Psyllium is the common name for the plants of genus Plantago which contains over 200 species. Two species from the genus, namely Plantago ovata and Plantago psyllium, have been commercially exploited for the production of a fibre having "gastrointestinal (GI) cleansing" activity. Periodic "cleansing" of GI tract is believed to improve health.
The cleansing activity is thought to arise from the unique nature of the seed husk which contains a unique fibre that swells into a mucilaginous substance when it absorbs water. It is believed that, during its passage through the GI tract, the mucilage absorbs water and toxins. At the same time, it makes the stool "more solid", thereby improving bowel movements and GI transit.
It is generally believed that psyllium improves health through relieving constipation and other GI problems. Recent scientific reports have claimed that psyllium lowers bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) level by up to ten percent. Lowering the LDL level has been linked to the lowering of risk of heart problems.
However, care should be taken when using this product. Side effects may occur if psyllium is taken in without adequate water. People with asthma and diverticular disease may need to consult doctors before using psyllium.
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