Psyllium plant for Herbal Naturopathy: properties, benefits, uses, side effects

Psillo ( Plantago psyllium ) is a plant of the  Plantaginaceae family. Known as a natural laxative with soothing properties, it is useful against cholesterol and irritable bowel. Let’s find out better.

Properties of psyllium

Psyllium is generally indicated for chronic constipation, because its seeds make it a very effective but harmless natural laxative, thanks to the presence of a mucilage, which swells and increases in volume upon contact with water. Mucilages are polysaccharides with a complex chemical composition, belonging to the categories of water- soluble fibers and with an emollient and protective effect for the mucous membranes and laxative.

In contact with water, in fact, the seeds open completely, increase in volume up to 30 times compared to their dry form, producing a gel capable of increasing the quantity of fecal mass, softening its content. This lubricating effect makes it useful in case of hemorrhoids and anal fissures, in irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis ; for constipation in pregnancy and lactation; for children and heart patients and in all cases in which laxatives cannot be taken which cause peristalsis in an aggressive way and muscle contractions.

This ability to facilitate bowel emptying and defecation in a delicate way is called “bulk forming“, typical of laxatives that increase and soften the fecal mass (called ” mechanical “), particularly appreciated for their safety and effectiveness, because they clean as they pass through the intestinal walls and facilitate evacuation, due to a mechanical effect. However, psyllium is useful not only in case of constipation, but also in case of diarrhea. In the latter case it acts by absorbing excess fluids and increasing the consistency of the fecal bolus (also called chyme).

Mucilage also has antiinflammatory and soothing properties on the mucosa, and is therefore indicated in colitis and in all irritations of the walls of the gastrointestinal system.

Psyllium seeds also boast prebiotic properties, thanks to their ability to promote the growth of a psyllium bacterial flora to the detriment of pathogenic strains with putrefactive action. They are therefore useful for strengthening the immune defenses, improving intestinal efficiency and preventing colorectal cancer (their fermentation gives rise to short-chain fatty acids which, in addition to acting as an energy substrate for the cells of the colon mucosa, seem to play a protective role on the development of this pathology).

Finally, the seeds containing this fiber help to reduce the intestinal absorption of fats and sugars with a decrease in cholesterol and triglycerides and blood sugar levels.

How to use

Like all fibers, taken simultaneously with other drugs can reduce the intestinal absorption of these healing substances, both synthetic and vegetable. They should therefore be taken at least 1 hour before or at least 3 hours after psyllium ingestion. It is important to remember that this plant should be taken with plenty of water .

Immerse 1-3 teaspoons of psyllium seeds in 150-200 ml of water for each teaspoon, leave to macerate for several hours, or drink with plenty of water, letting the gel form inside the stomach. Take them morning and evening, after meals.

Contraindications of psyllium

Psyllium, being a natural laxative, should not be used for long periods. In fact, excessive use can cause bloating, diarrhea and flatulence. 

Description of the plant

Annual herbaceous plant, 10 to 30 cm. Stem, erect or ascending, leafy, hairy, little branched. The leaves are sessile opposite or verticillate to 3, flat and hairy.

The flowers are whitish, small, and collected in globular spikes, pedunculated with short bracts, calyx with equal sepals, corolla with transversely wrinkled tube. The fruit is a pyx (capsule) that opens with a circular slit, contains 2 shiny, brown, smooth small, tasteless and odorless seeds .

The habitat of psyllium

Native to the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, it grows mainly on semi-sandy soils.

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