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Psyllium is the seeds of a particular species of plantain (Plantago psyllium). Plantago major is the common lawn and garden weed, whose leaves are used as a drawing agent and vulnerary. Psyllium's name derives from the Greek word "psylla" or flea, because the seed resembles one.
Psyllium is believed to have originated in Iran or Iraq and was cultivated by Persian and Arabian doctors for centuries. It was used in the treatment of constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and other bowel disorders. Later, the plant spread to India, northern Mrica, and the Mediterranean and is now used all over the world. These seeds and the seed husks are extremely bland, having almost no detectable odor or taste, but are loaded with mucilage. This mucilage is what gives psyllium its prized properties as a bulk laxative, helping it to scrub the intestines and absorb toxins lingering in the lower GI °tract.
When soaked in water, psyllium increases 8 to 14 times its original size, which is why it is a primary ingredient in Metamucil and many other commercial laxatives. Unfortunately, the psyllium found in most commercial laxative formulas is bleached, then laced with sugar or artificial sweeteners. You can also compare the quality of NSP's psyllium to other products by mixing the same amount of both products in water and comparing how much the stuff swells. NSP uses top quality psyllium, which absorbs more water than cheaper brands.
Mucilage is a form of water-soluble fiber. The mucilage found in plants like psyllium is formed of complex polysaccharide chains which are intended to store food for the plant in times of scarcity. These polysaccharide chains are mostly indigestible, which is what allows them to pass through the stomach and into the intestines, where they act like brushes, scrubbing away accumulated waste.
Psyllium water-storage properties allow it to act in varying ways, depending on the need of the individual. If it is taken with more than six cups of water a day it acts as a bulking laxative, but if it is taken with less water it acts as an absorbent, drawing water from the GI tract. This accounts for psyllium effectiveness in treating diarrhea. This drawing effect also explains psyllium use as an agent to draw pus from boils, carbuncles and other sores when applied as a poultice, although the leaves are more commonly used in poultices than the seeds.
Psyllium has some additional properties that researchers have seen in clinical trials. Psyllium reduced glucose levels following meals and it lowered cholesterol absorption, increasing the rate of cholesterol transformation into bile acids. The explanation for psyllium effect on cholesterol is that bile acids are digestive agents made from cholesterol. These are normally reabsorbed in the intestines after they have done their job, but when they are captured by psyllium and excreted, the body is forced to manufacture more bile, using up more of the cholesterol in the body. This lowers total cholesterol.
Another fascinating aspect of psyllium that is being researched is its apparent ability to protect from colon cancer. Some researchers believe this effect comes from absorbing toxins and preventing them from contacting the cells lining the colon.
In summary, psyllium is one of the safest, gentlest laxatives available, acting on constipation and diarrhea alike and providing additional benefits to protect from hemorrhoids, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Psyllium is found in three fiber blends: Nature's Three, LOCLO and Psyllium Hulls Combination. Both the seeds and the hulls are available in capsules. The seeds are gentler and more suitable for children and persons with sensitive or irritable colons. Psyllium is also found in: Fat Grabbers, Bowel Detox, CleanStart and Tiao He Cleanse
Psyllium Hulls (100 Capsules)
Psyllium Hulls Combination (11 oz)