Acacia nilotica is a species of Acacia tree in the Fabaceae, or legume, family that is native to northern Africa and the Middle East. Acacia gum, which is produced by this and other species of the tree, has been used for hundreds of years as a medical treatment. Its side effects are usually mild, but it should not be taken at the same time as some medications. This product may be purchased in bulk or capsules, and the food industry uses it in some processed foods.
The Acacia gum tree is also known as Egyptian thorn and gum arabic. This gray-trunked tree grows 8 to 12 feet (2.4 to 3.7 m) high and has purple-yellow branches. It produces clusters of two to four yellow flowers along with a flat, pale brown legume. The legume grows to 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) long. White gum oozes from large branches and the trunk of this species beginning in December, about the time that the tree flowers, and just after the rainy season. Trees that appear sickly tend to produce the most gum.
Gum arabic has a soothing effect on mucous membranes in the mouth, throat, and digestive tract. It may also be applied topically to wounds to further healing. In addition, research shows thatit may be useful for inhibiting periodontal bacteria and inhibiting plaque deposits on the teeth. Historically, Ayurvedic practitioners in India prescribed the gum as a treatment for premature ejaculation. Medical professionals in the Middle East used the gum as a general treatment for many different diseases and conditions. The ancient Egyptians added the gum to pain relievers.
Side effects include allergic reactions of the skin and respiratory system, and acacia gum may also raise overall serum cholesterol levels. It is, however, basically nontoxic for most people when taken internally. This treatment should not be taken with the antibiotic amoxicillin, since it can prevent the body from absorbing the antibiotic properly if taken simultaneously.
Pregnant or nursing women should consult a medical professional before taking the gum because not enough research has been done to determine if it could harm a baby. Individuals with chronic health conditions might consider speaking to a medical professional before using it.
Acacia gum is available to consumers as bulk powder, resin chunks, and in capsules. Prepared food companies put it into their products to add body, as a preservative, or as an anti-foaming agent. It may be used in cheeses, puddings, flavored yogurts, chocolate milk, sweets, ice cream and bakery products. Some preserved meat products, macaroni, and potato salad, vinegar, and mustard are also made with it. Manufacturers of beer, mead, energy drinks, cider, and wine coolers also add it to their products.