Psyllium Husks (Plantago psyllium)

Psyllium seeds are produced by three main plantain species of the Plantaginaceae family: Plantago ovata, Plantago psyllium, and Plantago indica, found respectively in Southern Europe, North Africa, Asia, and India. These annual weeds sprout in the spring and grow in full sun, often in disturbed soils near roadsides or in open lots and fields. They are notable by their small, spatulate leaves with pinnate venation that grow in a rosette from a central taproot. They produce a stalk on which the small tan to purplish flowers grow. They are easily cultivated in the garden in most soils and are harvested in the late summer and fall.

Parts Used
Seeds and outer husks

Medicinal Uses
Psyllium husks are a demulcent and a laxative. The husks are an simple yet highly effective bulking laxative that are very high in fiber used most commonly to treat constipation. They swell when mixed with water, absorbing up to 25 times their weight in water, forming a soothing gel like mass that can help increase stool mass, helping to move stuck intestines, remove bacteria and toxins, and sooth and moisten inflamed mucous membranes. The seeds tend to be slightly irritating to the digestive tract and can cause intestinal griping in their function as a lubricating laxative. Psyllium seed and husks sooth ulcers and acid indigestion, and are also thought to help lower cholesterol. Studies have also shown that psyllium helps to lower blood-fat and glucose levels in late-onset diabetes patients. Externally, the husks can help relieve skin irritation and rheumatic pain, as well as to draw out minor infections.

Folk Uses
Psyllium has been used as a laxative for thousands of years in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, typically prescribed for constipation due to overly tensed or relaxed bowels. It is also interestingly a common remedy for treating diarrhea by absorbing excess water in the guts, but also works to soften the stool to help reduce irritation of the bowels in cases of irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Chrohn’s disease, and hemorrhoids. In India, it’s commonly used to treat dysentery. The mucilage rich seeds and husks benefit the entire digestive tract.

Flavor Profile and Energetics
Sweet, neutral, cooling

Dosage
1-2 teaspoons of the husks taken in a cup of water or juice, or added to smoothies, yogurts, or sprinkled onto other foods, twice daily, or as needed. Be careful, too much psyllium can create congestion in the digestive tract. Seeds must be soaked before use. Externally, use as needed.

Combinations
Take with plenty of liquids and a balancing carminative such as ginger or fennel. Externally combine with calendula for a drawing poultice to treat infection from boils, abscesses, and whitlows, which are pus-filled swellings of the fingertips.

Contraindications
None

(s) 4, 8, 10, 13, 15

Psyllium seed

Psyllium seed

 Plantago ovata growing in the wild

Plantago ovata growing in the wild

Close up of the low-lying  plant

Close up of the low-lying plant

Close up of the flowering structure of Plantago ovata

Close up of the flowering structure of Plantago ovata

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