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Scientific Name(s): Astragalus gummifer Labill., Astragalus
Common Name(s): Goat's thorn, Green dragon, Gum dragon, Gum tragacanth, Gummi tragacanthae, Hog gum, Milkvetch, Syrian tragacanth, Tragacanth

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 19, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Clinical data regarding tragacanth application, other than as a gel, are lacking. An effect on the moderation of glucose levels has not been consistently demonstrated.


Recent clinical evidence does not support a specific dosage of tragacanth. The gum has generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status as a food additive.


Contraindications have not been identified.


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


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Tragacanth is not associated with adverse effects when used for up to 21 days.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Fabaceae (bean)


The tragacanth species comprises low-growing, thorny shrubs native to the mountainous regions of the Middle East. Gum tragacanth is obtained from the branches and taproots. The gum dries as it exudes and must be collected rapidly. The name "tragacanth" derives from the Greek words tragos (meaning "goat") and akantha ("thorn"), which describe the appearance and texture of the crude gum.Khan 2010, USDA 2015


Tragacanth has traditionally been used as an emulsifier, thickening agent, and suspending agent.Morton 1977, Nuttall 1993 It has also been used to manage diarrhea and as a demulcent in cough and cold preparations.Morton 1977

Tragacanth is currently used in foods and dressings, in denture fixatives, and to thicken ice cream;Anderson 1989, Berg 1991 it is also being investigated as a novel drug delivery tool.Kumar 2014


Tragacanth has 2 major constituents: tragacanthin (20% to 30%), a water-soluble fraction consisting of tragacanthic acid and arabinogalactan, and bassorin (60% to 70%), a water-insoluble fraction. Tragacanthic acid includes D-galacturonic acid, D-xylose, L-fructose, D-galactose, and other sugars. Tragacanthin is composed of uronic acid and arabinose; it dissolves in water to form a viscous colloidal solution, while bassorin swells to form a thick gel.Duke 1992, Khan 2010, Morton 1977, Tischer 2002

Maximum viscosity of tragacanthin is attained only after 24 hours at room temperature or after heating for 8 hours at high temperatures. The viscosity of these solutions is generally considered to be the highest among plant gums.Khan 2010

Uses and Pharmacology


Animal data

Information regarding the use of tragacanth in diabetes is limited.

Clinical data

As with other water-soluble gums, some preliminary evidence suggests that concomitant ingestion of tragacanth with a high sugar load can moderate glucose levels in patients with diabetes.Eastwood 1984 However, this effect has not been consistently demonstratedEastwood 1986 and more detailed investigation is needed. Although gum tragacanth swells to increase stool weight and decrease GI transit time, it differs from other soluble fibers in that it appears to have no effect on serum cholesterol, triglyceride, or phospholipid levels after a 21-day supplementation period.Eastwood 1986


Animal data

Tragacanth has been reported to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in vitro and in animal studies.Khan 2010, Morton 1977 Swainsonine extracted from Astragalus plants also demonstrated antitumor activity in rodents.Oredipe 2003, Sun 2007

Clinical data

A phase 2 clinical trial using a hydrochloride salt of swainsonine was conducted in patients with renal cancer, with limited efficacy.Shaheen 2005

Other uses

Animal data

Data from a mouse study suggest that tragacanth may have analgesic effects via the blockade of alpha-2 adrenergic receptors.Bagheri 2015


Recent clinical evidence does not support a specific dosage of tragacanth. The gum has GRAS status as a food additive.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. A report based on cattle and sheep observations suggests that the chemical constituents swainsonine and swainsonine N-oxide, found in Astragalus plants, are teratogenic.Friedman 2000, Panter 2013 However, more studies are needed.Fugh-Berman 2005


None well documented. Theoretically, tragacanth could slow absorption of other drugs, so separating the administration of tragacanth from doses of other drugs by at least 2 hours is recommended.

Adverse Reactions

Tragacanth is GRAS in the United States for use as food.Anderson 1989 In a small study, no adverse effects were associated with dietary gum tragacanth supplementation in men for up to 21 days.Eastwood 1984

Cross-sensitivity to the asthma-induced effects of quillaja bark has been observed.Raghuprasad 1980


Some studies report no toxic effects for tragacanth when used in concentrations of up to 0.5% (or 10 g/day) in mice.Khan 2010, Thackaberry 2013 However, another report based on cattle and sheep observations suggests that swainsonine and swainsonine N-oxide, found in certain Astragalus plants, are teratogenic.Friedman 2000, Panter 2013

Tragacanth is highly susceptible to bacterial degradation, and preparations contaminated with enterobacteria have caused fetal deaths when administered intraperitoneally to pregnant mice.Khan 2010


Anderson DM. Evidence for the safety of gum tragacanth (Asiatic Astragalus spp.) and modern criteria for the evaluation of food additives. Food Addit Contam. 1989;6(1):1-12.2643537
Astragalus gummifer Labill. USDA, NRCS. 2015. The PLANTS database (, 18 December 2015). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Bagheri SM, Keyhani L, Heydari M, Dashti-R MH. Antinociceptive activity of Astragalus gummifer gum (gum tragacanth) through the adrenergic system: A in vivo study in mice. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2015;6(1):19-23.2587845910.4103/0975-9476.146543
Berg E. A clinical comparison of four denture adhesives. Int J Prosthodont. 1991;4(5):449-456.1811640
Duke JA. Handbook of Biologically Active Phytochemicals and Their Activities. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1992.
Eastwood MA, Brydon WG, Anderson DM. The effects of dietary gum tragacanth in man. Toxicol Lett. 1984;21(1):73-81.6372167
Eastwood MA, Brydon WG, Anderson DM. The effect of polysaccharide composition and structure of dietary fibers on cecal fermentation and fecal excretion. Am J Clin Nutr. 1986;44(1):51-55.3014854
Friedman JM. Teratology society: presentation to the FDA public meeting on safety issues associated with the use of dietary supplements during pregnancy. Teratology. 2000;62(2):134-137.10931511
Fugh-Berman A, Lione A, Scialli AR. Do no harm: avoidance of herbal medicines during pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;106(2):409D-411.16055599
Khan IA, Ehab AA. Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients: Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2010.
Kumar K, Dhawan N, Sharma H, Vaidya S, Vaidya B. Bioadhesive polymers: novel tool for drug delivery. Artif Cells Nanomed Biotechnol. 2014;42(4):274-283.23859698
Morton JF. Major Medicinal Plants: Botany, Culture, and Uses. Springfield, IL: Thomas; 1977.
Nuttall FQ. Dietary fiber in the management of diabetes. Diabetes. 1993;42(4):503-508.8384131
Oredipe OA, Furbert-Harris PM, Laniyan I, Griffin WM, Sridhar R. Limits of stimulation of proliferation and differentiation of bone marrow cells of mice treated with swainsonine. Int Immunopharmacol. 2003;3(10-11):1537-1547.12946451
Panter KE, Welch KD, Gardner DR, Green BT. Poisonous plants: effects on embryo and fetal development. Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today. 2013;99(4):223-234.24339034
Raghuprasad PK, Brooks SM, Litwin A, Edwards JJ, Bernstein IL, Gallagher J. Quillaja bark (soapbark)-induced asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1980;65(4):285-287.7358945
Shaheen PE, Stadler W, Elson P, Knox J, Winquist E, Bukowski RM. Phase II study of the efficacy and safety of oral GD0039 in patients with locally advanced or metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Invest New Drugs. 2005;23(6):577-581.16034517
Sun JY, Zhu MZ, Wang SW, Miao S, Xie YH, Wang JB. Inhibition of the growth of human gastric carcinoma in vivo and in vitro by swainsonine. Phytomedicine. 2007;14(5):353-359.17097281
Thackaberry EA. Vehicle selection for nonclinical oral safety studies. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2013;9(12):1635-1646.24074031
Tischer CA, Iacomini M, Gorin PA. Structure of the arabinogalactan from gum tragacanth (Astralagus gummifer). Carbohydr Res. 2002;337(18):1647-1655.12423966


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