Scientific Name(S): Sterculia urens Roxb. Family: Sterculiaceae. The gum may also be obtained from S. villosa, S. tragacantha or other species of Sterculia.
Common Name(S): Karaya, sterculia, Indian tragacanth, Bassora tragacanth, kadaya, mucara, kadira, katila, kullo
Botany: The Sterculia is a soft wooded tree that grows to approximately 30 ft. It is native to India and Pakistan and grows there almost exclusively, where it is cultivated for karaya production. All parts of the tree exude a soft gum when injured. Karaya gum is produced by charring or scarring the tree trunk and removing a piece of bark or by drilling holes into the trunk. The gum seeps from the scars and is collected, washed and dried. The tree bears a star-like fruit and flowers bloom from February to March.
History: The use of karaya gum became widespread during the early 20th century, when it was used as an adulterant for tragacanth gum. However, experience indicated that karaya possessed certain physiochemical properties that made it more useful than tragacanth; furthermore, karaya gum was less expensive. Today the gum is used in a variety of products to provide bulk, including cosmetics, hair sprays and lotions. The bark is astringent and has been used traditionally.
Uses of Karaya Gum
Karaya gum is used in cosmetics and food, and in pharmaceuticals as a laxative and adhesive.
Side Effects of Karaya Gum
Karaya gum is generally recognized as safe.
Toxicology: Karaya gum is generally recognized as safe for internal consumption. Widespread experience with the product throughout the US and Europe has not been associated with any significant adverse experiences.
Summary: Karaya gum finds widespread use in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Its ability to absorb large amounts of water make it useful in the production if gels and as a bulk laxative. The gum has not beer associated with any significant toxicity and is essentially inert when ingested.
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