WHAT IS IT?
Psyllium husk (aka psyllium) comes from the outer shell of seeds from the Plantain plant. It is an herb that is commonly used in repairing digestive health, as part of a weight loss regime, and in the reduction of high levels of cholesterol. Psyllium helps relieve constipation by producing soft stools and it help regulates diarrhea by adding bulk (whatever the stool situation, psyllium can help!). Psyllium can be used by patients with anal fissures and hemorrhoids as it makes passing a stool more manageable. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can find huge benefit in using psyllium. Psyllium husk is 100% fiber, so it is perfect for those looking to increase their dietary fiber.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Psyllium husk absorbs water in the digestive tract, absorbing lots when there is too much water (diarrhea) or absorbing water and bringing it to the gut when there is a shortage (constipation). Psyllium contains fibers that form a gooey gel in the gut. This gel can help those with high cholesterol by absorbing excess cholesterol and passing it through and out of the body. As for weight reduction, psyllium adds lots of fiber to the body, making it feel full and therefore decreasing appetite (fiber (a complex carbohydrate) takes a long time to digest compared simple carbohydrates which take mere minutes to be absorbed).
HOW IS IT TAKEN?
Dosage varies on what needs to be treated, but generally psyllium is taken twice a day in amounts of a teaspoon to a tablespoon at a time (mixed in a glass of water or juice, stirred into an already gooey food (like yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal), or sprinkled dry onto a food (like salad or rice) so long that lots of water is drunk after around its consumption).
WHERE CAN IT BE PURCHASED?
Health food stores sell big bags of it (enough to last a month or so) but you can also buy it at bulk food stores. The popular fiber supplement Metamucil is made entirely out of psyllium husk. However, buyer beware: Metamucil contains psyllium in addition to sucrose (sugar), artificial flavors and dyes! If the slimy nature of psyllium is intolerable, psyllium husk can be enclosed in capsules and taken like a pill. Some versions of the husk come flavored. I bought a naturally orange-flavored, ground version of psyllium husk that was great mixed into smoothies.
When mixed with water and let sit for 5 minutes, psyllium will gel-up and become a slimy paste... don't be alarmed, this is normal! The texture is actually quite amusing and sort-of fun to eat. It is this gelly nature that allows psyllium to work its wonders.