Plantago ovata or P. ispaghula, P. psyllium.
Synonym ► Flea Seed, Fleawort.
Features ► Over one hundred species of this genus of stemless, herbaceous plants are known to botanists. The seeds of two of these are used in herbal medicine.
Plantago ispaghula, or Light Indian Psyllium, is cultivated in India. Seeds are boat- shaped, with one end sharper than the other, and grey-brown in colour, A small brown spot is a feature of the convex side. Transparent mucilage surrounds the seeds when kept in water.
Plantago psyllium, which yields the so-called Dark Brilliant Indian Psyllium seeds, is indigenous to many parts of Southern Europe and Northern Africa, and is largely cultivated in France and Spain. These seeds are the most highly esteemed for therapeutic purposes, although they do not contain so much mucilage as the Ispaghula. The “English Golden” variety is even less mucilaginous, and is used mainly for feeding birds.
Psyllium seeds are tasteless and odourless, and their peculiar action on the intestines renders them of particular value in sluggishness and atony of this organ. Swelling into a demulcent, jelly-like mass, which gently lubricates and stimulates the bowels, the seeds do not gripe, and their action is certain. Probably nothing better than Psyllium seeds can be given to most people for constipation, and they are eminently suited to children. The adult dose varies between two and four teaspoonfuls after meals, children proportionately with their age.
In tropical countries the seeds are helpful in the treatment of dysentery.