DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a fractured psyllium (Plantago sp.) husk. A number of Plantago species are important commercially in having seed husks that are used in herbal medicine as a laxative. Psyllium seed husks (also known as ispaghula or isabgol) are the outer seed coats that are high in fibre and mucilage content. Psyllium seed husks are indigestible in human beings and are thus used as a source of dietary fibre. Psyllium is produced mainly for its mucilage content. The term mucilage describes a group of clear, colourless, gelling agents derived from plants. Mucilage is obtained by mechanical milling of the outer layer of the seed. The milled seed mucilage is a white fibrous material that is hydrophilic and thus strongly binds to water. Upon absorbing water, the clear, colourless, mucilaginous gel that forms increases in volume by tenfold or more producing the dietary fibre bulk. Magnification: x400 when shortest axis printed at 25 millimetres.
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