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Psyllium Husk Mucilage

What is mucilage?

Mucilage (from Latin mucilago = a musty juice) is a thick substance naturally occurring in plant seeds, roots or leaves [3]. Purified mucilages from food additives and supplements are indigestible polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates), made of glucose, galactose, arabinose, other monosaccharides and uronic acid [1]. Mucilage is a soluble fiber; it cannot be digested in the small intestine, so it passes to the large intestine, where it is broken down (fermented) by beneficial large intestinal bacteria into gases and substances, which can be absorbed [3]. When mixed with water it forms a viscous fluid.

Herbs and Other Plants High in Mucilage

Common sources of mucilage include Aloe vera leaves, ambrette, arnica, balsam fir, basil, borage, cactus, celery, chia seeds, evening primrose, fenugreek seeds, fig, flaxseed, hibiscus, Irish moss or carrageenan (a seaweed), kelp (a seaweed), lemon, linseed, liquorice root, mallow, marshmallow root, mustard seeds, nettle, nutmeg, okra, parsley root, plantain (a herb) seeds, potatoes, psyllium seed husks, quince seeds, sage, slippery elm inner bark [2,3].

Mucilage Uses

  • Natural mucilage is used as a thickener and stabilizer in dairy products and other commercial foods.
  • Synthetic mucilages may be used as emulsifiers in medicinal suspensions.
  • Mucilages in the form of lozenges, capsules, tinctures or syrups are used as a soothing agents (demulcent) are used to relieve irritated throat or gut.
  • Mucilage can soften the stools.

Psyllium Husk Mucilage Supplements Health Benefits

Blond psyllium husk supplements are available over-the-counter (OTC) as tablets, capsules, powder, ground or whole husks. 10 g of psyllium husk powder contains about 5 g of soluble and 2 g of insoluble fiber [21,24].

Psyllium husk is POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE in:

  • Treatment of chronic constipation [4,5,6] but may not be effective as a laxative in cancer patients [7]
  • Lowering blood total and LDL cholesterol (4-7% decrease), fasting and post-meal glucose levels (~15% decrease) in individuals with diabetes type 2 [11,12]
  • Lowering the risk of coronary heart disease when taken in doses 7 g/day [14]. US Food and Drug Administration allows a health claim for psyllium products that contain at least 1.7 grams of soluble fiber per serving, when consumed in doses 7 g/day or greater along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol: “may reduce the risk of heart disease” [15].
  • Prevention of diarrhea caused by irradiation treatment [16]
  • Reducing side effects of orlistat (a cholesterol-loweing drug) [20]
  • Some health centers suggest psyllium as a stool softener may be appropriate for individuals with hemorrhoids and anal fissures [22].

There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE about effectiveness of psyllium husk in treatment of constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C) in adults and children [4,8]., lowering high blood pressure [9], weight loss [17,18] or ulcerative colitis [19].

According to one study, psyllium husk is NOT EFFECTIVE for bowel preparation before colonoscopy [23].


Doses for constipation range from 7 to 40 grams for adults, but ask your doctor for a dose appropriate for you.


Mucilage may reduce the absorption of iron and certain drugs (check the products information leaflets).

Pregnancy. Not enough studies have been made to evaluate the safety of psyllium supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding [13].

Who should avoid taking psyllium husk? Anyone with swallowing difficulties or bowel obstruction.

Side Effects

Be sure to take psyllium with sufficient amount of water to prevent choking.

Psyllium husk in large doses can cause abdominal bloating, pain, cramps, excessive gas (flatulence), obstruction of the esophagus or colon and anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) [7].

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Latin name for blond psyllium?

Plantago ovata.

2. Is psyllium husk gluten-free?


3. What are gums?

Gums is a collective name for  water-soluble, gel-forming indigestible carbohydrates derived from cereals, fruits, herbs or seaweeds. Gums are used as food additives or dietary fiber supplements. Examples: psyllium husk powder, pectin, acacia gum, carrageenan.

Related Articles

  1. Kristen U et al, 1981, The Ligule of Isoetes lacustris: Ultrastructure, Mucilage Composition, and a Possible Pathway of Secretion  Annals of Botany
  2. Hadley, Elbert H, Mucilage  Access Science
  3. Mucilage properties  Botanical Online
  4. Ramkumar D et al, 2005, Efficacy and safety of traditional medical therapies for chronic constipation: systematic review  PubMed
  5. Gartlehner G et al, 2007, Drug Class Review: Constipation Drugs: Final Report [Internet]  National Center for Biotechnology Information
  6. Lever E et al, 2014, Systematic review: the effect of prunes on gastrointestinal function  PubMed
  7. Woolery M et al, 2008, Putting evidence into practice: evidence-based interventions for the prevention and management of constipation in patients with cancer  National Guideline Clearinghouse
  8. Chouinard LE, 2011, The role of psyllium fibre supplementation in treating irritable bowel syndrome  PubMed
  9. Pal S et al, 2012, The effects of 12-week psyllium fibre supplementation or healthy diet on blood pressure and arterial stiffness in overweight and obese individuals  PubMed
  10. Hall M, 2012, Do fiber and psyllium fiber improve diabetic metabolism?  PubMed
  11. Sierra M et al, 2002, Therapeutic effects of psyllium in type 2 diabetic patients  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  12. Anderson Jw, 1999, Effects of psyllium on glucose and serum lipid responses in men with type 2 diabetes and hypercholesterolemia  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  13. Psyllium Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings  Drugs.com
  14. Bernstein AM et al, 2013, Major Cereal Grain Fibers and Psyllium in Relation to Cardiovascular Health  PubMed Central
  15. Soluble fiber from certain foods and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD [21CFR101.81], Revised as of April 1, 2014  US Food and Drug Administration
  16. Muehlbauer PM et al, 2009, Putting evidence into practice: evidence-based interventions to prevent, manage, and treat chemotherapy- and radiotherapy-induced diarrhea  National Guideline Clearinghouse
  17. Pittler MH et al, 2004, Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  18. Rogovik AL et al, 2009, Should weight-loss supplements be used for pediatric obesity?  PubMed Central
  19. Ke F et al, 2012, Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis  PubMed Central
  20. Cavaliere H et al, 2001, Gastrointestinal side effects of orlistat may be prevented by concomitant prescription of natural fibers (psyllium mucilloid)  PubMed
  21. Psyllium husk powder  NutritionData
  22. Anal Fissure  University of California, Los Angeles
  23. Salwen W et al, 2004, Effect of four-day psyllium supplementation on bowel preparation for colonoscopy: A prospective double blind randomized trial  PubMed Central
  24. Psyllium Husk (Plantago Ovata,Ispaghula)  Psyllium Labs

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