Cleansing Confusion

Reidins, Anthraquinone and Sennosides, Oh My!

“There are many reduced derivatives that polymerize to produce compounds like the sennosides of Cassia spp., and the reidins from Rheum spp. In addition there are biosynthetically distinct… glycosides from aloes, of which aloin in the most notable.” (

This is an excerpt from a description of a compound called anthraquinone, which is found in senna, cascara sagrada, rhubarb and buckthorn. The fruit seed, senna, and the other herbs listed are all classified as laxatives because each contains the above named compound. These are all used in various cleansing programs which, in my opinion, is a leading cause of cleansing confusion.

It was my intention today to inform you why, even though all are considered laxatives by the medical community, they do not all work as a laxative does. So in my attempt to include some formal, clinical research, I (once again) was blocked by the scientifically inclined over-use of Latin terminologies and abundance of unproven (in their words - evidentially) excuses of why the above herbs are different, yet classified the same. So I deciphered their descriptions and put it into laymen’s terms.

In a nutshell, yes the above herbs and senna all contain this compound. Yet each has different derivatives and variations of the compound in among different mixtures of other compounds making each react differently in our bodies. Trying to figure this out causes much of the cleansing confusion for the clinical community. Yet, anyone who has tried a supplement with senna as the main ingredient will see the response is completely different than a supplement with Rhubarb as the main ingredient.

Senna is highly toxic to our system so the response is extreme. Our bodies have the same reaction to this fruit seed as it does to a pharmaceutical laxative and this is how it works… The body sends water to the intestines to dilute this toxin, then the intestines spasm to get rid of it. You can see the waste that leaves is mostly water. The exception would be with the initial use when there is loose waste in the colon that is ready to leave. After this initial response you see the release is mostly water and the effect becomes less impressive as time goes on. After stopping the use of senna (or any laxative), it is usually extremely difficult to have a bowel movement without it.

On the other hand, when using supplements with cascara sagrada, buckthorn or rhubarb, one notices that the effect is not immediate. It may take four to seven days to see the body start releasing more waste. This is because water is not being forced to the intestines and there are no “spasms” created to release a toxin. Instead, the production of bile and digestive secretions is increased leading to natural, healthy peristalsis (intestinal muscular contractions.)

The absorption of anthraquinone from the gut, as the aglycone alone is active and absorbed into the bloodstream to as yet undefined target cells – probably emodin – affects the biosynthetic pathway, probably causing the release of prostaglandins of the PGE series which can increase irritability of the bowels of which possible mechanisms include stimulation of the cyclic AMP production and inhibition of Na= /K=-ATPase.

What did I just say? It’s no wonder there is so much confusion regarding herbs and their uses. Most clinical research results in definitions, such as in the above paragraph, leaving plenty to the imagination. There are too many “probables” and “possibles.”

I hope this article clarified the use of these important cleansing herbs for you. Unfortunately too much information is muddled in scientific wording that makes no sense to the layperson. I believe when we start communicating in the same language, we all win. Together we can clear the cleansing confusion.

Next time we’ll decipher the workings of the lymphatic system. You’ll be surprised at what they didn’t tell you in eighth grade biology!

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