Mucilage is a plant-based compound found in many species around the world, but mostly in tropical and subtropical areas. This jelly-like substance is responsible for storing water in plants, making them drought-resistant. For centuries, it has been used to heal a variety of illnesses and injuries, and it still has many practical uses in the modern world. Some of the most popular applications for this compound, characterized by its viscosity, include treating burns, wounds, ulcers, external and internal inflammation, irritation, diarrhea, and constipation. These five plants are high in mucilaginous content, and they can be used for a variety of purposes.
Commonly used as a laxative, psyllium is a grain with high fiber content, up to 70% more than oats. Once in the stomach, psyllium doesn't get absorbed in the small intestine, passing right through to the large one, where it absorbs excess water and increases around 10 times in volume, becoming a mucilaginous gel responsible for bulking the stools and stimulating their elimination. Psyllium is usually taken as a supplement, in powdered form or capsules, with plenty of liquids.
Mallow has anti-inflammatory properties, and its mucilage content is often used to treat mucosal irritations of the mouth and throat that cause dry cough. It acts as a demulcent, forming a protective film over inflamed mucous membranes. Mallow's flowers and leaves are typically used as tea or tinctures to be taken therapeutically. Due to its thickening properties, mallow leaves are added into sauces and soups. The medicinal properties of this herb are also available in supplements and creams.
This beautiful, aromatic flowering plant has many properties and offers a variety of health benefits. Its mucilage provides effective antitussive action, and it is often used to treat the common cold and other respiratory ailments. Hibiscus is mostly found online in capsule form.
4. Slippery Elm
This is a very popular herb when it comes to treating heartburn and other gastrointestinal illnesses, and even Crohn's disease. Its mucilage has an extremely soothing effect on the intestinal walls, relieving pain, irritation, and inflammation. One of the advantages of consuming this herb lies in its notorious lack of side effects. Slippery elm is commonly found in the form of tablets and tea.
5. Indian Gooseberry
This climbing, leafy cactus - also known as "Barbados gooseberry," "lemon vine," "sweet Mary," and many other popular names - is used mainly for its great medicinal properties, although its fruits and leaves are also widely consumed in the areas where it grows. Being a cactus and therefore an extremely drought-resistant plant, its mucilage content is significant, and it has been used essentially to treat skin injuries. Its lack of toxicity and side effects has been widely studied, and its folk use for wound healing has been recognized. To make the most of Indian gooseberry's mucilage content, it's best to consume it in the form of powder and capsules.
As you can see, mucilage in plants has an enormous potential for treating a variety of conditions. This powerful compound can also be found in dietary fiber products and capsules. Now that you know a little bit more about it, next time you have a stomach complaint, a burn, or a minor injury, instead of running to the medicine cabinet, you might consider turning to your garden.
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Mucilaginous plants and their uses in medicine, 1990
- Journal of Experimental Botany, Mucilages and polysaccharides in Ziziphus species (Rhamnaceae): localization, composition and physiological roles during drought‐stress, 2002
- Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia, Wound healing properties and mucilage content of Pereskia aculeata from different substrates, 2014
- University of Michigan Health, Health System. Slippery Elm