This month’s featured herb of the month is a good choice if you need to do some spring cleaning of your guts: Psyllium husk!

Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber from a shrub-like herb called Plantago ovata that’s native to India but now grows worldwide, including the deserts of the southwestern United States. The plant produces thousands of tiny seeds coated by an outer layer from which the husks are derived.

Psyllium is used primarily to support digestion and gut health. When the husks come into contact with water, they turn into a gelatinous mass that helps transport waste through the intestinal tract, creating a laxative effect that can help relieve both constipation and diarrhea and keep you “regular.” Psyllium is gentle enough to use every day and works differently than some laxatives that cause contractions of the intestines (stimulant laxatives) or draw water from the intestine to soften stools (osmotic laxatives). Instead, it increases the weight and bulk of stools, which then stimulates intestinal contractions (peristalsis). This can help treat irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, and other intestinal issues.

Psyllium’s bulk-forming effect is two-fold; in addition to helping transport intestinal waste, it also helps slow down digestion. This helps the body absorb more nutrients, enhances feelings of satiety, regulates blood sugar levels, and supports healthy cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can help lower “bad” cholesterol and therefore, one’s risk of atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”). Soluble fiber interferes with the body’s absorption of bile acids in the intestines. These acids aid in digestion, but the body will use cholesterol when they are unavailable.

On top of all this, psyllium is a natural prebiotic that feeds beneficial gut microorganisms.

Psyllium’s neutral flavor makes it very versatile and easy to add to water, smoothies, juices, baked goods, and breakfast cereals. It’s popular in gluten-free baking as the husks can be ground into a powder and used as a flour. It can also be used as a thickener or topically in skincare formulas.

How much should you take?

Start with a small serving (such as ½ tsp. in 8 ounces of water once a day), then gradually increase the dose as needed to a tablespoon once or twice daily. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the rest of the day as well. To aid in feelings of satiety, take a serving of psyllium husk 30 minutes before a meal.

Find psyllium husks and powder in our bulk herbs department.