The plant Psyllium, also known as ispaghula or Desert Indianwheat, belongs to the Plantaginaceae family. In India, it is known as ‘horse’s ear’ due to its distinctive shape .
It is primarily grown for the pharmacological properties of its seeds, but also for use by the agro-food industry (1).
Blond psyllium comes from the Plantago Ovata variety, while the brown form (also called ‘red’ or ‘black’) is obtained from Plantago Afra (2).
Blond psyllium has the advantage of having a greater fibre content (30%) than brown psyllium (10%-12 %).
Psyllium seems to be particularly effective at helping to regulate gastrointestinal transit. Psyllium seed and its husk (external covering) contains mucilage, a form of viscous soluble fibre which absorbs and retains water from food.
By absorbing water in the gut, psyllium fibre helps to soften and facilitate the elimination of stools in the case of constipation. It thus helps speed up GI transit time(3-4).
Some studies even suggest that psyllium is more effective than certain medications (5). Compared with some laxatives, it also produces fewer unpleasant side-effects such as flatulence and uncomfortable bloating.
Somewhat surprisingly, psyllium seed is also effective against diarrhoea: the fibre actually helps to convert the water in stools into gel, making them firmer. So, whatever your particular problem, psyllium could well help improve your digestive comfort.
Though psyllium is often considered primarily for its benefits on digestion, it also offers hope in other areas. Researchers believe it to be an interesting avenue for the control of cholesterol and triglycerides (6), as well as that of hypertension. (7)
Its potential for improving digestion also makes it a possible aid to weight loss (8).
For those who regularly suffer from intestinal problems, psyllium is available in the form of a powder or ‘flour’, to be taken with plenty of water. You can, for example, try the excellent supplement Psyllium Seed Husk, composed exclusively of blond psyllium seeds.
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