The genus Plantago contains over 200 species. P. ovata and P. psyllium are produced commercially in several European countries, the former Soviet Union,India and Pakistan. Plantago seed, known commercially as black, French, or Spanish psyllium, is obtained from P. psyllium L., also known as P. arenaria. Seed produced from P. ovata is known in trading circles as white or blonde psyllium, Indian plantago, or Isabgol. Isabgol, the common name in Pakistan and India for P. ovata, comes from the Persian words asb and ghol, meaning "horse flower," which is descriptive of the shape of the seed. India dominates the world market in the production and export of psyllium. Psyllium research and field trials in the U.S. have been conducted mainly in Arizona and Washington state.
Description: Psyllium is a natural, water-soluble, gel-reducing fiber which is extracted from the husks of blond psyllium seeds (plantago ovata). Psyllium is a member of a class of soluble fibers referred to as mucilages. Mucilages, which retain water, tend to be rather thick and jelly-like in nature. The water-soluble fibers such as psyllium, oat bran, apple pectin, and guar gum have demonstrated an ability to lower blood cholesterol levels. Therories concerning how this is accomplished include the ability of water-soluble fiber to increase the excretion of cholesterol through the bowel, to inhibit its synthesis in the liver, and to bind to and absorb bile acids in the intestine. The water insoluble fibers, wheat bran, for example, have not exhibited the same success in lowering cholesterol as have water-soluble fibers.
The laxative action of the psyllium is a common knowledge in the traditional herbal lore around the world. For this reason, remedies made from the psyllium are normally part of prescriptions in both conventional as well as herbal medicine, to treat cases of constipation - particularly when the problem results from an over tensed or over relaxed bowel action in the patient. Both husks and seeds of the psyllium herb contain high levels of fiber. When soaked in water, they become highly gelatinous . By maintaining a high content of water within the large bowel, husks and seeds of psyllium can increase the bulk of the stool, helping in easing its passage.
Dosage: Start with a lower dose dosage for psyllium is about one tablespoons and gradually working up to two tablespoons with meals once or twice daily. One or two glasses of water should be taken with each dose. Whereas stimulant laxatives tend to create an immediate and sometimes violent response, the positive effects of psyllium on constipation are usually more gradual. It can take up to a few weeks for a change to be noticed. However, when the change is felt, it is a result of an actual toning of the bowels rather than simply an irritation and purge of them.
Contraindications: There are people who have a low tolerance for fiber in their diets. In such cases, psyllium, and dietary fiber in general, can cause intestinal irritability, e.g., gas, bloating, and pain. There have also been cases of people having allergic reactions to psyllium, although these have been extremely rare.
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