The shape of the seeds is said to be reminiscent of fleas, which is why they are called psyllium. Likewise, the plant from which they come, the Indian psyllium or Indian flea plantain, which is related to our ribwort. Psyllium is a remedy for constipation, diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. Here are the most important facts:
- Psyllium seeds are the seeds of a plantain family from India and Iran.
- They offer water-soluble fiber in a particularly digestible form.
- Seeds and especially seed husks offer a lot of mucus and fats.
- They bind water in the intestine and thicken the stool.
- The mucus acts like a lubricant in the intestine.
- They promote digestion and help against diarrhea as well as against constipation.
- They transport infectious substances out of the body and thus alleviate chronic bowel diseases.
- They do not replace medication.
Plantago ovata, the Indian psyllium, grows low and annual, with fine hair. The leaves form a rosette, the small flowers are in spikes. Capsules form oval seeds of pale color. This plantain grows in India and Iran.
Psyllium as a medicinal plant
The outer skin of the seed shells serves as a medicine. This contains a lot of mucilage with sugars like galactose and rhamnose as well as rich oil. The seed bodies provide oils, proteins and iridoid glycosides. As medicine, the seeds are harvested together with the husks and are available in pharmacies in Germany. Indigenous people in India and Iran have been using the seeds for centuries to treat digestive and intestinal complaints.
A swelling agent
The mucilages are decisive for the medicinal effect. Once in the intestine, they bind water and swell. This increases the volume of the intestinal contents and stimulates digestion - an aid for constipation, but also for a feeling of fullness or irritated intestine. The very fatty oil also lubricates the intestine and thus ensures that the contents of the intestine are transported quickly. Crushed seeds or seed husks are more laxative than whole seeds, which often pass through the gastrointestinal tract intact.
How do you take psyllium?
So that the mucilage works, you should drink a lot. It is best to let the seed husks soak in a glass of water. You then drink that and then preferably two more glasses of water.
You should drink at least two liters throughout the day - water, tea or diluted fruit juices. Otherwise the mucus swells too little, and little swollen mucilage can stick to the intestinal wall.
How long do you take the psyllium?
The effects of psyllium become apparent after two to three days. Do not consume psyllium every day for a long time, at least not as whole seeds, as they contain a lot of energy.
What should you look out for?
If you are taking medication that works through the intestine, you should not use psyllium at the same time, as it prevents other medicines from being absorbed by the mucus. You should allow three to five hours to elapse between taking psyllium and these medications. You should not take psyllium if your gullet, stomach or intestines are narrowed, the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed or you have an intestinal obstruction.
If you suffer from diseases in which you are not allowed to drink a lot, for example with relevant complaints of the kidneys and heart, then your doctor will decide whether psyllium is suitable for you. For example, it may be advisable to swell the psyllium in curd instead of in water.
Against diarrhea and constipation
Psyllium can be used for both constipation and diarrhea, especially for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Here the seeds bind the excess water and thicken the stool, regulate the emptying and relieve those affected who have to go to the toilet less frequently. In chronic bowel diseases, this means an increased quality of life in everyday life.
Attention: If you treat diarrhea with psyllium, you should still drink enough, because the psyllium only binds excess water that is still in the intestine, but not what has already been excreted.
In the case of inflammation in the intestine, the mucus film also acts as a protection for irritated and inflamed areas, thus relieving the pain during bowel movements and acting as a lubricant for constrictions caused by the inflammation.
Water soluble fiber
Indian psyllium is water-soluble fiber, the bacteria of the colon flora decompose it. The bacteria form short-chain fatty acids, which in turn nourish the epithelial layer of the intestine and thus promote the defense against carcinogenic substances. The mucus binds particles that promote inflammation and traps free radicals. The psyllium indirectly reduces oxidative stress.
Removal of pollutants
Psyllium has a laxative effect and helps to remove pollutants. This is particularly important for chronic intestinal inflammation such as ulcerative colitis. They generally support the intestinal flora, which can regenerate through the psyllium.
Blood sugar and blood fat
The psyllium mucus binds free fats in the intestine and thus reduces problematic cholesterol (LDL) from the food, but not the harmless cholesterol (HDL).
Diabetics help psyllium to the extent that these water-soluble fibers stabilize blood sugar levels. For people suffering from Type II diabetes, psyllium can also help reduce weight and lower blood pressure.
Flea seeds to lose weight?
Due to their water-soluble fiber, taking psyllium leads to a feeling of satiety. However, the whole seeds also contain a lot of fats and proteins, and therefore a lot of calories, so that they are not necessarily suitable as a means of losing weight.
Side effects are rare and not serious, but sometimes do occur. If your body is not used to psyllium or high-fiber food, the adjustment can lead to bloating and cramps. Here it helps to drink more water.
If you are allergic to psyllium, for example, irritation to the lungs and trachea occurs. If this is the case, see a doctor immediately. However, allergy sufferers usually notice their problems when they inhale or touch seed particles.
Not for toddlers
Psyllium seeds are not suitable for small children because the tiny seeds can be inhaled and then irritate the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract as foreign bodies.
Psyllium instead of medication?
Psyllium is suitable for the complementary treatment of chronic intestinal inflammation as well as in the context of a special diet for diarrhea or constipation. However, they do not replace medication for ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
How much psyllium per day?
One teaspoon to three tablespoons a day is enough to drain or bind the stool in the intestine. When it comes to absorbing LDL, you should take up to nine teaspoons a day.
Psyllium and seed husks
A psyllium consists of seed kernel and seed coat. We measure the effect of fiber via the swelling index, i.e. the volume that one gram takes up after four hours of swelling. Whole psyllium seeds have a swelling index of nine, while psyllium husk has a forty index. The shells thicken the stool far more effectively and shorten its transport through the intestine.
Psyllium as food
Psyllium is not primarily a medicine, but a food additive and is well suited for a balanced diet and smooth digestion. They harmonize with yogurt and quark, making them suitable for morning cereals, also in combination with raisins, dried blackberries and oatmeal.
They also make a good insert for soups and stews, they go with vegetable soups (pumpkin, potatoes, carrots) as well as with legumes (beans, lentils) and with pearl barley, pasta and rice. They are also recommended as a litter over green leafy salads, one or two teaspoons work well in smoothies.
tip: Add basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan to your pesto with a teaspoon of psyllium or sprinkle psyllium with grated cheese over the tomato sauce of the spagetti. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Elena Jovanovski, Shahen Yashpal, Allison Komishon, et al. : "Effect of psyllium (Plantago ovata) fiber on LDL cholesterol and alternative lipid targets, non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials", in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 108, Issue 5, November 2018, pages 922-932 (accessed: November 23, 2018), The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Ben-Erik van Wyk, Coralie Wink, Michael Wink: "Handbook of Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Guide", Scientific Publishing Company, 2003
- Siew Chien Ng, YT Lam, et al. "Systematic review: the efficacy of herbal therapy in inflammatory bowel disease", 2013, wiley.com