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
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 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
Information regarding the use of tragacanth in diabetes is limited.
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
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
A phase 2 clinical trial using a hydrochloride salt of swainsonine was conducted in patients with renal cancer, with limited efficacy.Shaheen 2005
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.
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
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