Psyllium is native to Iran and India and is currently cultivated in these countries. The seeds are primarily used in traditional herbal medicine. Psyllium seed husks are mainly used to treat constipation, It has also been used in traditional herbal systems of China and India to treat diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, bladder problems, and high blood pressure..
Psyllium was also used topically by herbalists to treat skin irritations, including poison ivy reactions and insect bites and stings.
What it does
Psyllium seeds are high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. These fibres absorb water in the bowel, bulking up faeces which encourage peristalsis and bowel emptying. The fibres absorb and carry excess dietary fat and cholesterol out of the bowel.
Psyllium can be used in weight management as it gives a feeling of fullness and slows down the absorption of fats and sugars.
It is important to drink plenty of water when using psyllium and to begin with small doses whilst the bowel adjusts.
If you have chronic constipation or a bowel obstruction you should seek medical advice and not take psyllium.
If you have IBS you may find that psyllium makes your symptoms worse and you should eat more fruit and vegetables to get the soluble fibre you need.
As psyllium has a cholesterol lowering effect, if you are taking statin drugs you should consult your doctor before use.