dependent antinociceptive and antipyretic properties. Results provide a rationale for the use of the plant in pain and inflammatory disorders.

Seed Gum / Carboxymethylation / Mucilage:

The seeds are a rich source of galactomannan gum and the gums derived from the seed endosperm can be used in industries to replace conventional gums. Study showed the carboxymethyl gum exhibited relatively high viscosity and stability.

Potential Typhoid Fever Treatment:

Study suggests the aqueous extract of Senna occidentalis has a potential for typhoid fever treatment. However, AST, ALT, urea and creatinine levels suggest a side effect on the liver and kidney which warrant further investigation.

Diuretic Activity:

Study evaluated an ethanolic extract on wistar strain albino rats for acute toxicity and diuretic activity. Results showed diuretic activity with increased urinary electrolyte concentration, a significant increase in urinary output, and an increase in potassium ion excretion greater than sodium ion.

Wound Healing / Leaves:

Study showed leaves of C. occidentalis stimulated healing of wounds induced by the dermal venom of Bothrops mooheni in mice, and can be considered an alternative treatment for snakebite wounds.


Crude extracts of various parts (leaf, seed, and pod) were examined for fungal activity against Candida albicans, Aspergillus clavatus and A. niger. Results showed as good or better activity than standard drugs Nystatin and Griseofulvin, except for the activity of leaf extracts against Aspergilli. Seeds exhibited the highest antifungal activity.

Larvicidal / Mosquitocidal against Malarial Vector:

Study of methanolic extract of C. occidentalis leaf showed larvacidal activity.

Anti-Trypanosomal Activity / Leaves:

Study evaluated an ethanolic extract of leaves of Senna occidentalis for anti-trypanosomal activity in mice infected with T. brucei. Results showed the extracts possess trypanocidal properties and a potential source of a new trypanocidal agent.

Study investigated the in vitro and in vivo antitrypanosomal effects of an ethanol extract of Senna occidentalis leaves. Treatment of infected animals with extract significantly (p<0.05) prevented the trypanosome-induced increase in biochemical indices, and significant (p<0.05) ameliorated associated hepatomegaly and splenomegaly.

Histological Female Reproductive Effects / Antifertility:

Study evaluated the histological effects of an aqueous extract on female reproductive organ in wistar rats. Results suggest an antifertility effect on the ovary, with photomicrographs showing moderate vascular congestion, mild tissue separation and mild infiltrates of chronic inflammatory cells.


An aqueous extract of Cassia occidentalis showed maximum inhibition against E. coli, Pseudomonas spp, and Staphylococcus spp. C. occidentalis showed potential as an antimicrobial agent in the form of pellets of paste.

Larvicidal / Barcroftian Filariasis Vector Mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus:

Study evaluated the larvicidal activity of C. occidentalis against larvae of Culex quinquefasciatus. The larvae transmit parasites and pathogens of deadly diseases like filariasis, dengue, yellow fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, chikungunya. In this study, C. occidentalis exhibited a realistic mortality for larvae of filarial vector, and suggests a natural weapon for mosquito control.

Antibacterial / Antifungal / Roots:

Study evaluated roots of Cassia occidentalis for antimicrobial activity. Results showed antibacterial and antifungal activity. The activity showed more susceptibility to gram positive than gram negative bacteria in a concentration dependent manner. Extract was most effective against B. subtilis and least against Vibrio cholerae.

· Hepatoprotective / Paracetamol-Induced Hepatotoxicity:

Aqueous extract of the leaves of Cassia occidentalis showed hepatoprotective activity on paracetamol-induced toxicity in adult Wistar rats.

· Antianxiety / Antidepressant:

Study of ethanolic and aqueous extracts of leaves in rodents showed antianxiety (elevated plus maze model and actophotometer) and antidepressant (despair swim test and tail suspension test) activity. The ethanol extract showed more significant activity than the aqueous extract.

· Analgesic / Anti-Inflammatory:

Study of extract of leaves showed analgesic activity in a radiant heat tail-flick method and anti-inflammatory activity in a rat paw edema model induced by carrageenan.

· Nephroprotective / protects kidney/ Anti-Inflammatory:

Study of evaluated the nephroprotective activity of a 70% hydroalcoholic extract against gentamicin induced nephrotoxicity in rats. Results showed nephroprotective activity with reduction of gentamicin induced elevation of urinary sodium, potassium, urinary glucose, BUN and creatinine levels, with almost normal kidney architecture.

· Anthelmintic/ remove worms:

Study evaluated an ethanolic extract of Cassia occidentalis against adult earthworm Pheretima posthuma. Results showed dose dependent activity. Albendazole was used a reference.

· Immunomodulatory / Anti-tumor:

In a study on modulation of immune functions by medicinal plants, an aqueous extract of Cassia occidentalis showed no mortality and apparent toxicity in treated animals. CO showed stimulatory effect on specific and non-specific immunity. CO showed antitumor activity against Ehrlich Ascites tumor cell line and antibacterial activity against Salmonella typhimurium.

· Biocidal / Leaves:

Study evaluated the antibacterial potential of leaf extracts of C. occidentalis against 11 gram-positive and 4 gram-negative bacterial isolates. The n-hexane and dichlormethane fractions of the plant extract exhibited appreciable antibacterial action against nine of the 15 bacterial isolates, comparing favorably with the standard antibiotic, streptomycin.

· Myeloprotective in Cyclophosphamide-Induced Bone Marrow Suppression / Leaves:

Study of crude methanolic leaf extract of C. occidentalis in cyclophosphamide-induced bone marrow suppression showed myeloprotective properties, with significant increase (p<0.05) in Hb, Hct, and TWBC when compared to control.


General info:

Poisonous when taken in considerable amounts by domesticated animals, known to cause deaths in cows, horses and goats. The seeds contain emodin, mucilage, proteins, tannic acid, fatty acids and essential oils. There are many anthraquinone derivatives and alkaloids in CO, and no single principle toxin has been identified. Toxicity seems to occur with seasonality, when the beans become palatable with the taste of raw edible beans.


Plant causes poisoning in different plant species. all parts are toxic, but with differing levels of toxicity. Most poisoning in animals come from pods and beans. In cattle, it is reported to cause severe muscle degeneration, liver degeneration and death. The toxic effects can be rapidly fatal.

Vet clinical signs:

Toxicity manifestations include lethargy, recumbency, jerky respiration, tremors, diarrhea, ataxia, hyperpnea, incoordination. Death may occur within 24 hours.

Risk of Poisoning in Children:

The beans may be an object of use in the games, playing house, play-cooking and accidental ingestions. Pica, an abnormal craving for food as a manifestation of disease or iron deficiency, can be a risk for poisoning in children. Case-fatality rate in acute severe poisoning is 75-80 percent in children.

Poisoning / Hepatomyoencephalopathy:

In India, cases of acute encepalopathy were subsequently attributed to consumption of C. occidentalis beans causing a multisystem disease – a hepatomyoencephalopathy syndrome. Public education has the potential to prevent future outbreaks. (10)

Toxic Cardiomyopathy in Poisoned Rabbits: Ground endosperm of seeds given to rabbits caused a fatal cardiomyopathy with mitochondrial degeneration, lipid accumulation, myofibrillar degeneration, myocytolysis and minor reparative changes.

Clinical & Pathological Features of Toxicity:

The toxic effects in large animals, rodents and chickens are on skeletal muscle, liver, kidney and heart. Pathological findings are necrosis of skeletal muscle fibers and hepatic centrilobular necrosis; renal tubular necrosis is less frequent. Toxicity is attributed to various anthraquinones, derivatives and alkaloids. The clinical spectrum and histopath are similar in animals and children.

· Non-Toxicity in Acute and Subacute Testing / Stem and Leaf:

A preclinical safety evaluation of hydroalcoholic extract of C. occidentalis stem and leaf in in male and female Wistar rats did not show acute and subacute toxicity, suggesting safety for use by humans.

· Anthraquinones / Toxicity:

Study identified the key moieties in CO seeds and their cytotoxicity in rat primary hepatocytes and HepG2 cells. GC-MS analysis of different fractions of methanol extracts of seeds yielded five anthraquinones (AQs), viz. physcion, emodin, rhein, aloe-emodin, and chrysophanol. In cytotoxicity analysis of the AQs in rat primary hepatocytes and HepG2 cells, rhein showed to be the most toxic moiety. Study indicate AQ aglycones are responsible for producing toxicity, which may be associated with symptoms of hepatomyoencephalopathy in CO poisoning cases.

· Hepatic Toxicity:

Study of fresh leaves in albino rats showed hypoproteinaemic effects, with increase in ALT, AST, and ALP, suggesting the leaves may be slightly toxic as a concoction for liver ailments.


Leaf powder, extracts, tinctures in the market.

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