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Karaya Gum

Scientific Name(s): Sterculia urens Roxb.
Common Name(s): Bassora tragacanth, Indian chestnut, Indian tragacanth, Kadaya, Kadira, Karaya, Katila, Kullo, Mucara, Sterculia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 21, 2023.

Clinical Overview


Animal and in vitro studies of karaya gum have suggested anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolemic, laxative, antiproliferative, antioxidant, and antimicrobial effects. There are no clinical data to support use of karaya gum for any therapeutic use.


Clinical studies are lacking to provide dosing recommendations.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Aside from allergy, case reports of adverse reactions are limited; however, excessive doses as a laxative may cause diarrhea, and, with inadequate water consumption, may result in bowel obstruction. A case of esophageal blockage occurred in a man who consumed dry karaya gum stool bulking granules without drinking water or liquid.


Karaya gum is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Scientific Family


Most commercial karaya gum is obtained from S. urens, a soft-wood tree that grows to approximately 10 to 15 m in height. The small, yellow flowers bloom from February to March, and the tree bears a star-shaped fruit.Khan 2009, Morton 1977, Verbeken 2003

The plant is native to India and Pakistan, where it is found on dry, rocky hills and plateaus, and is cultivated in African countries.Verbeken 2003 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, dried, and then graded. A mature tree may yield 1 to 5 kg of gum per season.Khan 2009, USDA 2014, Verbeken 2003


Karaya gum has been used commercially for approximately 100 years. Its use as an adulterant or as an alternative to tragacanth gum became widespread during the early 20th century.(Verbeken 2003 Experience indicated that karaya gum was less expensive and possessed certain physiochemical properties that made it more useful than tragacanth gum. Traditionally, India has been the largest producer and exporter of karaya gum.Verbeken 2003 The gum has been used in a variety of products, including cosmetics and lotions, and as a bulking agent.Der Marderosian 1988 The fruit of the related Sterculia villosa has been used traditionally as an antidiabetic agent in India.Tarak 2011


Karaya gum is a complex, partially acetylated polysaccharide obtained as a calcium and magnesium salt. The polysaccharide component of karaya has a high molecular weight and is composed of galacturonic acid, beta-D-galactose, glucuronic acid, L-rhamnose, and other residues.Khan 2009, Morton 1977

The quality of karaya gum depends on the thoroughness of impurity removal. Food-grade gum is usually a white to pinkish-gray powder with a slight vinegar odor from acetic acid released during storage.Khan 2009 Pharmaceutical grades of karaya may be almost clear or translucent.Morton 1977

Karaya gum is the least soluble of commercial plant exudates, but absorbs water rapidly and swells to form viscous colloidal solutions even at low concentrations (1%). The swelling reaction of karaya gum is dependent on the presence of acetyl groups in its structure. Deacetylation through alkali treatment results in a water-soluble gum. When used in higher concentrations in water (up to 4%), karaya forms a gel or paste. Unlike other gums, karaya swells in 60% alcohol but remains insoluble in other organic solvents. Karaya may absorb up to 100 times its weight in water.Khan 2009, Verbeken 2003

The astringent bark, containing alpha cellulose, botulin, and tannin, has also been investigated.Duke 1992, Morton 1977 Sesquiterpenoids possessing antiproliferative properties have been identified in the bark of the related Madagascan species Sterculia tavia.Dai 2012

In addition, seeds of the karaya plant contain carbohydrates and lignoceric, linoleic, myristic, oleic, palmitic, and stearic acids.Duke 1992 Cerebroside chemicals, which have antioxidant properties, and polysaccharides have been identified in the related species Sterculia lychnophora, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine,Ai 2012, Wang 2013 whereas lectins have been identified in Sterculia foetida seeds.Braga 2014

Uses and Pharmacology

Anti-inflammatory effects

Animal data

Extracts of S. lychnophoraAi 2012 seeds and Sterculia striataSilva 2014 bark were effective in reducing ear and paw edema and writhing in mice.

Antimicrobial activity

In vitro data

In an in vitro study, all microbial strains tested (Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Candida albicans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa) were completely or substantially inhibited by S. urens at a concentration of 1% and substantially or weakly inhibited at a concentration of 0.5%.Lipovy 2018 Antimicrobial activity against human pathogens was demonstrated by lectins extracted from the seeds of S. foetida.Braga 2014

Antioxidant activity

In vitro data

Antioxidant properties of a cerebroside isolated from the seeds of the related S. lychnophora plant were identified in an in vitro study; specifically a moderate neuroprotective effect against SH-SY5Y cell damage induced by hydrogen peroxide was demonstrated.Wang 2013

Antiproliferative activity

In vitro data

Antiproliferative properties of the bark of the related Madagascan S. tavia plant against a human ovarian cell line have been described.Dai 2012

Bacterial adhesion

In vitro data

Karaya gum was investigated in vitro for its ability to prevent bacterial adhesion to denture acrylic. A protective coating of karaya gum applied to dentures reduced bacterial adhesion by 98%.Wilson 1989


Animal data

Limited studies in hens and quails suggest karaya saponin may exert a hypocholesterolemic effect.Afrose 2010, Afrose 2011

Clinical data

No clinical data exist regarding the use of karaya extracts for the management of dyslipidemia. Earlier preliminary studies evaluating effects of soluble fibers on plasma lipids, glucose tolerance, and mineral balance suggest that soluble refined gums, including karaya gum, may normalize blood sugar and plasma lipid levels.Behall 1990


Karaya gum particles absorb water and swell to 60 to 100 times their original volume, making it useful as a bulk laxative.Khan 2009, Meier 1990, Verbeken 2003 Excessive doses as a laxative may cause diarrhea and, with inadequate water consumption, may result in bowel obstruction.Duke 2002

Animal data

There are no recent animal data regarding the use of karaya gum as a laxative. Studies evaluating karaya gum laxative effects were conducted in dogs and rats in the 1930s.INCHEM 2014

Clinical data

A 2009 systematic review assessing fiber supplements for use in adults with idiopathic chronic constipation identified no randomized controlled trials or systematic reviews evaluating Sterculia; the effectiveness of Sterculia in this patient population is therefore unknown.Mueller-Lissner 2010

Medicine delivery

In vitro and experimental data

Karaya gum has been investigated as a carrier or release-controlling agent for poorly soluble medicines.Munday 2000, Murali 2002, Thekkae 2013 Similarly, the gum has been tested as a biosorbent for remediation of toxic heavy metal ions.Vellora 2014

Clinical data

Karaya gum has been used in ostomy care, as a base for transdermal delivery of medicines.Bart 1989, Evans 1989


Clinical studies are lacking to provide dosing recommendations.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

A report published in 1989 found that widespread use of karaya gum throughout the United States and Europe was not associated with clinically important adverse events.Anderson 1989 Aside from allergy,INCHEM 2014 case reports of adverse reactions with the use of karaya gum are limited; however, excessive doses as a laxative may cause diarrhea and, with inadequate water consumption, may result in bowel obstruction.Duke 2002 An esophageal bezoar was reported in a 66-year-old man with mild cognitive impairment who swallowed several tablespoons of a dry granulated stool bulking agent (containing 62% karaya gum) without water and then reclined to sleep immediately afterwards.Yeoh 2017


Karaya gum is accepted as GRAS by the FDA when used as a food additive.Anderson 1989 Studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s found no evidence of mutagenicity or teratogenicity.INCHEM 2014

Index Terms



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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Ai L, Wu J, Che N, Wu Y, Cui SW. Extraction, partial characterization and bioactivity of polysaccharides from boat-fruited sterculia seeds. Int J Biol Macromol. 2012;51(5):815-818.22910576
Anderson DM. Evidence for the safety of gum karaya (Sterculia spp.) as a food additive. Food Addit Contam. 1989;6(2):189-199.2647531
Bart BJ, Biglow J, Vance JC, Neveaux JL. Salicylic acid in karaya gum patch as a treatment for verruca vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1989;20(1):74-76.2643641
Behall KM. Effect of soluble fibers on plasma lipids, glucose tolerance and mineral balance. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1990;270:7-16.1964020
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Dai Y, Harinantenaina L, Brodie PJ, et al. Isolation and synthesis of two antiproliferative calamenene-type sesquiterpenoids from Sterculia tavia from the Madagascar rain forest. Bioorg Med Chem. 2012;20(24):6940-6944.23149304
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Munday DL, Cox PJ. Compressed xanthan and karaya gum matrices: hydration, erosion and drug release mechanisms. Int J Pharm. 2000;203(1-2):179-192.10967440
Murali Mohan Babu GV, Prasad ChD, Ramana Murthy KV. Evaluation of modified gum karaya as carrier for the dissolution enhancement of poorly water-soluble drug nimodipine. Int J Pharm. 2002;234(1-2):1-17.11839433
Silva FV, Oliveira IS, Figueiredo KA, et al. Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects of Sterculia striata A. St.-Hil. & Naudin (Malvaceae) in rodents. J Med Food. 2014;17(6):694-700.24476221
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Thekkae Padil V, Černík M. Green synthesis of copper oxide nanoparticles using gum karaya as a biotemplate and their antibacterial application. Int J Nanomedicine. 2013;8:889-898.23467397
Vellora Thekkae Padil V, Rouha M, Cernik M. Hydrocolloid-stabilized magnetite for efficient removal of radioactive phosphates. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:504760.24696854
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Further information

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