Other Names: Blood Plantago, Indian Plantago, Ispaghula, Sand Plantain, Spogel, Blond Psyllium, Black Psyllium
Psyllium is a low-growing herb native to India, Iran, and Pakistan, in the same family as the common Plantain. In fact, Psyllium seeds and husks come from three annual species of plantain.
The seed has less fiber than the husk but more plant nutrients.
Psyllium as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the ripe and dried seeds, the epidermis, the adjacent, broken-down layers of the Indian variety and the fresh plant.
The seeds and fruit husks of psyllium have long been used as bulk laxatives in Europe and the United States.
Many consumers may already have psyllium seed products on the shelf as they are a common ingredient in bulk laxatives. The seeds and seed husks contain 10 to 30 percent mucilage and, when soaked in water, their volume increases greatly, swelling the amount of intestinal matter. This stimulates and lubricates the bowels, encouraging the movement of wastes through the colon.
Psyllium seed products are widely prescribed and are also available as non-prescription drugs for the treatment of chronic constipation or to soften the stool to relieve hemorrhoids.
Research studies show that psyllium seed is more useful than wheat bran for treating constipation caused by irritable bowel syndrome.
Add 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of psyllium seed to 1 cup (8 ounces) of warm water. Mix well, and then drink immediately before it becomes too thick to swallow comfortably. (Psyllium thickens rapidly when added to water.)
If you use a commercial product that contains psyllium, follow the package directions. May also be taken as an extract. If you are not used to taking psyllium, it is best to begin with a low dose (such as 1/2 teaspoon in an 8 ounce glass of water once a day), then increase to 2 teaspoons in two 8 ounce glasses of water per day, as needed.
For irritable bowel syndrome, for example, an initial dose of 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of psyllium per day is gradually increased to 4 doses per day.
Antidiarrheal: When used for diarrhea, psyllium absorbs water to increase the bowel content viscosity and delay gastric emptying (Washington, 1998).
Laxative Effects: Psyllium decreases the passage time of the bowel content by increasing the volume of the stool, thus exerting a laxative effect. The herb acts as stool softener by increasing stool water content. Psyllium was superior to docusate sodium in subjects with chronic idiopathic constipation (McRorie, 1998).
In Germany the seeds and husks are also allowed in the supportive treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Studies have also shown that psyllium produces a modest but significant reduction in cholesterol levels.
Psyllium for Weight Loss?
Studies and clinical reports suggest that psyllium may make you feel fuller and reduce hunger cravings, thus a potential help for weight loss and/or obesity. As a weight loss aid, take it at least 30 minutes before meals. Psyllium decreases fat intake, and increases the subjective feeling of fullness (Turnbull, 1995). The herb exerts these actions by increasing the time for intestinal absorption.
By bulking the stool, Psyllium products relieve pain caused by ulcerative colitis and reduce the frequency of fecal incontinence.
Indian researchers reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that diabetics who take 5 grams (about 2 scant tablespoons) of psyllium husks powder 30 minutes before breakfast and dinner for 4 weeks experience:
- Lower fasting blood sugars
- Lower glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1C)
- Higher HDL ("good") cholesterol
You can take psyllium first thing in the morning or before bedtime.
Folk medicine: In Folk medicine, the herb is used internally for inflammation of the mucous membrane of the urogenital tract and gastrointestinal tract, and dysentery. Externally, Psyllium is used for gout, rheumatism, furuncles and as an analgesic.
Indian medicine: Psyllium is used for gastritis, chronic diarrhea, constipation, dysentery, dry cough, gout, gonorrhea, nephropathy, dysuria, duodenal ulcers and hemorrhoids.
Culinary Uses of Psyllium
According to German health authorities, psyllium seed and husks are known to produce rare allergic reactions and can be dangerous in cases of intestinal obstruction. Diabetics may want to watch for sugar content in psyllium products.
Children should get fiber from their diet. Give a child psyllium supplements only under a doctor's supervision.
Never take both psyllium and a stimulant laxative together.
The fibers in psyllium interfere with absorption of nutrients (especially vitamin B12) and medications, so take psyllium at least 2 hours before or after eating or taking supplements or medications.
Do not take this product if you have difficulty swallowing. People with esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus) or any other narrowing or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract should not take psyllium.
A potential side effect from any fiber product is gas and bloating.
Share This Page
Disclaimer: The herbal and health information provided in this Web Site is intended as information only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should consult your health care professional for individual guidance. Persons with serious medical conditions should always seek professional care. If there is a link to a product in an article, a small commission of about 4 percent may be paid if a visitor to the site purchases the product.