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An annual herb, the seeds of which contain alkaloids, glycosides, mucilage, silica and tannins. Psyllium is believed to be antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and expectorant; it is used internally as a bulk laxative and for bronchitis, diarrhoea and cystitis, and topically for cuts, stings, insect bites, haemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Psyllium powder may evoke an allergic reaction, and unsoaked seeds may cause gastrointestinal discomfort; it should not be used in young children, or in pregnancy (as it stimulates uterine contraction).