What is it?
Blond psyllium is used orally as a laxative and for softening stools in people with hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and after anal surgery. It is also used for diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and dysentery. Other uses include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
Some people apply blond psyllium to the skin as a poultice for boils.
In food manufacturing, blond psyllium is used as a thickener or stabilizer in some frozen dairy desserts.
Some foods that contain blond psyllium carry a label that claims these foods, when consumed as part of a low-fat diet, may reduce the risk of heart disease. The FDA allows this claim if the food contains at least 1.7 grams of psyllium per serving. The key word in this claim is "may." It is true that blond psyllium can help lower cholesterol levels; but there's no proof yet that taking blond psyllium reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Despite its effectiveness in lowering cholesterol levels, blond psyllium has not yet been included in the stepwise approaches to dietary therapy such as the American Heart Association Step I or Step II diets for high cholesterol. Most clinical studies have used a specific blond psyllium powder preparation (Metamucil) or food that contains psyllium seed husk, such as cereals, breads, or snack bars.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for BLOND PSYLLIUM are as follows:
- Constipation. Evidence shows that taking blond psyllium by mouth, alone or as a combination product, can relieve constipation and improve stool consistency.
Likely effective for...
- Heart disease. Blond psyllium is a soluble fiber. Foods high in soluble fiber can be used as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet to prevent heart disease. Research shows that a person must eat at least 7 grams of psyllium husk each day to reduce the risk for heart disease.
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia). Taking blond psyllium by mouth reduces cholesterol levels in people with mild to moderate high cholesterol. Blond psyllium added to food or as a separate supplement of approximately 10-12 grams daily can reduce levels of total cholesterol by 3% to 14% and low density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol by 5% to 10% after 7 weeks or more of treatment.
In children with high cholesterol, taking psyllium can further decrease LDL cholesterol levels by 7% to 15% when added to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet such as the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Step 1 diet. Interestingly, taking blond psyllium along with a stricter low-fat, low-cholesterol diet such as the NCEP Step 2 diet may have less of an additional effect in lowering LDL cholesterol.
Psyllium seems to be less effective in older people. There is some evidence that it lowers LDL cholesterol levels to a lesser degree in people 60 years or older compared to people under 60.
There is some evidence that taking blond psyllium for high cholesterol makes it possible to reduce the dose of certain medications used to lower cholesterol. For example, taking 15 grams of blond psyllium (Metamucil) along with 10 mg of simvastatin (Zocor) daily seems to lower cholesterol about as well as taking a higher dose (20 mg) of simvastatin daily. Also, blond psyllium seems to reduce the side effects from colestipol and cholestyramine (Questran, Questran Light, Cholybar) such as constipation and abdominal pain. But do not adjust the dose of your medications without consulting your healthcare provider.
Possibly effective for...
- Diabetes. Blond psyllium can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Its greatest effect occurs when it is mixed with or taken with foods. In addition to lowering blood sugar, blond psyllium also lowers cholesterol in people with diabetes who have high cholesterol. Some studies show blond psyllium can lower total cholesterol by about 9%, and low density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol by 13%.
- Diarrhea. Taking blond psyllium by mouth seems to reduce diarrhea symptoms.
- Hemorrhoids. Taking blond psyllium by mouth seems to relieve bleeding and pain in people with hemorrhoids.
- High blood pressure. Taking blond psyllium by mouth, alone or in combination with soy protein, seems to lower blood pressure in adults.
- A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS). While not all studies agree, there is evidence that blond psyllium seed husk can relieve constipation and improve abdominal pain, diarrhea, and overall well-being. It may take up to four weeks of treatment to get the best results.
- Treating side effects of a drug called Orlistat (Xenical, Alli). Taking blond psyllium with each dose of orlistat seems to relieve orlistat side effects such as gas, stomach rumbling, stomach cramps, and oily spotting without decreasing the weight-reducing effect of orlistat.
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). There is some evidence that taking blond psyllium seeds by mouth might be effective for preventing a relapse of inflammatory bowel disease. Blond psyllium also appears to relieve symptoms of this condition.
Possibly ineffective for...
- Non-cancerous growths in the large intestine and rectum (colorectal adenoma). Taking 3.5 grams of blond psyllium per day does not seem to reduce the risk of colorectal adenoma. There is some evidence that it might actually increase the risk of adenoma recurrence, particularly in people who get a lot of calcium from their diet. However, more evidence is needed to determine the relationship of psyllium and calcium to colorectal adenoma.
- Serious kidney disease (end-stage renal disease or ESRD). Taking blond psyllium by mouth does not improve serious kidney disease.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Colon cancer, rectal cancer. Population research suggests that people who consume more blond psyllium in the diet might have a lower chance of dying from colorectal cancer.
- A type of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease). Early research suggests that taking blond psyllium daily along with probiotics improves symptoms of Crohn disease.
- Changes in how fat is distributed in the body in people taking HIV medications. Eating a high fiber diet might prevent fat redistribution in people with HIV.
- Persistent heartburn. Early research shows that taking blond psyllium for 10 days may help control symptoms of persistent heartburn in some people.
- Obesity. Some, but not all, studies suggest that blond psyllium might help reduce body weight and appetite in people who are overweight or obese.
- Some types of cancer.
- Some types of skin conditions.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Some people can have an allergic reaction to blond psyllium with symptoms such as swelling in the nose, sneezing, swollen eyelids, hives, and asthma. Some people can also become sensitized to psyllium through exposure at work or repeated use of psyllium.
Blond psyllium is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth without enough water. Be sure to take blond psyllium with plenty of water. Otherwise, it might cause choking or block the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Blond psyllium is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately.
Growths in the large intestine and rectum (colorectal adenoma): Blond psyllium might increase the risk of adenoma recurrence in people with a history of colorectal adenoma. People who have had this condition should avoid blond psyllium.
Diabetes: Blond psyllium can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Monitor blood sugar levels closely. Doses of conventional antidiabetes medications may need adjustment. Another consideration is that some commercial blond psyllium products can contain added sugars that might increase blood sugar levels.
Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders: Don't use blond psyllium if you tend to develop hard stools in the rectum due to ongoing constipation (fecal impaction), GI tract narrowing, obstruction, or conditions that can lead to obstruction, such as spastic bowel.
Allergy: Some people can have severe allergic reactions to blond psyllium. This is more likely in people who have been exposed to blond psyllium at work. Don't use blond psyllium if you are sensitive to it.
Low blood pressure: Blond psyllium can lower blood pressure in people with high and normal blood pressure. Taking blond psyllium might make blood pressure drop too low in people who already have low blood pressure.
Phenylketonuria: Some blond psyllium preparations are sweetened with aspartame (Nutrasweet) and should be avoided in patients with phenylketonuria.
Surgery: Blond psyllium might affect blood sugar levels, making blood sugar control more difficult during and after surgery. Stop taking blond psyllium at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Swallowing disorders: Do not use blond psyllium if you have problems swallowing. Blond psyllium might increase your risk of choking.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Blond psyllium contains large amounts of fiber. Fiber can decrease how much carbamazepine (Tegretol) the body absorbs. By decreasing how much the body absorbs, blond psyllium might decrease the effectiveness of carbamazepine.
- Blond psyllium contains large amounts of fiber. Fiber can decrease how much lithium the body absorbs. Taking lithium along with blond psyllium might decrease the effectiveness of lithium. To avoid his interaction take blond psyllium at least one hour after lithium.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Blond psyllium might decrease blood sugar by decreasing the absorption of sugars from food. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking blond psyllium with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to be too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
- Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
- Blond psyllium might decrease blood pressure in some people. Taking blond psyllium along with medications used for lowering high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low. However, it's not known if this is a big concern. Do not take too much blond psyllium if you are taking medications for high blood pressure.
Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.
- Medications taken by mouth (Oral drugs)
- Psyllium contains large amounts of fiber. Fiber can decrease how much medicine the body absorbs. Taking psyllium along with medicine you take by mouth can decrease the effectiveness of your medicine. To prevent this interaction, take psyllium 30-60 minutes after medications you take by mouth.
- Metformin (Glucophage)
- Blond psyllium might change how much metformin the body absorbs. This might increase or decrease the effectiveness of metformin. To avoid this interaction, take blond psyllium at least 2 hours before or 2 hours after taking metformin.
- Warfarin (Coumadin)
- Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Some people used to worry that blond psyllium may decrease its absorption and effectiveness, which could increase the risk of clotting. But in studies blond psyllium does NOT seem to affect warfarin (Coumadin) absorption or effectiveness.
- Digoxin (Lanoxin)
- Blond psyllium is high in fiber. Fiber can decrease the absorption and decrease the effectiveness of digoxin (Lanoxin). As a general rule, any medications taken by mouth should be taken one hour before or four hours after blond psyllium to prevent this interaction.
- Ethinyl estradiol
- Ethinyl estradiol is a form of estrogen that's in some estrogen products and birth control pills. Some people worry that psyllium can decrease how much ethinyl estradiol the body absorbs. But it is unlikely that psyllium will significantly affect ethinyl estradiol absorption.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
- Blond psyllium might lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have this same effect might increase the risk of blood pressure dropping too low in some people. Some of these products include andrographis, casein peptides, cat's claw, coenzyme Q-10, fish oil, L-arginine, lyceum, stinging nettle, theanine, and others.
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Blond psyllium might lower blood sugar. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause blood sugar to drop too low in some people. Some of these products include alpha-lipoic acid, bitter melon, chromium, devil's claw, fenugreek, garlic, guar gum, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and others.
- Use of blond psyllium with iron supplements can reduce the amount of iron that the body absorbs. Take iron supplements one hour before or four hours after psyllium to avoid this interaction.
- Psyllium seems to slightly reduce the amount of riboflavin that the body absorbs, but it's probably not important.
Are there interactions with foods?
- Fats and fat-containing foods
- Psyllium can make dietary fat more difficult to digest and can increase the amount of fat lost is the stool when taken in combination with dietary fats such as soybean oil or coconut oil.
- Taking psyllium with meals over a long period of time might interfere with nutrient absorption. In some cases, taking vitamins or mineral supplements might be necessary.
What dose is used?
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For constipation: 7 grams to 24 grams of blond psyllium per day, in 2-4 divided doses.
- For heart disease: At least 7 grams of psyllium husk (soluble fiber) daily, as part of a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
- For diarrhea: In people with general diarrhea, 7 grams to 18 grams of blond psyllium, in 2-3 divided doses. A combination of blond psyllium, calcium carbonate, and calcium phosphate (in ratio of 4:1:1 by weight) has also been taken as 5 grams twice a day. In patients who have had gallbladder surgery, 6.5 grams of blond psyllium three times daily. In patients who take a medicine called misoprostol, 3.4 grams of blond psyllium twice daily.
- For a long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS): 6.4 grams to 30 grams of blond psyllium seed husk in two to three divided doses daily. 10 grams of blond psyllium seed husk twice daily with 15 mg of propantheline three times daily has also been used.
- For treating side effects of a drug called Orlistat (Xenical, Alli): 6 grams of blond psyllium three times daily with each orlistat dose.
- For a type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis): 3.5-10 grams of blond psyllium, taken twice daily.
- For hemorrhoids: 10.5 grams to 20 grams blond psyllium seed husk daily in divided doses.
- For high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia): 3.4 grams of blond psyllium seed husk three times daily or 5.1 grams twice daily are the most commonly used doses. However, doses up to 20.4 grams per day have been tried. Cereal with added psyllium that provides up to 15 grams of soluble fiber per day has also been used. A mixture of 2.1 grams of psyllium, 1.3 grams of pectin, 1.1 grams of guar gum and 0.5 grams of locust bean gum has been used three times daily. A combination of 2.5 grams of blond psyllium powder (Metamucil) with 2.5 grams of colestipol, taken three times daily has also been used. A combination of simvastatin (Zocor) 10 mg and blond psyllium (Metamucil) 15 grams daily has also been used.
- For diabetes: 3.4 grams to 22 grams of blond psyllium daily, usually in divided doses for up to 20 weeks.
- For high blood pressure: 3.7 grams to 15 grams of blond psyllium husks daily for up to 6 months.
- For obesity: 1.7 grams to 36 grams of blond psyllium daily in divided doses with meals for up to 36 weeks, in addition to reducing calories.
- For high cholesterol: Cereal containing 3.2 grams to 10 grams of psyllium daily.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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