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Hydroxyanthraquinones are laxactive ingredients of Cassia senna (senna), Rhamnus frangula (frangula bark), and Aloe vera (aloe). They also occur in genera Rheum, Rumex, Polygonum, and family Fabaceae [1]. Their glycosidic form is pharmacologically inacitive, but is metabolized to its aglycon in the intestinal flora. For laxative drugs, the maximum daily intake is 30 mg anthraquinone glycoside. For a senna laxative, the maximum daily value is 4 mg anthraquinones.

Anthraquinone Contents in Vegetables and Herbs[2]
Species Common Name Sum of anthraquinones
mg / kg fresh (dry)
mg / kg fresh (dry)
mg / kg fresh (dry)
mg / kg fresh (dry)
Lactuca sativa var. capitata[3] Cabbage lettuce 0.06-5.9 (1.0-174) 0.02-0.03 (≤ 0.5) 0.01-0.03 (≤ 0.5) 0.03-5.8 (0.5-173)
Phaseolus vulgaris Beans 0.05-36 (0.4-342) 0.02-0.06 (0.2-0.7) 0.02-3.5 (0.12-33) 0.01-32 (0.1-308)
Pisum sativum Garden peas 0.04-3.6 (0.2-21) 0.02-0.03 (0.1-0.2) 0.02-3.6 (0.1-21)
Vitis vinifera Grape vine leaves 0.4-0.8 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2-0.4
Triticum repens[4] Couch grass root 0.2-0.7 0.06-0.2 0.05-0.2 0.08-0.3
Plantago lanceolatae[5] Plantain herb 0.4-0.7 0.1-0.2 0.1-0.2 0.2-0.3
Fagopyrum esculentum Buckwheat not detected
Aritemisia annua Wormwood not quantifiable
Chichorium intybus var. folio Chicory and radicchio not detected
Brassica chinensis Chinese cabbage not detected

From the above table, the conclusion is:

  • Anthraquinone contents vary considerably batch-to-batch.
  • Contents are chrysophanol > emodin > physcion.
  • 100 g consumption of beans may cause laxative effect.
  1. Thomson RH (1986) Naturally occurring Quinones III. Recent Advances Chapman & Hall
  2. Mueller SO, Schmitt M, Dekant W, Stopper H, Schlatter J, Schreier P, Lutz WK (1999) "Occurrence of Emodin, Chrysophanol and Physcion in Vegetables, Herbs and Liquors. Genotoxicity and Anti-genotoxicity of the Anthraquinones and of the Whole Plants" Food and Chemical Toxicology 37:481-491
  3. In the original literature by Mueller, it is mis-written as "Latuca sativa". Also, one cultivar of the same species ("Iceberg salad") is shown to be unquantifiable for all anthraquinones.
  4. In the original literature by Mueller, it is mis-written as "Rhizoma graminis"
  5. In the original literature by Mueller, it is mis-written as "Plantagines lanceolatae"

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