Plantain, Ispaghul

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Plantain, Ispaghul

Botanical Name: Plantago ovata (FORSK.)
Family: N.O. Plantaginaceae

Synonyms: Ispaghula. Spogel Seed. Plantago Ispaghula. Plantago decumbens.
Part Used: Dried seeds.
Habitat: India, Persia, Spain, Canary Islands.

Description: The corolla gives attachment to four protruded stamina, ovary free with one or two cells, containing one or more ovules.

The style capillar, terminated by a single subulate stigma. The fruit is a small pyxidium covered by the persistent corolla; seeds composed of a proper integument which covers a fleshy endosperm at the centre of which is a cylindrical axile and a homotype embryo, boat-shaped, acute at one end 1/12 to 1/8 inch long and 1/24 inch wide, pale-green brown with a darker elongated spot on the convex side; on concave side hilium is covered with the remains of a thin white membrane. It has no odour or taste, but the herbage is demulcent and bitter and somewhat astringent.

Constituents: Mucilage contained in seed coat (sometimes used to stiffen linen), fixed oil, proteins.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Useful in place of linseed or barley, also for diarrhoea and dysentery; the decoction is a good demulcent drink, or seeds mixed with sugar and taken dry invaluable in this form for reducing inflamed mucous membranes of the intestinal canal - a mild laxative. When roasted the seeds become astringent and are used for children's diarrhcea. In European medicine they are used chiefly for chronic diarrhcea and for catarrhal conditions of the genito-urinary tract. Dose, 2 to 2 1/2 drachms of the seeds, mixed with sugar and taken dry. Decoction, 1/2 to 2 fluid ounces.

Other Species: The seeds of the Indian species, Plantago Amplexicaulis, are sold in the bazaars as Ispaghula. They are of a darker colour than the official seeds, and are used in India as a demulcent in dysentery and other intestinal complaints.

P. decumbens (Forsk.), of South Africa, is regarded by some as the wild plant of which the preceding is a cultivated variety.

The seeds of P. arenaria (Waldst.), the SAND PLANTAIN, somewhat smaller, black and less glossy, and those of P. Cynops (Linn.), somewhat larger and lighter brown, are used similarly.

P. arenaria is an annual, with an erect, leafy, branched stem, bearing opposite, linear leaves and flowers in a spike, on long stalks, greenish-white. It flowers from June to September and grows in sandy, waste places, but in Britain has only been found on sandhills in one spot in Somerset and is not regarded as an indigenous species.