Gum arabic, otherwise known as acacia gum, is not bad for you per se. It’s nontoxic and provides some health benefits, including helping wounds heal quicker and offering significant fiber. However, allergic reactions are common and it can slow the absorption of certain medications.
Gum arabic, or acacia gum, is a natural gum that comes from the acacia tree, hence the name. For centuries, it has been used for a wide variety of things—including as a topical treatment for open wounds, food additive, and a fiber supplement.
So is gum arabic safe and effective for all of that?
Let’s start with its usage as a topical treatment. Acacia has been applied to open wounds to promote quicker healing for centuries now—and it really seems to work. In a recent study on animal test subjects, applying acacia caesia over open wounds led to significantly faster healing than in the control group. Doctors believe this is due to acacia gum’s unique chemical composition, which includes flavonoids, alkaloids, and glycosides.
Today, gum arabic is much more widely known as a food additive. It’s used in just about everything, from chewing gum to icing and even as an emulsifier in popular soft drinks. Gum arabic is non-toxic and tasteless. It’s primarily used as a thickening agent... however, it has substantial health benefits as well. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even recognized acacia as a decent source of fiber in many widely consumed foods: juice, yogurt, cereal and more.
Due to its high fiber content, acacia gum is also steadily gaining ground as a standalone, over-the-counter supplement. Fiber is a nutrient staple, as it helps you feel fuller longer, maintain a healthy weight and even offers substantial cardiovascular health benefits. Since the 1980s, various studies have found that the high water-soluble dietary fiber content of gum arabic can help reduce cholesterol levels. Most recently, a 2015 study published in Front Physiol reported that participants taking 30g of gum arabic per day saw a significant reduction in total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL in a four-week period, compared to those who took nothing.
Though gum arabic does seem to do a lot of good, it’s not recommended for everyone. As it does contain fiber, there are some minor digestive side effects to be aware of: gas, bloating and diarrhea. Allergic reactions are also fairly common and can cause skin irritation, lesions or even severe respiratory issues. Finally, gum arabic can interact with certain medications (antibiotics in particular) and slow or prevent their absorption into your bloodstream.
For these reasons, you should consult your physician before applying gum arabic as a topical treatment or incorporating the supplement into your diet.
Possible short-term side effects
- skin irritation, lesions and respiratory issues (due to allergic reaction)
- loose stools
Commonly found in
- chewing gum
- various cosmetics
- promotes wound healing
- contains significant fiber
- helps lower cholesterol
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View Sources | Written by Rachel Adams | 08-25-2017
Written by Rachel Adams
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