Plantago Ovata

Overview & Introduction

Plantago ovata (psyllium or dessert Indian wheat) is a small annual herb. It is cultivated worldwide due to its medicinal importance. It grows well in cool and dry weather with irregular rainfall. It is a short-lived plant and stays alive for 130 days.

The seed and husk of the plant are edible. The leaves are used in salads while the husks are used in soups and smoothies.

Plantago ovata plant is a herbal medicinal plant used as a laxative agent, astringent, anti-inflammatory agent, etc. it is also used to treat urinary infections, skin infections, digestive problems, yeast infections, hypertension, etc. It is also used for weight loss management. Its capacity of absorbing water makes it an effective stool softener and ease in constipation.

Quick Review

Botanical NamePlantago ovata Forssk.
Common NameBlond Psyllium, Desert Indian wheat
Major GroupDicot
SpeciesPlantago ovata
Common Name Blond Psyllium, Desert Indian wheat
Legal StatusThe plant is non-invasive in nature.
Known HazardsKnown none

Synonyms & Vernacular Names

Common NameDietary fiber, Indian Plantago, Blond Plantago, Isabgol, Psyllium, Psyllium husk, Sand Plantain, Psilio, etc
Botanical NamePlantago ovata
Botanical SynonymPlantago decumbens, Plantago ispaghula
English NameIspaghula, Psyllium, Blond Psyllium, Spogel Seeds, Ripple Grass
Hindi NameIsabgol, Isabgul, Issufgul, Ispaghul, Isubgol
Sanskrit NameAshwagol, Ishadgola, Ashwakarna (shape of a horse’s ear), Ashwakarnabeeja (seeds are like a horse’s ear), Sheetabeeja (cool seed), Ishrawarabola, Snigdhajeeraka, Ashwagol kul
Arabic NameBazre-quatuna, Bazre-katina, Ispaghul
Chinese Nameōu chē qián, Ch’-Ch’ientzu
German nameIndische Psylli-samen
Japanese nameObeko
Tamil nameIskolvirai, Iskol, Isphagol, Ishappukolvirai, Ishappukol
Telugu nameIsphagula, Isapgaluvittulu, Isapagala
Bengali nameEsphopgol, Isabgul, Isshopgul, Ispaghul

Plant Taxonomy

InfrakingdomSTREPTOPHYTA (Land Plants)
FamilyPLANTAGINACEAE – Plantains
GenusPlantago L. – Indian wheat, plantain
SpeciesPlantago ovata Forrsk.  – dessert Indian wheat

Plant Description

The plant is small bushy herb not more than 8 cm in length. It has rosette leaves, oval or boat-shaped seeds found inside the fruit. It grows well on well-drained sandy soil.

Type of PlantAnnual
Native Range (Geographic Distribution)It is native to Central Asia particularly in India and Iran.
Height (grows up to)12-18 inches
Habitat (a type of environment)It grows on sandy soil and prefers dry weather.
RootsRoots are short, well-developed tap roots with fibrous secondary roots.
StemThe stem is erect but soft. It is non-woody.
LeavesLeaves are opposite, lance-shaped, hairy and 3 – 9 inches long. The leaves bear three veins.
FlowersFlowers are hermaphrodite and pollinated by wind. Flowers are white in color and in form of the inflorescence. The flowers are borne on a stalk.
FruitsThe fruits are 7-8 mm long and oval.


SeedsThe seeds are pink or brown in color. They are an ovular boat or ear-shaped and 2mm long.  Seeds are present inside capsules.
SpreadThe plant spreads on the ground.
Bloom TimeFlowering occurs after 60 days of the plantation.
SunThe plant prefers full sunlight or partial sunlight.
WaterIt requires moderate water for growth.
MaintenanceIt is easy to maintain the plant. The plant should be protected from pests and microorganisms.
Suggested UseLeaves and seeds have medicinal properties.
FlowerNo use
LeafThe leaves are used as medicine and added in food items.
AttractsThe flower attracts the insects and bees for pollination.
Invasive PotentialIt is a non-invasive plant and not considered as a weed.
Growing SeasonSpring season
Plantago Ovata Seeds
Plantago Ovata Seeds (Image Credit to Peyman Zehtab Fard)

Distribution & Ecology

Plantago ovata is native to central Asia such as India and Iran. It is also grown in different parts of the world. It is a type of dietary fiber which is also used as a medicine.

The flowers attract birds and insects for pollination.


Plantago ovata husk (Psyllium husk) is considered an ethnomedicine. This plant holds an important position in Indian Ayurveda and used to treat various diseases. It has been used as a laxative agent since ages. This plant is available in traditional herbal shops in Cairo and used as contraception. It is widely used in China and India to treat problems related to urinary bladder and hypertension.

Various Ayurvedic medicines of Psyllium are available such as Laxoherb powder, Golax powder, Laxogold capsule, etc.

Propagation and Cultivation

Seed propagation is used for propagation of this plant. The seeds are sown in cold frame and potted in individual pots when big enough to be handled. In early summer the plants are rooted in the soil.

Edible Uses

The young leaves of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked. The seed coat is used to as ice cream stabilizer. The sprouted seeds are used to make a salad.  The seeds are also added to curd or yogurt. Young leaves of this plant are eaten as a salad. The husk can also be added in soups and smoothies to increase fiber content.

Edible Parts

  • Leaves
  • Seeds

Medicinal Uses

Psyllium plant has many medicinal properties. In Western countries, the dried seeds and seed husk have been used as a laxative for many of years. The plant is also used to treat disorders of the digestive system such as constipation, dysentery and genitourinary tract problems. It also used to control blood sugar and cholesterol. The husk of Psyllium is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Plantago ovata husk is also known to manage cholesterol levels, thereby regulating heart diseases. It is also used to treat obesity as it is full of fiber. Daily intake of Psyllium husk reduces weight. It gets easily absorbed in the body and keeps the body full for longer time. This reduces the urge of eating often and manages weight loss. It also lowers blood pressure and strengthens heart muscles.

The seeds of this plant are soaked in water overnight or for few hours and then consumed. This is used to treat constipation. The seed paste can be applied locally on swellings and irritation.

Research has proved that Plantago ovata husk can be used for treating colon cancer, haemorrhoids, etc. Its husk softens the stool and allows easy passage of waste through the system. The fresh leaves of this plant are used to treat skin irritations caused by poison ivy or insect bites.

The plant should not be consumed without any prescription of a doctor or physician. This plant is safe to be consumed by children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. It can also be consumed by people who have difficulty in swallowing the food.

Medicinal Parts

  • Seed
  • Leaves

Other Uses

  • The seed coat is used as a starch.
  • It is also used as hydrocolloidal agent and used in nurseries to improve the water retention capacities in new grasses.

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