Psyllium

Psyllium

Other Names: Plantago psyllium 

Composition: Psyllium seed refers to the dried ripe seeds of the plant, which are rich in mucilage. The husks are also used as a bulk-forming laxative. 

Description and History: Psyllium husks and seeds have a rich history medically. They have been used in many ancient cultures, including many parts of Europe, China, and India. The traditional uses are similar to the confirmed modern uses.

Cross-Reference List: Constipation & Diarrhea

Actions: Many OTC laxatives are made from psyllium husks, with the addition of artificial flavors and colors. We can skip the additives and go straight to the fiber-rich botanical itself for an effective, bulking laxative. Interestingly enough, psyllium’s bulking benefits extend to diarrhea as well. The husks soak up water in the intestinal tract, bulking the stool. Dose: 1/2t - 2t powdered husks.

Cholesterol: Psyllium husk is easily added to the diet in culinary forms, so much so that even children and adolescents can benefit from them without aversion to the preparation. A Brazilian study found that psyllium in children and youth (7g/day for eight weeks) reduced cholesterol levels by 10.7% more than that of the control group, which just received cellulose powder. (Ribas, et al, 2015)

IBS: As a fiber-rich substance, psyllium helps to regulate bowel systems that are not otherwise managed. Over 12 weeks of treatment with 10g psyllium husks each day, a 2009 study found that IBS symptom severity was reduced by 90 points (compared with 49 points in the placebo group). (Bijkerk, et al, 2009) Because it has a bulking effect instead of a stimulant, prevention in this way is preferable to the riskier, reactive treatments for bowel issues and discomfort associated with IBS.

Excess weight:  The diet and gut are keys to wellness, and psyllium is an excellent tool. Psyllium husks for the benefit of weight loss carries merit and great potential. When teens aged 15/16 years old from low SES areas with high rates of obesity, at-risk teens consumed 6g/day in supplement for a 2012 study. This led to a 4% reduction in fatty stores and a 6% reduction in cholesterol. (Derraik, et al, 2012) 

Contraindications: Should not be used if stenosis of the esophagus (or any portion of the gastrointestinal tract) or bowel obstruction are suspected.

Interactions: Potential to decrease the absorption of other drugs.

Preparations: Psyllium husks absorb water, so if added to water, it must be consumed right away. They are well suited to truffles and marshmallows but are not suited for sweet extracts such as syrups or for balms or salves. They can be consumed in capsules for constipation. 

Dose: Psyllium husks, unlike other herbs, are dosed by volume, not weight. Optimal total single-serving dose is 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons for an otherwise healthy adult up to twice a day either in water or in some other preparation, indefinitely.  

Dig Deeper

Bijkerk, C. J., De Wit, N. J., Muris, J. W. M., Whorwell, P. J., Knottnerus, J. A., & Hoes, A. W. (2009). Soluble or insoluble fibre in irritable bowel syndrome in primary care? Randomised placebo controlled trial. Bmj, 339, b3154.

Ribas, S. A., Cunha, D. B., Sichieri, R., & da Silva, L. C. S. (2015). Effects of psyllium on LDL-cholesterol concentrations in Brazilian children and adolescents: a randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel clinical trial. British Journal of Nutrition,113(01), 134-141.

de Bock, M., Derraik, J. G., Brennan, C. M., Biggs, J. B., Smith, G. C., Cameron-Smith, D., ... & Cutfield, W. S. (2012). Psyllium supplementation in adolescents improves fat distribution & lipid profile: a randomized, participant-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. PloS one, 7(7), e41735.

Meet Dr Hawkins

Dr. Hawkins brings 20 years of expertise in the integrative health field to her role as Executive Director of the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and the leader of our clinical research team.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health from Union Institute and University, a Master’s Degree in Health Education & Promotion from the University of Alabama, a post-graduate certificate in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a PhD in Health Research from Middle Tennessee State University, and is completing the post-doctoral Global Scholars Research Training Program at Harvard Medical School. She also holds certifications in numerous natural health fields including aromatherapy, aromatic medicine, herbalism, childbirth education, and labor support.