Natural gums are polysaccharides of natural origin, capable of causing a large increase in a solution’s viscosity, even at small concentrations. In the food industry they are used as thickening agents, gelling agents, emulsifying agents, and stabilizers. In other industries, they are also used as adhesives, binding agents, crystan inhibitors, clarifying agents, encapsulating agents, flocculating agents, swelling agents, foam stabilizers, etc. Most often these gums are found in the woody elements of plants or in seed coatings.
Natural gums can be classified according to their origin. They can also be classified as uncharged or ionic polymers (polyelectrolytes). Examples include (E number food additive code):
- Natural gums obtained from seaweeds:
- Natural gums obtained from non-marine botanical resources:
- Guar gum (E412), from guar beans
- Locust bean gum (E410), from the seeds of the carob tree
- Beta-glucan, from oat or barley bran
- Chicle gum, an older base for chewing gum obtained from the chicle tree
- Dammar gum, from the sap of Dipterocarpaceae trees
- Glucomannan (E425), from the konjac plant
- Mastic gum, a chewing gum from ancient Greece obtained from the mastic tree
- Psyllium seed husks, from the Plantago plant
- Spruce gum, a chewing gum of American Indians obtained from spruce trees
- Tara gum (E417), from the seeds of the tara tree
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