Characteristics and medicinal properties of mucilage

Mucilago

Today we are going to talk about a botanical topic that is quite useful for food. Its about mucilage. Surely you have ever heard of mucilage. It is a type of soluble fiber that has a slimy form. Some plants produce mucilages naturally. It has various positive functions for people’s health and has certain utilities.

In this article we are going to focus on what mucilage is, how important it is and what it does.

Mucilage function

carnivorous plants with mucilages

carnivorous plants with mucilage

As we have mentioned before, it is a type of soluble fiber that is produced in the seeds of some plants such as carob, flax, chia, mustard or plantain. These plants produce it naturally and have quite a few interesting functions.

The first function is to help the germination of the seed. In order to grow better and develop, the seed must germinate. For this to happen, it needs some unique environmental conditions that make the seed germinate. Each plant needs its own climatic characteristics. When the mucilage comes into contact with water, it increases in volume to maintain a more moist layer around the seed. This wet layer is what facilitates the necessary conditions for germination to occur.

Another function is to protect the plants from wounds. Wounds that can be caused by continuous trampling, by a cut, damage to the roots, etc. The seeds that have mucilages are more easily attached to the disperser to disperse the seeds and spread in territory.

Some of the roots also use mucilage to favor their introduction into the soil and to cover more land where they can capture water and nutrients. One of the examples of how a root produces mucilage is comfrey. Although it seems that its function is to support or to expand, mucilages can also be used to attack. This occurs in the case of carnivorous plants. The mucilage is used to make the victims stick to the leaves and to be able to digest them.

Mucilage rich foods

Chia seeds

chia seeds

Now we are going to go on to describe some of the foods that have a large amount of mucilage since, since their formation, they have. In terms of fruits, the fig is the fruit with the most amount of this fiber that you can observe. You can tell it in the sticky feeling that stays on you when you pick it up. The more ripe the fig is, the more of this stickier substance you can see.

It is also very common to find it in plants such as borage, mallow, violet, nopal, hibiscus and purslane, among others. The famous agar-agar seaweed also has mucilage. On the other hand, we can find this fiber in legumes and lichens. In the first, we have it in green beans, okras and fenugreek. In lichens we see it in the Icelandic lichen or the carrageenan.

Both chia and flax seeds are widely used in food. These seeds are the ones with high mucilage content.

Medicinal properties of mucilage

Mucilages

mucilages

In both food and medicine, plants with a large amount of mucilage are used for some treatments. If possible, it is better to incorporate some of the foods mentioned above in our diet because we will be benefiting from these characteristics and helping to prevent diseases.

Mainly, plants with a high mucilage content are used to:

  • Reduce “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • For its demulcent properties.
  • Cancer prevention.
  • Avoid constipation.
  • It has a good prebiotic effect.
  • Interesting properties to treat diabetes.
  • Other sanitary applications.

Now, we are going to analyze each of the properties to have more information.

Cholesterol reduction

Soluble mucilaginous fiber is used in food to reduce blood cholesterol levels. This action is carried out thanks to the fact that it prevents a reabsorption of intestinal cholesterol that has been produced by bile in the digestion of food. Mucilages cause a kind of gel to form that traps cholesterol from food once it is in the intestine, preventing it from entering the blood. Thus, a diet rich in fiber is advisable to reduce cholesterol levels.

Avoid constipation

Constipation, caused by the retention of fecal matter in the intestine, can be alleviated with this type of insoluble fiber. This is because it helps increase bowel movements so that stool is eventually expelled to the outside. Without soluble fiber, stool is often too hard in consistency, making it difficult to pass.

If you eat foods with both types of fiber you can avoid constipation and promote evacuation in case of hemorrhoids.

Demulcent properties

These are properties that soften, deflate and soften all mucous membranes. In this way, we can protect the internal mucous membranes. It will have a suitable use for:

  • Treat irritations
  • Cough remedy

As a prebiotic

Purslane

Purslane

To improve the intestinal flora, fiber helps prevent some of the intestinal breakdowns that can cause more damage. These bacteria are pathogenic and act on feces. If the residues remain in the intestine for a long time, it can lead to non-beneficial bacteria to develop more and have stomach pain, swelling of the abdomen or very odorous flatulence.

Thanks to the prebiotic effect, helps beneficial bacteria multiply and can neutralize the effects of harmful bacteria.

Mucilage for cancer

In this case, it allows the prevention of certain types of cancer. Through food, our body ingests a large amount of toxins that come from the process of production and preservation of food. If toxins accumulate, they can be responsible for the appearance of cancer.

Eat foods with fiber, makes waste leave the body faster. Thus, we will be reducing the exposure and the risks of suffering more damage.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about mucilage and all its positive effects.

Characteristics and medicinal properties of mucilage

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