Let’s take a look at the uses and properties of psyllium husk along with the benefits of husk fiber.
The name psyllium is commonly used for various species of the plant genus Plantago. Their seeds have mucilaginous properties and are used commercially.
The genus Plantago contains approximately 200 species and the most common plant which is used and marketed as “psyllium” is Plantago ovata Forsk. It belongs to the family Plantaginaceae.
In India, it is known as isabgol in Hindi. Psyllium is also known as ispaghula and spogel seeds.
Psyllium has been a part of Ayurveda with various ancient Ayurvedic medical texts describing its uses and benefits. Interestingly, psyllium husk is also frequently used in the Chinese system of medicine.
Besides these two traditional systems of medicine, psyllium husk fiber has been a part of homeopathic medicine as well. It is also thought to have been used for wound healing by ancient Greek physicians.
Psyllium seeds and psyllium husk are also used in food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and other related industries.
In the food industry, psyllium is used in various products like ice cream, breakfast cereals, some juices. Psyllium is also used in numerous bakery products like cakes, bread, biscuits, and muffins.
Botanical Description Of Psyllium – Plantago Ovata
- Plantago ovata is an annual, small, and bushy herb. It grows mainly in temperate regions and sometimes in the tropics.
- Psyllium needs marginal, light, well-drained sandy-loam to loamy soils.
- The pH of the soil should be between 7-8. This plant grows up to a height of 30-46 cm (approximately 12 inches to 18 inches tall).
- The leaves of psyllium are opposite, linear or linear-lanceolate.
- Its leaves are 3 to 9 inches long.
- The flower stalk of psyllium is oval or cylindrical shaped.
- Multiple flowering shoots arise from the base of the plant.
- Multiple flowers are born which are small and white in color. The spikes of flowers turn reddish-brown at ripening.
- Fruits are slightly oval in shape. Fruits are generally 8 mm long. The upper half part of the fruit is in the form of a lid.
- The harvested seed must be dried to below 12% moisture.
- The seed shell of psyllium is bifurcated. Each section contains one seed.
- The seeds of psyllium are enclosed in capsules that open at maturity.
- The seeds of psyllium are ovoid oblong or boat-shaped. The seeds are 2-3 mm long.
- The covering of seeds is white in color but the seeds themselves are pinkish-grey to brown in color.
- Seeds have convex dorsal surface and concave ventral surface with a deep groove running lengthwise along the center.
- The husk of psyllium seeds when mixed with water can swell upto 10 to 20 times its original size.
- This is the mucilaginous seed coat which swells when mixed with water and gives bulk and lubrication to it.
Ayurvedic Properties Of Psyllium 2
Rasa or taste: Madhura or sweet.
Guna or qualities: Snigdha or smooth, guru or heavy, picchila or slimy or mucilaginous.
Virya or potency: Sheeta or cold.
Vipaka or taste conversion after digestion: Madhura or sweet.
Effect on doshas2: Isabgol or psyllium is Vata dosha Pitta dosha shamak. It means that it pacifies excessive Vata dosha and Pitta dosha.
Due to its snigdha guna or smooth quality and madhura rasa or sweet taste, psyllium reduces the aggravated Vata dosha.
Due to its madhura rasa or sweet taste and sheeta guna or cold quality, psyllium reduces the aggravated Pitta dosha.
Parts used: Seeds and seed husk of psyllium are used.2
The seed husk of psyllium is called sat isabgol in Hindi.
Psyllium Husk Fiber Dosage: 5-10 g of psyllium husk2
Sanskrit Names For Psyllium 1
- Ashwa karna: It is called ashwa karna because its seeds resemble the shape of a horse’s ear.
- Ishad gol: Its seeds are slightly round in shape that is why it is called ishad gol.
- Sheeta beeja: Its seeds (beeja) are cool (sheeta) in potency, therefore they are known as sheeta beeja.
- Ishwar bola and ashwa gol are also its synonyms.
Ayurvedic Uses Of Psyllium 2
- Topical application psyllium paste can be helpful in relieving burning sensation and inflammation.
- The topical application of psyllium paste is used in various Vata and Pitta-related disorders.
- Psyllium husk has laxative properties.
- Due to its snigdha guna (smooth quality), it is helpful in relieving dryness of the gastroesophageal area.
- Due to its picchila guna (mucilaginous property), it is useful in increasing the motility of the intestine.
- As a result, bowel movements become more frequent and easier to pass and constipation has been relieved.
- Roasted psyllium seeds are helpful in managing diarrhea and dysentery.
- Psyllium can be helpful in controlling the growth of “bad bacteria” in the intestine.
- Psyllium also makes a mucilaginous layer over any intestinal injuries, wounds, or cuts. As a result, it protects the intestine from irritants by protecting the intestinal mucosa.
- Psyllium is also helpful in excessive thirst or polydipsia.
- Psyllium is helpful in removing excess mucus from the body.
- Psyllium is useful in relieving dry cough.
- Psyllium is a diuretic in nature. Therefore, it can be useful in problems like dysuria (difficulty in passing urine) and UTIs.
- Psyllium is useful in improving strength and also contributes to weight gain. It can be used in general debility and emaciation problems.
- Psyllium is useful in fever. It is also given in fever due to Pitta dosha to relieve burning sensation, thirst and to lower down the temperature.
If you would like to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can help strengthen your digestion, check out Dr Thite’s course below.
How To Take Psyllium Husk Fiber Or Seeds? 3
- Clean the psyllium husk or seeds and put it in a cup of water. Shake it well and properly. Drink it.
- Another method is to put the seeds or seed husk in a cup of water. Then leave it for two to three hours. When it converted into a jelly like substance, then add sugar in it and eat it.
Side Effects And Contraindications For Psyllium Husk Fiber/Seeds
- Excessive use of psyllium may lead to agni mandya because it is heavy in nature.
- Agni mandya is the slowing down of one’s digestive power, which may lead to loss of appetite and dyspepsia.3
- Besides, if you are pregnant or lactating, then consult your Ayurveda physician or healthcare practitioner before using it.
- If you are taking any kind of medications (like cardiac medications or any other) or have a medical condition then take it only after consulting your physician.
- Taking psyllium without enough water can cause choking because of its water-absorbing property, so always take it with enough amount of water and keep it out of the reach of children.
Chemical Composition Of Psyllium
Psyllium (Plantago ovata Forsk.) contains nutritional antioxidants, flavonoids, PUFAs, including essential fatty acids (ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids), sulfur-rich and essential amino acids, and metabolites with bioactivities.
Studies revealed that 36 different metabolites were identified in psyllium. Out of these 36 metabolites, 26 (13 each) metabolites were discovered in leaves and seeds. The remaining 10 metabolites were found in psyllium husk.
Most of the metabolites of psyllium are natural antioxidants, phenolics, flavonoids, or alkaloids. 4 Psyllium husk contains 6.83% moisture, 0.94% protein, 4.07% ash and 84.98% of total carbohydrates. 5
Seeds of the psyllium contain 30% mucilage (the slimy product), which is present in the husk. This mucilage of psyllium is constituted of xylose, arabinose, and galacturonic acid. Rhamnose and galactose are also found in it.
Besides mucilage, its seeds also contain a stable oil (5%). Audubon is a product found in oil which acts similar to tannins and acetylcholine.
The fleshy part of the seeds contains 14.7% linoleic acid-containing oil. This oil can be helpful in reducing blood cholesterol levels.
It has so much mucilage that one part of the seed if put into twenty parts of water, then it will easily get converted into jelly after some time.6
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before using psyllium husk fiber or psyllium seeds.
- Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no.414, Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017
- Same as reference 1, page no.416
- Same as reference 1, page no. 417.
- Patel, Manish K et al. “Non-targeted Metabolite Profiling and Scavenging Activity Unveil the Nutraceutical Potential of Psyllium (Plantago ovata Forsk).” Frontiers in plant science vol. 7 431. 5 Apr. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00431 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4821064/
- Qaisrani, Tahira & Sadiq Butt, Masood & Hussain, Safdar & Ibrahim, Muhammad. (2014). CHARACTERIZATION AND UTILIZATION OF PSYLLIUM HUSK FOR THE PREPARATION OF DIETETIC COOKIES. international journal of modern agriculture. 3
- Dravyaguna Vijnana by Aacharya Priyavrat Sharma, Volume 2, page no. 415, Chaukhamba Bharati Academy, 2017.