The recipe follows as written but is like some of Grandma's other recipes and is a little vague in modern terms:
5 cents worth of senna leaves
2 dozen watermelon seeds cut in two
Put in 1 pint of boiling water and boil down to half.
Then strain and add 1 cup of sugar and 5 drops wintergreen oil.
The obvious question first of all is how much is '5 cents worth of senna leaves' followed closely by asking what in the world is senna leaves. Well, never fear. After a little research I think I have a few answers to help shed some light on what Grandma was doing with this recipe.
Looking at other laxative recipes that include senna leaf don't really clear up the issue of how much to use since there is some variety to these recipes. That said, my best guess - and it is a guess - is that 5 cents worth of senna leaves was approximately 2 ounces at the time.
Senna Leaf is commonly known as senna or Alexandrian senna, and its scientific name is Cassia angustifolia. It is more of a tropical plant with a common reference to Jamaica.
Senna acts as a laxative and is primarily used for constipation, preoperative cleansing and weight loss, and may also help with hypertension. Senna can also be used as an anti-inflammatory, for cellular regeneration, and to treat anal fissures and hemorrhoids.
The recommendation is to take senna with other herbs like fennel, cinnamon, ginger and peppermint to avoid intense stomach cramping and abdominal pain.
Drink eight 6-oz cups of water along with senna to avoid dehydration. Senna should not be taken for more than 10 days without a period of rest to maintain health. Serious reduction in potassium levels can lead to death and can occur with long-term use of senna. The potassium depletion from senna is the most referred to issue with this herbal. Therefore I find it interesting that Grandma used watermelon seeds in the recipe also.
Watermelon seeds are a good source of several vitamins and minerals. Per 1 cup, watermelon seeds contain a significant amount of the following vitamins: Thiamin (14 percent of recommended daily value), riboflavin (9 percent), niacin (19 percent) and folate
Swallowing watermelon seeds without chewing them or steeping them in a tea like this recipe causes the seed to go through your system without receiving any of the vitamins or minerals.
And of course, the wintergreen oil is what aids the recipe from causing cramps and pain.
A well thought out recipe that Grandma probably got from someone else, but used as a house made homeopathic recipe for the family. Isn't it interesting how life can be cyclical and we find ourselves reaching back for these types of homeopathic ways of treating ourselves again.
There are some warnings with this recipe so if you are thinking of using it, please do your own research and use a little caution. But realize that there are several companies using the senna leaf in the laxative as well.