Psyllium Husk (Isabgol) – Plantago Ovata Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

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Botanically, Psyllium (also called Isabgol & Ispaghula) is Plantago Ovata. Sat Isabgol (also called Psyllium Husk & Ispaghula husk) is husk outer membranous covering of the Plantago Ovata seeds, which is useful in relieving constipation and has other therapeutic benefits and uses.

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk contains high fiber content, which varies from 75 to 80% (about 50 to 55% soluble fiber and 25% insoluble fiber). One teaspoon gives you approximately 3 grams fiber (2 grams soluble fiber and 1-gram insoluble fiber).

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk has gentle laxative action that depends on the fiber content, so it is not actually true purgative. We can categorize it under bulk-forming laxatives. The flour of Isabgol Husk is added in multi-grain flour to enhance nutritive value as well as fiber content of cereal flours.

Psyllium Husk can absorb 14 times more water than its weight. Psyllium seeds can absorb 3 times water than its weight. Therefore, the high amount of liquids or water should be consumed while taking Psyllium Husk. It will also help preventing immediate side effects like choking.

Basic Information

Safety ProfileLIKELY SAFE & WELL TOLERABLE
Medicine TypeHerb
Main IndicationConstipation
Potential ActionBulk-forming laxative
Chemical CompositionFiber
Dosage5 to 30 grams
Best Adjuvant240 to 500 ml Water or Milk
Scientific NamePlantago Ovata
Plant FamilyPlantaginaceae
Hindi NameIsabgol
English NamePsyllium
Other NamesIspaghula, spogel seeds

Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)

KingdomPLANTAE
Sub-KingdomVIRIDIPLANTAE
Infra KingdomSTREPTOPHYTA  (land plants)
Super DivisionEMBRYOPHYTA
DivisionTRACHEOPHYTA (TRACHEOPHYTES or Vascular Plants)
Sub DivisionSPERMATOPHYTINA (SPERMATOPHYTES or Seed Plants)
ClassMAGNOLIOPSIDA
Subclass
Super OrderASTERANAE
OrderLAMIALES
FamilyPLANTAGINACEAE  (Plantains)
GenusPLANTAGO (Plantain or Indian-wheat)
SpeciesPlantago Ovata (Desert Indian-wheat)

Medicinal Parts

  • Sat Isabgol (Psyllium Husk)
  • Psyllium (Isabgol) Seeds

Phytochemistry (Chemical Composition)

Psyllium (Isabgol) contains:

XYLOSE59%
ARABINOSE22.3%
URONIC ACID6.1%
GALACTOSE3.7%
GLUCOSE3.5%
RHAMNOSE3%
MANNOSE1.6%
RIBOSE (rarely detected)0.01%

Psyllium (Isabgol) Seeds

Psyllium (Isabgol) Seeds contains mucilage substance, which is about 30% of its total weight. Mucilage is made of soluble fiber called polysaccharides.

Psyllium seeds contain about 40% Linoleic Acid (LA), an important essential fatty acid. Isabgol Seeds contain:

Fiber content19%
Proteins18.8%
Triglycerides10 – 20%

Psyllium (Isabgol) Husk

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk contains 75 to 78% fiber from which 70% is soluble fiber and 30% insoluble fiber.

Medicinal Properties

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk has following healing properties.

  1. Antacid
  2. Gentle bulking-forming laxative
  3. Antidiarrheal – absorbs water content from intestines and helps in managing diarrhea
  4. Appetite Suppressant
  5. Hydrophilic (strong affinity for water)
  6. Intestinal detox
  7. Diuretic
  8. Emollient

Ayurvedic Properties

Taste – RASAMADHURA (Sweet)
Main Quality – GUNAGURU (Heavy), SNIGADH or SNEHA (Unctuous or Oily), PICHCHILA (Cloudy or Sliminess)
Potency – VIRYASHEETA (Cool)
Resultant – VIPAKAMADHURA (Sweet)
Therapeutic Effect – PRABHAVAIntestinal Soothing Agent & Lubricant and Gentle Laxative
DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors)Pacifies VATA & PITTA
Effects on OrgansIntestines

Therapeutic Indications

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk is helpful in following health conditions.

Digestive Health

  • Acidity
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Excessive Hunger (Polyphagia)
  • Excessive Thirst (Polydipsia)
  • Diarrhea

Skin

  • Dysesthesia – Burning skin sensation (external application)
  • Other skin diseases with main symptom of burning sensation

Men Health

  • Night fall

Benefits & Medicinal Uses

Isabgol has several therapeutic benefits. In folk medicine and ayurveda, it is widely used.

Constipation

The first line of treatment of constipation is dietary changes including high fiber diet and fruits & vegetables. When it fails, physician may first recommend using Psyllium Husk.

Isabgol is very rich in fiber and it absorbs water from the intestines and produces more bulk, which stimulates intestinal contractions and peristaltic movements. Due to this, the passage of the stools becomes easier and thus it removes constipation.

Ayurveda and folk practitioners use the following combination with water.

Sat Isabgol1 tsp.
Misri (crystallized sugar lumps) powder1 tsp.

If this dosage becomes ineffective, then ayurveda recommends using 10 grams (2 tsp.) sat Isabgol by soaking it in 50 ml water for several 30 minutes and then add 240 ml milk and add 2 tsp. Misri (crystallized sugar lumps) powder in this. This mixture should be taken at night before sleep. Isabgol swells up to 14 times from its original size, which cleanses and lubricates the intestines and alimentary canal. This mixture cleanses the intestines and removes sticky stools from the intestinal walls, which helps natural passage of the stools by improving intestinal contractions and peristaltic movements.

When to Take Psyllium Husk in Constipation

The best treatment for constipation is always fiber rich diet including fruits, vegetables etc. The best recommendation for taking Psyllium Husk is when you cannot eat enough amounts of fruits or vegetables that can help you getting rid of constipation.

Diarrhoea & Dysentery

Isabgol absorbs water content from the digestive tract and produces bulk, which makes stool firmer. Secondly, it also clears the intestines, which helps removing infection-causing microbes from the alimentary canal and speeds up the recovery process. Psyllium alone is effective treatment for mild to moderate diarrhea, but it may be used as adjuvant therapy in severe diarrhea and dysentery.

Acute Infectious Diarrhoea

1 tsp. of Isabgol and 1 tsp. Misri powder is mixed in 50 ml water. It should be taken trice a day. This remedy reduces frequency of watery stools in acute infectious diarrhoea.

Chronic or Recurring Diarrhoea

Sat Isabgol1 tsp.
Kutaj (Holarrhena Antidysenterica) bark powder1 gram
Saunf (Fennel seeds) powder1 gram
Dried Ginger powder500 mg

The remedy given in the above table is effective in chronic diarrhoea. The dosage should be twice daily for at least 15 to 30 days. In recurring diarrhoea, one should take this remedy for at least 6 weeks.

Acidity & Heartburn

According to ayurveda, Isabgol is a good remedy for acidity and heartburn. Isabgol when passed through the food pipe and stomach, it lubricates the membranous walls, which reduces irritation due to the excess acid. It also flushes out the excess acid from the stomach to the intestines by absorbing the acid. Thus, due to these mechanisms, it helps reducing the symptoms of hyperacidity and heartburn.

Diabetes

Isabgol is very rich in fiber content. The high fiber diet may reduce the blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. High fiber diet always has low glycemic index, which tends to improve the plasma glucose levels. Psyllium provides a good quality of such carbohydrates. Diabetic people can include Isabgol in their regular diet adding it in cereal flours.

Furthermore, high fiber diet and good quality of carbohydrates reduce the diabetes risk in healthy individuals.

Nocturnal Emission

Nocturnal Emission (also called wet dreams or nightfall in men) is a common problem in men. However, the frequency can be very variable. The most common causes are constipation and emotional upsets. However, other causes may be present including hyper-excitement.

Isabgol reduces frequency of nocturnal emission. How does it work is yet not known. According to ayurveda, psyllium has cooling potency that reduces excitement. Further, it also eliminates constipation. Thus, it helps in Nocturnal Emission.

How to use

In Nocturnal Emission, one should take psyllium husk mixing with Misri (sugar) in equal amount. The mixture should be taken with lukewarm milk before sleeping. Psyllium husk pudding is also helpful in such condition.

Leucorrhea (Discharge)

Folk practitioners commonly use psyllium husk pudding to reduce white discharge and leucorrhea. Isabgol may stop the progress of Yeast Infections (Candidiasis) and other microbes. Further, it is mild anti-inflammatory, which reduces inflammation of soft tissues including inner walls of private organs and reduces discharges.

Dry Cough with Scratchy Throat

Isabgol with sugar is a good natural treatment for Dry Cough that accompanying with throat irritation. Psyllium husk pudding is more beneficial for reducing Scratchy Throat and frequency of dry cough attacks. It lubricates the irritated throat and emollient action of Isabgol provides immediate relief from throat irritation.

Chronic Arsenic Toxicity

Isabgol is a natural cleanse, which also helps reducing chronic toxicity that occurs due to ingestion of arsenic compounds. Several folk medicines also contain arsenic, which is commonly used for treating skin diseases.  Psyllium acts as arsenic antagonist, which reduces symptoms of the chronic arsenic poisoning and increases the excretion of arsenic compounds from the body.

Skin Dryness

Isabgol has emollient action on the skin and inner membranes of the organs in the body. In skin dryness, Sat Isabgol fine powder is used for massage. This massage reduces dryness and increases the skin glow.

Weight Loss (Obesity)

Psyllium Husk or Isabgol is now getting popular for obesity because it absorbs around 14 times water to its weight and acts as appetite suppressant. However, it is not considerably perfect treatment for obesity and has very slight effects on appetite, but it can be used for compensating dietary fiber requirements in obese people.

How does Psyllium Husk (Isabgol) work in obesity?

Psyllium Husk absorbs around 14 times water to its weight, which ultimately reduces appetite and making person feel full abdomen. Psyllium Husk in higher dosage acts also as appetite suppressant. (1)

Psyllium also increases fecal fat excretion. However, this effect appeared for Psyllium Husk Seeds. (2, 3)

There is co-relation between body weight control and metabolic syndrome. Many obese people lack an adequate intake of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber plays a vital role in management of metabolic syndrome. Psyllium Husk is one of the greatest sources of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which improves glucose homeostasis and lipid profile and may help in body weight control. (4)

Verdict

According to Ayurveda, Isabgol may also have opposite effect. It may also promote slight weight gain. No doubt, Isabgol suppress appetite, but this effect only appears in higher dosage (more than 25 grams per day). In lower dosage (i.e. less than 10 grams per day), it provides strength to the body and very useful for people with debility and weakness. In this dosage, it may slightly promote weight gain because according to ayurvedic properties of Isabgol, it is actually increases KAPHA humor and pacifies VATA and PITTA.

The main point is that it does not directly have any influence on weight loss or weight gain. It can induce weight gain in thin and weak individual, but the dosage should be less than 10 grams per day and adequate balanced diet is also required. It may induce weight loss, but due to appetite suppressant action that appears only with higher dosage.

How to use psyllium husk for weight loss

Still we do not consider it ideal remedy for losing weight, but it can be used as dietary fiber supplement in obese people, as per modern prospective. For dietary fiber supplement, one can take it with water in the desired quantity (up to 30 grams a day).

High Cholesterol & Dyslipidemia

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk reduces the risk of heart disease possibly due to its high fiber content.

A 3 months study on adult male and female concluded that psyllium husk reduced serum total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and atherogenic index of plasma (AIP) significantly. However, the level of triglyceride and HDL cholesterol were unaltered. (5, 6)

Isabgol (5 grams at night) lowers high cholesterol significantly, so it can be used on regular basis for 3 to 6 months to get promising results in high cholesterol. It will be most suitable remedy for patients who also suffering from constipation.

However, Cinnamon (Dalchini) can also be added as adjuvant to get best results in dyslipidemia, as Isabgol alone may not have any positive effect on triglyceride levels, but Cinnamon will help to reduce both triglyceride and cholesterol. This combination is also effective for reducing atherogenic index of plasma (AIP) and preventing hypertension, atherosclerosis and heart diseases.

High Blood Pressure

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk helps to lower blood pressure by lowering high cholesterol level.

High cholesterol is linked with high blood pressure. High cholesterol along with calcium causes plaque buildup in blood vessels, which cause hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels. It results in extra stress on the heart to pump the blood harder through the arteries, which cause elevation in blood pressure.

Dosage

The general dosage of Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk is as follows.

Minimum Effective Dosage5 grams *
Moderate dosage (Adults)10 to 30 grams *
Moderate dosage (Children)5 to 15 grams *
Maximum Possible Dosage40 grams *

* Once before bedtime

How to Take Psyllium Husk

  1. Take a glass of warm water (around 240 ml).
  2. Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of Psyllium Husk in the water.
  3. Drink immediately before it swells.

Psyllium Husk Pudding

For making psyllium husk pudding, the following ingredients are required.

IngredientsQuantity
Psyllium Husk10 grams
Water50 ml
Milk200 ml
Sugar1 to 2 tsp.
  • Soak Psyllium Husk in 50 ml water for 30 minutes.
  • Now take hot milk and mix sugar in it.
  • Now, add psyllium husk with water in the milk and stir the mixture.
  • Psyllium husk pudding is ready.
  • Eat this psyllium husk pudding once at night just before bedtime.

The psyllium husk pudding should be used for at least one month to get rid of the problem permanently.

Benefits of Psyllium Husk Pudding

  1. It is best natural emollient and reduces inflammation.
  2. It gives relief dry cough, throat irritation and mild bleeding disorders.

Treatment Duration

The recommended treatment duration with Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk ranges from 2 days to 3 months.

Diarrhea2 to 5 days
Mild Constipation3 to 5 days
Chronic Constipation1 to 3 months
Acidity & Heartburn1 to 2 weeks
Excessive Hunger2 to 4 weeks
Excessive Thirst1 to 4 weeks
Skin DiseasesAt least 3 months – external application making paste with water or herbal decoctions
Night fall in menAt least 3 months

Safety Profile

Isabgol (Psyllium) Husk is LIKELY SAFE & WELL TOLERABLE in most people within the dosage of Isabgol described above.

Psyllium Husk Side Effects

The continuous use of Isabgol may results in unwanted effects. According to ayurveda, Psyllium or Isabgol produces heaviness in the body due to its GURU (Heavy) quality. Therefore, it increases KAPHA humor, which may results in following side effects.

  • Loss of appetite (common)
  • Feeling of heaviness in the abdomen (common)
  • Abdominal fullness (common)
  • Minor bloating (rare)
  • Nausea (rare)
  • Chest tightness (rare)
  • Itching (rare)

Isabgol (Psyllium) should be taken with at least 240 ml water when taken less than 15 grams Isabgol husk. If its dosage is increased to 30 grams, then it should be taken with 500 ml water to reduce its unwanted effects.

If Isabgol or Psyllium is taken with less water or other liquid, it may cause following immediate side effects:

  1. Choking
  2. Chest pain
  3. Vomiting
  4. Difficulty in breathing
  5. Difficulty in swallowing

Psyllium Husk Allergy

Psyllium Allergy is very rare if it occurs, the following symptoms appear:

  • Skin Rashes
  • Itching
  • Swelling on face
  • Swelling of the tongue or throat
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Severe dizziness

If any of these Psyllium Allergy Symptoms appears, you should immediately seek help from emergency medical services.

Special Precautions

  1. Do not eat any food that produces intestinal gas.
  2. The excessive use of Psyllium causes loss of appetite. Therefore, limit its regular consumption.
  3. Do not consume psyllium capsules or fine powder of psyllium because it does not provide similar benefits and may cause harm to intestines. The fine powder of psyllium husk is only used for local application in skin diseases and skin dryness.

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Questions & Answers (6)

  1. Kalpna says

    Can we use isabgol in pregnancy? Is isabgol good in pregnancy?

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      Psyllium Husk or Isabgol is safe in pregnancy. It does not cause any harm to expecting mothers and developing fetus.

      In pregnancy, Psyllium is recommendable in constipation and it is safer option. However, there is no requirement using it as supplement without any indication. Fruits, vegetables and salad should be included in appropriate amount instead.

  2. Neha Aggarwal says

    Does psyllium husk cause bloating and gas?

    1. Dr. Jagdev Singh says

      Psyllium husk (Isabgol) may cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, flatulence, or increased belching.

      Gas formation due to psyllium occurs because of breakdown of fiber content of psyllium by the bacteria in the intestine. This effect appears when high amount of psyllium husk is consumed.

      You can start taking psyllium in lower dosages (5 grams), and then gradually increase the dosage to 30 grams or as recommended. This way, your body will adapt for high fiber consumption.

  3. Meena says

    How can we use Isabgol to lose weight?

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