Scientific Name(s): Acacia senegal (L.) Willd.
Common Name(s): Acacia arabica, Acacia gum, Acacia vera, Egyptian thorn, Gum Senegal, Gummae mimosae, Gummi africanum, Kher, Somali gum, Sudan gum arabic, Yellow thorn
The acacia tree (A. senegal; syn. with Acacia verek Guill et Perr.) is a thorny, scraggly tree that grows approximately 4.5 m tall. It is most abundant in regions of Africa, especially in the Republic of Sudan. A distinguishing feature of the species is the presence of triple spines at the branchlet base. During times of drought, the bark of the tree splits, exuding a sap that dries in small droplets or tears. Historically, these hardened sap tears served as the major source of acacia gum, but modern commercial acacia gum is derived by tapping trees periodically and collecting the resin semimechanically.Khan 2009, USDA 2015 Trees of the genera Albizia and Combretum are often confused with acacia, but gums from these species should not be used as substitutes for acacia gum.Anderson 1990
Acacia gum has long been used in traditional medicine and everyday applications. The Egyptians used the material as glue and as a base for pain relievers. Arabic physicians treated a wide variety of ailments with the gum, resulting in the alternative name "gum arabic."Digest 1986 Today, it is used widely in the pharmaceutical industry as a demulcent and in the food industry to give body and texture to processed food products. It also is used to stabilize emulsions. The fibers of the bark are used to make cordage.Duke 2002 The gum also has been administered intravenously (IV) to counteract low blood pressure following surgery and to treat edema associated with nephrosis, but because IV administration was found to cause renal and liver damage, as well as allergic reactions, it was abandoned.Morton 1977
Acacia gum is a brittle, odorless, and generally tasteless material that contains a number of neutral sugars, acids, calcium, and other electrolytes.Khan 2009 The main component of the gum is arabin, the calcium salt of the polysaccharide arabic acid.Evans 1989 The gum is built upon a backbone of D-galactose units, with side chains of D-glucuronic acid having L-rhamnose or L-arabinose terminal units. The molecular weight of the gum is in the range of 200,000 to 600,000 daltons. It is soluble in water, but insoluble in alcohol.Khan 2009 Acacia gum contains a peroxidase enzyme, which is typically destroyed by brief exposure to heat. If not inactivated, this enzyme forms colored complexes with certain amines and phenols and catalyzes the oxidation of many pharmaceutical products, including alkaloids and some vitamins.Khan 2009
The quality and grade of acacia gum is variable depending on growing conditions and collection method.Evans 1989 A comprehensive analysis, including nuclear magnetic resonance spectra for 35 samples of gum arabic, has been published to serve as the basis for international standardization of acacia gum.Anderson 1991
Uses and Pharmacology
In mice infected with malaria, gum arabic decreased parasitemia and increased survival by an unknown mechanism.Ballal 2011, Kurup 1992, Nasir 2013 In vitro studies suggest high concentrations are required for effect.Ballal 2011, Kurup 1992 Conversely, acacia gum reduces the antibacterial effectiveness of the preservative methyl-p-hydroxybenzoate against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, presumably by offering physical barrier protection to the microbial cells from the action of the preservative.Ballal 2011, Kurup 1992
Acacia gum is used in topical preparations to promote wound healing.Bhatnagar 2013
Increased satiety was observed in a clinical study evaluating different doses of gum acacia. Reductions of the order of 100 to 200 kcal were reported with doses ranging from gum acacia 5 to 40 g.Calame 2011 A clinical trial of healthy females (N = 120) reported decreased body mass index and body fat following consumption of gum arabic (A. senegal) 30 g daily for 6 weeks.Babiker 2012 No effects on insulin or glucose blood concentrations were found in a study using gum acacia and pectin in patients (N = 21) with metabolic syndrome.Pouteau 2010
In rodent models of chronic diarrhea, gum acacia preserved glucose and electrolyte levels and hydration.Khan 2009 A study in rats demonstrated a protective effect of gum acacia against meloxicam-induced GI insult. No pharmacological interaction with meloxicam with consequent effect on absorption of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug was found.Abd El-Mawla 2011
A probiotic effect (bifidogenic) of gum acacia has been reported.Hu 2014, Slavin 2013 Increased satiety was observed in a clinical study evaluating different doses of gum acacia. Reductions of the order of 100 to 200 kcal were reported with doses ranging from gum acacia 5 to 40 g.Calame 2011
A clinical study (N = 189) found no change in fecal incontinence frequency with gum acacia (reported as arabica) versus psyllium.Bliss 2014, Bliss 2011 The same researchers found increased fermentation with the gum in another clinical study.Bliss 2013
When administered for periods of 4 to 12 weeks to hypercholesterolemic patients or those with metabolic syndrome, acacia gum had no effect on the plasma profile.Haskell 1992, Jensen 1993, Pouteau 2010
Whole gum mixtures of acacia inhibit the growth of periodontic bacteria, including Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia, when added to culture medium at concentrations of 0.5% to 1%.Clark 1993 The erosive effects of citric acid on enamel were muted in vitro when mixed with gum acacia.Beyer 2010
At a concentration of 0.5%, acacia whole gum mixture inhibited bacterial protease enzymes, suggesting acacia may be useful in limiting the development of periodontal disease. In addition, chewing an acacia-based gum for 7 days reduced mean gingival and plaque scores compared with use of a sugar-free gum. Total differences in these scores were significant between groups (P < 0.05), suggesting that acacia gum primarily inhibits the early deposition of plaque.Gazi 1991, Lindquist 2011 In a small (N = 11) clinical study, gum acacia increased oral pH after a rinse with simulated gastric acid, protecting against enamel erosion.Gazi 1991, Lindquist 2011
A series of reports were published on the use of gum acacia in rats with induced renal failure. Effects included antihypertensive reactions, reduced anemia and proteinuria, and improved oxidative stress.Ali 2011, Ali 2014, Ali 2013, Ali 2014 Enhanced creatinine clearance was demonstrated in healthy mice given gum acacia 10% in drinking water.Nasir 2013 An antioxidant effect may contribute toward observed efficacy.Gado 2013
Increased excretion of nitrogen and urea was observed in patients with chronic renal failure who were given gum acacia.Khan 2009
Clinical trials are generally lacking. One trial used gum arabic (as A. senegal) 30 g daily for 6 weeks as a dietary supplement to reduce weight.Babiker 2012
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Allergic reactions have been reported.Khan 2009 Adverse effects reported in clinical trials include unfavorable sensation in the mouth, early morning nausea, mild diarrhea, and bloating.Babiker 2012, Pouteau 2010 IV administration has been reported to cause renal and liver damage.Morton 1977
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