Botanical: Plantago psyllium (also known as Plantago arenaria)
Family: Plantaginaceae (plantain)
Other common names: Fleaseed, Fleawort, Branching Plantain, Spogel, Plantago, Psyllium Husk, Ispaghula (P.ovata or Indian Psyllium )
Psyllium is Nature's way to help irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) . One of the highest sources of dietary fiber to be found in any food, this natural laxative will promote a clean, clear intestinal tract and colon that will give you more energy and a healthier life. It has been used to manage ulcers, colitis, diverticulosis and constipation. Supplementing with Psyllium has been shown to be a safe and well-tolerated way to improve control of blood glucose and cholesterol.
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Psyllium is a low-growing annual that is native to the Mediterranean area, northern Africa and southern Asia and has been cultivated for thousands of years in those regions, as well as Europe and North America. India dominates the world market in the production and export of psyllium, and the United States is the largest importer. Psyllium is an annual herb that may grow in waste places in full sun to about sixteen inches in height, and it has long occupied an important place among medicinal plants. The root system has a well developed tap root with few fibrous secondary roots. A large number of flowering shoots arise from the base of the plant, and the white flowers are numerous and small. Plants flower about sixty days after planting. Psyllium seeds are enclosed in capsules that open at maturity. Its tiny seeds give the herb its name from the Greek, psylla, which means "flea," and those tiny seeds contain a high mucilage content that, when combined with water, swell tremendously. The species Plantago ovata and Plantago psyllium may be used interchangeably, and both yield rich quantities of mucilage. The enlarged mass is highly gelatinous, and has been used since ancient times as an effective laxative. For centuries, traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic physicians have used Psyllium to treat constipation, diarrhea and hemorrhoids, and it was one of the first medicinal plants to be carried to the Americas from Europe, where it had been used for good intestinal health since the sixteenth century. Psyllium did not become popular in the United States until early in the twentieth century, but it is now used extensively for effective intestinal and colon health and helping to stimulate normal bowel movements. The seeds and husks are used for medicinal purposes. Its special asset is that, being a vegetable substance, it has a purely mechanical action, lubricating and cleansing the intestines simultaneously with no harmful side effects. Constituents include mucilage, glycosides, tannins, minerals, polysaccharides, proteins, essential oils, sterol and flavonoids.
Psyllium has long been used as one of nature's most effective laxatives that relieves chronic constipation and promotes a free and regular bowel movement. It increases the volume of the intestinal contents that encourages defecation, and the mucilage content acts as an intestinal lubricant softening the stool for easier passage. The purely mechanical action of Psyllium mucilage absorbs excess water while stimulating normal bowel elimination. Generally an increase in stool weight, an increase in bowel movements per day, and a decrease in total gut transit time has been observed in most studies.
Psyllium is an effective treatment for inflammatory diverticulitis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As a colon cleanser, Psyllium is often called the "colon broom" that allows the body to gain better health in all bodily areas as a high-fiber detergent that removes colon waste and eliminates the putrefactive toxins in the intestines and colon. By reducing the transit time through the colon, toxins and bad colon bacteria are removed, while friendly bacteria are promoted.
Reduce the risk of heart disease with Psyllium. Recent studies have shown that Psyllium lowered both cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Psyllium is mainly used as a dietary fiber, which is not absorbed by the small intestine. Although its main use has been as a laxative, it is more appropriately termed a true dietary fiber. Soluble fibers prevent cholesterol absorption, and insoluble fibers have a scrubbing action as they pass through the intestines, ridding it of excess cholesterol and old, excess intestinal debris. It could also lower cholesterol by increasing bile-acid excretion. Bile acids are digestive substances that are made from cholesterol and are normally reabsorbed from the intestine after they do their job, but when Psyllium absorbs bile and moves it through the intestines, the body has to take cholesterol out of the blood to make more. Psyllium also helps slow cholesterol production by the liver, helping cells eliminate bad cholesterol, the kind believed to be responsible for closing arteries.
Psyllium's lubricating action in the intestines and colon make its gentle laxative motion effective in helping hemorrhoid sufferers. The same lubricating action relaxes, tones and coats mucous membranes, loosens and reduces phlegm, and is said to be effective in treating bronchitis and pneumonia.
As a treatment for diarrhea, Psyllium's bowel regulating action works by forming bulk that will slow down rapid, loose stools. Psyllium has been studied for the management of diarrhea in patients undergoing tube feeding, and the effective stool bulking effect has generally been found helpful in these scientific studies.
Psyllium is popular in weight loss programs, as it fills the gastrointestinal tract with a bulk that is low in calories, working as an appetite suppressant that helps curb the urge to eat. Its laxative action also helps to reduce excess weight by removing it.
Preliminary tests have shown Psyllium to help lower blood glucose levels by slowing the absorption of dietary sugar, which may be beneficial in the management of diabetes. Supplementing with Psyllium has been shown to be a safe and well-tolerated way to improve control of blood glucose and cholesterol.
Some herbalists maintain that Psyllium relieves an ailment known as autointoxication, in which the body poisons itself by producing and absorbing an excess of intestinal waste. Psyllium is said to remove the offending substances.
Used topically, Psyllium has been helpful in relieving skin irritations, insect bites and stings.
Pregnant women should avoid all laxatives. A possible allergic reaction could result in the use of Psyllium , and since it may affect absorption of prescription medications and important vitamins, you may have to take the drug or other supplements either at least one hour before or two hours after the Psyllium. Diabetics or those taking Lithium or Tegretol[R] (for seizures) or other prescription medications should discuss its use with a physician before using. Taking Psyllium supplements without adequate liquids may cause it to swell, and, in extreme cases, cause choking. 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/intestinal blockage should not take Psyllium. Do not take if you have a fecal impaction (large amount of stool that you cannot pass). It is important to drink at least six glasses of water daily when taking Psyllium.
Psyllium can sometimes cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, or (if you don’t drink enough fluid) constipation may result. Psyllium can also dilute digestive enzymes, and is best taken between meals (especially before bed or first thing in the morning) rather than with food at mealtimes.