Coffee or not coffee? Exactly that is the first thing you need to know about Senna coffee. It’s not coffee. It is the product of another plant. It is the seeds that are in their fruit.
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What is Senna coffee?
The seeds used to prepare coffee are obtained from a plant whose scientific name is Senna occidentalis or Cassia occidentalis, but whose common name varies from country to country, Senna being the most commonly used.
For example, it is known as Frijolillo in Honduras and Café Moucha in Dominica.
Depending on the part of the plant, different medicinal properties are attributed to senna, because the roots and leaves also have a long tradition in traditional medicine.
What does the senna plant look like?
The plant can grow up to 1.5 meters tall and becomes more and more crooked as it grows. It tends to grow in bushes that are usually very weak. It is also a long-lived plant, meaning it can develop for years without flowering. Therefore, she only has one reproductive episode, and if that happens, it means the plant will die.
Their flowers are composed of five yellow petals and are heteromorphic, meaning each petal is different from the other, and can range in size from 12 to 16 millimeters.
Their fruits are elongated pods containing the seeds, which are then roasted and ground to make coffee.
How is Senna coffee prepared?
After roasting, the seeds are ground, which is why Senna coffee is also available in powder form.
The preparation is also similar to that of traditional coffee. All you need is Senna coffee and water. The proportions are also the same:
- 1 level tablespoon of coffee for each cup of coffee you want to brew.
First, the water is brought to a boil, then the amount of senna coffee corresponding to the number of cups to be brewed is added. We have to wait 3 minutes for the coffee to brew.
A strainer is then slipped over the cup to serve, and finally sugar can be added to taste. If one prefers to keep the drink as healthy as possible, it can also be sweetened with honey; there are even people who claim that this is not necessary since the taste itself does not require any kind of sweetener.
History of Senna coffee
The first records of senna date back to 16th-century Mexico, a time when naturopathic medicine was of great importance to pre-Columbian peoples.
These early records were completed by local physician Martín de la Cruz, author of the Codex de la Cruz-Badiano. According to him, the senna could have benefits such as curing skin diseases, fever, and even bad odors.
In the work “Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España”, which the Spanish monk Bernardino de Sahagún also wrote in the 16th century, it is explained that the leaves of the senna were very finely crushed and then burned and the smoke was inhaled to destroy the to clean airways.
More recently, in the 20th century, senna became an alternative in the treatment of diseases such as leprosy and yellow fever, according to Mexican botanist Maximino Martínez.
According to the Colombian Vademecum of Medicinal Plants, published in 2008 by the Ministry of Social Protection, the traditional use of the plant, the roasting of the seeds for the subsequent preparation of the infusion, is self-evident; however, it is not specified how old this practice is.
However, there is a September 1, 1894 entry in the Chamber’s Journal that mentions roasting the seeds to make the drink.
Where is Senna grown?
From historical records we can conclude that Senna is native to Central America. According to the Encyclopedia Invasive Species Compendium (ISC), senna is native to South America and parts of North America, while it has been introduced to Africa, Oceania, and Asia and is considered invasive in some countries on these continents.
It is a plant that grows easily in tropical climates or in greenhouses. It is found in areas at sea level, but also in areas up to 1400 meters above sea level, as this is the maximum height at which it can grow.
Cultivation is quite simple, just sow the seeds for them to germinate.
It should be grown in a climate that is not too cold, i.e. at temperatures above 20ºC. Although she can grow in full sun, a few hours of shade a day won’t hurt her. It should be watered 2 to 3 times a week.
Properties of Senna
The properties of this plant differ depending on the part to be used, since the chemical components vary from one part to another.
The plant contains an aromatic compound called anthraquinone, which can be considered coffee-like and is also of organic origin, i.e. its chemical base is carbon compounds and it is derived from another type of organic molecule: anthracene.
The root also contains an anthraquinone derivative called emodin . This type of substance can be used as a laxative.
Finally, the seeds contain chrysarobin , a chemical compound useful in treating psoriasis and urticaria, diseases that cause skin irritation and rashes, as well as redness in the area. Chrysarobin is the basic chemical in several skin creams because it has a fast and beneficial effect.
Other chemical components of the seeds (found in studies from 1974, 1977 and 1996) are:
- Lipids: very low concentration of fat or triglycerides .
- Carotenoids: organic pigments that can be converted into vitamin A.
- Tocopherols: Compounds that have vitamin E activity.
- Amino acids: used by the body to make proteins and help the body break down food.
- Carbohydrates: Sugar molecules.
- Saponins: non-essential nutrients that may have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
- Tannins: Compounds with astringent (constricting and drying) and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Mucilage: powerful fiber to reduce inflammation and soothe mucous membranes.
- Anthraquinones and chrysophanol: compounds with laxative effects.
- Beta – sitosterol: has an anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal effect.
What Are the Benefits of Senna Coffee?
Senna does not contain caffeine
As mentioned, it’s not coffee, so Senna offers an alternative for those looking to reduce their caffeine intake. This can be ideal for people with blood pressure problems, heart palpitations, diabetes or kidney stones.
In addition, its similar aroma and the vitamins, amino acids and other properties discussed in the previous section make it an ideal drink to start the day or to liven up the afternoon, just like coffee would do.
Senna possesses anti-inflammatory properties
A study published in 2010 shows that its regular consumption can counteract inflammatory problems. Namely, the main use of Senna coffee drink is related to fighting inflammation of the prostate and relieving symptoms such as burning sensation when urinating and back pain.
Senna prevents urinary tract infections
Café de Senna is a source of folic acid, potassium and natural fiber, which makes it antiseptic, preventing and fighting the proliferation of fungi and bacteria that burden the urinary tract.
These benefits have been studied by scientists who have published their research in various peer-reviewed journals such as The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, Life Sciences and Medicine Research, Fitoterapia and Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Other traditional uses that have no scientific basis include treating heart disease, convulsions, and whooping cough by drinking the decoction. Also for snake bites, the leaves are boiled and placed directly on the wound to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory properties.
Where can you buy it and how much does it cost?
Senna coffee is available in health food stores, but its biggest market is the internet. You can find them mainly in online shops specializing in natural products, but in Colombia also on portals or via home delivery services such as Merqueo or Rappi.
It is typically sold in 350 and 400 gram quantities and costs around $7 or COP 25,000.