Also known as gum acacia, gum arabic is a natural gum. It is made using the hardened sap obtained from Acacia Seyal and Acacia Senegal, the two species of the acacia tree. Other than gum acacia, it is also known as meska, char goond, and chaar gund. Although, West Asia and Arabia were the regions where the wild trees were cultivated for the production of gum, it is now widely harvested in places including Senegal, Somalia, Sahel, and Sudan. While it is produced in African Sahel in huge quantities for commercial purposes, it is still used traditionally in places such as the Middle East.
Gum arabic is a food additive and is edible as it is a mix of glycoproteins and polysaccharides. Gun arabic powder or Xanthan gum is mostly used in confectioneries as a stabilizer, thickener, or even for sugar crystallization. Food additives are identified with number codes called E numbers and the number code for this product is E414. Not just is it edible but it has numerous other uses and it is used by a variety of industries other than the food industry.
As mentioned earlier, it has properties of a binder or a glue that is edible for human beings. This is because it is a mixture of proteins and saccharides. Now although it may be edible, it can be toxic in nature. To name a few food items where it is used as a binder would include marshmallows, syrups, and candies.
It is a traditional binder used in making watercolors or water paints such as the gouaches. This is because it easily dissolves in water and gels well with it and then in the process of drying, the color pigment binds into the paper surface. Heard of one of the methods of printing called lithography? Acacia resin is one of the main ingredients used in this ancient printing method.
Similar to painting and printing, it is also used in the photography technique and the name of the process is called gum bichromate photography. In this process to produce a colored photographic emulsion; it is mixed with other components including ammonia and pigment. As in the case of water paints, the pigment binds into the paper of the final print.
Besides these, it is also used as a soluble binder in producing fireworks or in pyrotechnic devices, in inks, cosmetics, shoe polishes, incense cones, postage stamps and of course glues. While some research reports suggest that it can be used as an alternative medicine to lower the cholesterol levels because of its properties, there are some arguments over the same, citing opposite results in certain cases.
Studies suggest that high dosage of dietary gum arabic results in stomach upsets or irritations. Also, if the person is allergic to acacia he may experience skin reactions or even asthma attacks in certain cases.