Psyllium (psyllium husk)

What is psyllium?

Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative available in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that treat occasional constipation and restore regularity. Psyllium is also available as a dietary supplement and can be found in OTC laxative powders, pills, and wafers.

What is psyllium used to treat?

  • Constipation
  • Regularity restoration
Common brands containing psyllium:
  • Metamucil
  • Store Brands (ex. Walmart’s “Equate” store brand or CVS Health store brand)

How much psyllium can you take?

Different types of products containing this active ingredient have different strengths. That’s why it is always important to read and follow the Drug Facts label. Most medicines warn against use of an active ingredient for longer than 7-10 days. Stop and ask a doctor if symptoms persist.

Safety guide for psyllium

When used as an OTC laxative medicine, psyllium is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is safe and effective when used according to the Drug Facts label. If you are taking an oral prescription drug, take the OTC psyllium medicine at least two hours before or two hours after the prescription drug.

Ask a healthcare provider before use if:

  • You have a sudden change in bowel habits that lasts for two weeks.
  • You are experiencing abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider before giving an OTC psyllium medicine in pill form to a child under the age of 12.

Do not use if:

  • You have difficulty swallowing.

Stop use and ask a doctor if:

  • Your constipation lasts for more than seven days.
  • Rectal bleeding occurs.
  • You take too much. Immediately contact a healthcare provider or the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222.

What are the side effects of psyllium?

  • An allergic reaction is rare, but may occur in people sensitive to psyllium. Talk to your healthcare provider or call the poison control national helpline at 800.222.1222 if you experience a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.
  • Changes in bowel habits or minor bloating may occur.