Are Herbal Colon Cleansers Safe?

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

A bowl of psyllium seeds. Herbal colon cleansers are becoming increasingly popular but not all of them are safe for you.

Herbal colon cleansers are increasingly popular and many people believe botanical herbs are both harmless and extremely beneficial to support colon health conditions. In some cases, this is absolutely correct. Many herbs are healthful to the body. Unfortunately, some herbs are not. The National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine has reported a number of dangerous, life threatening consequences that have resulted from taking laxatives containing herbal ingredients. Three common herbal colon cleanser and laxative ingredients in particular, psyllium, cascaras sagrada, and senna, may present very serious health risks and major medical complications such as hepatitis and liver failure.



Senna is an herbal stimulant laxative with serious risks, especially to the liver. Using senna to treat chronic constipation can lead to hepatitis, which is an extremely damaging condition to the liver that can lead to death. [1] [2] The Department of Nephrology at Université catholique de Louvain in Brussels Belgium reported a case of a woman who had developed liver failure from ingesting an herbal tea containing senna. Her liver damage was serious enough that transplantation was considered. Researchers warned that liver damage is a risk of using laxatives containing senna, especially in excess. [3]

Cascara Sagrada

Cascara sagrada, is an herbal stimulant laxative and, like senna, using it can lead to hepatitis. Multiple incidences have been reported of patients who developed serious hepatitis and liver failure after taking herbal products containing cascara sagrada. [4] The Division of Gastroenterology at Texas Tech University’s Health Science Center warns that the reason cascara sagrada has been linked to hepatitis is because it contains a compound called anthracene glycoside, which has long been known to cause hepatitis. [5]


Perhaps the most common herbal laxative ingredient is psyllium. Psyllium is the seed of plantago ovata and psyllium husk is a main component of bulk laxatives. When psyllium husk meets water, it swells up like a sponge and stimulates bowel contractions. However, studies and documented cases of emergency medical situations have shown that psyllium is NOT a harmless or benign ingredient.

Like peanuts, psyllium is a food allergen and allergic reactions from handling psyllium have been reported since 1970. Most notably, anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a serious condition that involves respiratory tract irritation and swelling to the point of being unable to breath, which is incredibly scary because anaphylaxis can progress from bad to worse in a matter of seconds. If you’re not prepared for an attack, you may find yourself unable to breathe and in real danger. The Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland reported an incidence of psyllium sensitivity that resulted in death by way of anaphylactic shock. [6]

The Department of Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported a separate instance of a patient who had experienced rhinitis and asthma due to psyllium exposure. The severity of her symptoms progressed to a life-threatening confrontation with anaphylaxis. The doctors warned that psyllium allergies are more common than most people appreciate In other words, don’t think it can’t happen to you. [7]

The Safe Alternative to Dangerous Herbal Colon Cleansers

There’s no need to risk your health on dangerous herbal laxatives when far, far more gentle and safe options are available. If you need relief from constipation, or a body cleanse in general, I recommend an oxygen based colon cleanser such as Oxy-Powder. Oxy-Powder does NOT carry the side effects that accompany toxic, herbal laxatives.

References (7)
  1. Sonmez A, Yilmaz MI, Mas R, Ozcan A, Celasun B, Dogru T, Taslipinar A, Kocar IH. Subacute cholestatic hepatitis likely related to the use of senna for chronic constipation. Acta Gastroenterol Belg. 2005 Jul-Sep;68(3):385-7.
  2. Beuers U, Spengler U, Pape GR. Hepatitis after chronic abuse of senna. Lancet. 1991 Feb 9;337(8737):372-3.
  3. Vanderperren B, Rizzo M, Angenot L, Haufroid V, Jadoul M, Hantson P. Acute liver failure with renal impairment related to the abuse of senna anthraquinone glycosides. Ann Pharmacother. 2005 Jul-Aug;39(7-8):1353-7. Epub 2005 Jun 14.
  4. Jacobsen C, Semb S, Kromann-Andersen H. [Toxic hepatitis following consumption of the herbal medicinal product Cascara Sagrada]. Ugeskr Laeger. 2009 Nov 9;171(46):3367-9. Danish.
  5. Nadir A, Reddy D, Van Thiel DH. Cascara sagrada-induced intrahepatic cholestasis causing portal hypertension: case report and review of herbal hepatotoxicity. Am J Gastroenterol. 2000 Dec;95(12):3634-7.
  6. Khalili B, Bardana EJ Jr, Yunginger JW. Psyllium-associated anaphylaxis and death: a case report and review of the literature. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2003 Dec;91(6):579-84. Review.
  7. Vaswani SK, Hamilton RG, Valentine MD, Adkinson NF Jr. Psyllium laxative-induced anaphylaxis, asthma, and rhinitis. Allergy. 1996 Apr;51(4):266-8.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Global Healing Center does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Global Healing Center are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

  • Elaine

    Dear Dr.Group
    I. Have. A Couple. Question To Ask. You But I Much Rather Write To
    You With My Question.

  • JuanitaFrapp

    Thanks Dr Edward for sharinghealthy informative information. Yeah herbal colon cleanse has a many benefits.And it has been proven medicine to prevent or reduce the cancer in the early
    stages. Has many of them are aware of natural herbal cleanse. Now a day’s most of the people are addicted to junk food or fatty foods it’s takes longer time to digestive. Thank for informative aritlce.

  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    I always thought colon cleansers were not safe at all because I thought they were laxatives. Until once I had surgery and the pain medication made me constipated, I’m not one to take meds but it left me no choice. I did some research on herbal colon cleansers and thanks to Dr. Group I came to a conclusion- herbal colon cleansers aren’t safe! I had never heard of oxygen colon cleansers but the information on his site made me a little more relaxed about this method. Long story short, I purchased the small bottle of oxy just to give it a try and by the second night of taking it, the constipation from the pain medication was gone.

  • ghc_health

    Thanks, Jon! I wish more people would do the research you did!

    -Dr. Edward Group

  • ghc_health

    Thanks for reading, Juanita!

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  • Tou Espesiff

    You want almost $50 for 30 servings of cheap magnesium oxide? Thats criminal… No wonder you’re trashing Senna, Cascara Sagrada, and psyllium.

    I use magnesium oxide but it’s dirt cheap.

  • Rawstagirl

    Dr. Group I have a client whom has kidney disease and is on dialysis, his colon is super blocked up. Do you think its okay to use oxy powder? I was going to begin w/ castor packs and blended foods with out potassium and phosporous. thanks kindly for your response.

  • Kidney disease and dialysis present some very individual things to consider and not being familiar with him I couldn’t say with certainty but I also can’t cite any reason to be concerned and can tell you we’ve heard a lot of good feedback from people who’ve used Oxy-Powder to get things moving while undergoing different treatments that slow things down, so to speak.

  • Rawstagirl

    ok great thank you.

  • Branka

    What about the products at Humaworm? Especially their Parasite and Colon cleanse, are they dangerous? The are an american family company and happen to have hundreds of positive reviews both on their website and also on cure zone. Would it not be risky for them to promote a dangerous product within the US? Looking forward to hearing from you Dr. Group regarding this. Thank you.

  • I’m not familiar with that. It would be very risky to promote a dangerous product in the US.

  • Branka

    I agree it would be risky to promote a dangerous product in the US. I am a long time user of your great products (I buy them from the UK).
    The reason for me asking about Humaworm is because a member of my family started their cleanse, and their formulas contain (as well as other herbs) the three herbs mentioned in your article as potentially dangerous. On the Humaworm website it is written that medicinal herbs are just like any other medication. Overuse, abuse, and misinformation can be dangerous. That the Humaworm formulas are safe and non-toxic when used as directed, and the dosage amounts are strong enough to eliminate parasites, yet are gentle on the body.
    Looking forward to hearing from you Dr. Group. Thank you.

  • mark


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  • Drew

    I’m sorry, but I’m calling BS on this. Dr. Group, I like a lot of your stance on health but this is clearly a “hit piece” on two botanical laxatives (and a fiber) that have been used safely by thousands of people for thousands of years, done in order to promote the product you sell (Oxy Powder, which is basically magnesium oxide). I thought I was on Quackwatch when I first started reading this! Come on Dr. G 🙁

  • kevin

    bs on what? he gave links to the research that back up the words. what do you take issue with?

  • Drew

    Either you’re very new to all of this or you didn’t examine the logic of your statement very well. Do you think that posting research links makes something true? We can take nearly any issue in health and medicine and I can show you research that will contradict what other research says.

  • kevin

    ok then.

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  • cnico

    I agree completely Drew… I looked at the links… for psyllium, the problems arose in 2 health care workers who had developed allergies to psyllium over years of providing it to patients (I’m inferring here), then ingested it for constipation and had allergic reactions… whoever wrote this bs article very carefully avoided giving that background info. The links provided require payment, I had to go offline to get to the facts. The CS link also is incomplete. And i didn’t look into senna. His use of “oooh, scary, might die… only use my product “, which milk of magnesia does the same thing!!, is disgusting. I will no longer believe anything he reports.

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