Gum tragacanth

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An exudate from several species of shrubs of the genus Astragalus (especially Astragalus gummifer) found in the dry regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Gum tragacanth consists of a complex mixture of acidic polysaccharides containing galacturonic acid, galactose, fucose, xylose, and arabinose. Tragacanth gum is available in the form of dull white, translucent plates (fiori) or as a yellowish powder (biondo). A soluble fraction, tragacanthin, dissolves when added to water, whereas an insoluble fraction, bassorin (60-70% by wt.) swells to a gel-like state. A solution of gum tragacanth is prepared by wetting the powder with alcohol, then adding water and shaking. Aqueous solutions are slightly acidic with a pH of 5-6. Gum tragacanth is used for textile sizing and printing, pastel crayon production, leather curing, and furniture polishes.

Synonyms and Related Terms

goma de tragacanto (Esp.); gomma adragante (It); gomma tragacante (It); olibanum; tragacanth; gum dragon; gomme adragante; Smyrna tragacanth; Anatolian tragacanth; Persian tragacanth; gum elect; fiori; biondo


MFA- Gum Tragancanth.jpg

Other Properties

Water swellable after wetting with ethanol. Soluble in alkali and hydrogen peroxide. Insoluble in ethanol.

CAS 9000-65-1
Density 1.25-1.384

Hazards and Safety

Combustible. Inhalation and skin contact may cause allergies.

Fisher Scientific: MSDS

Additional Information

R.Newman, M.Serpico, "Adhesives and Binders" in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, P.Nicholson, I.Shaw (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 475-494.

Sources Checked for Data in Record

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  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 4609
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Comment: "gum." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service 7 Apr. 2005 .
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 822
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • S.R.Trotman, E.R. Trotman, Textile Analysis, J.B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, 1932
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • I.W. Cottrell, J.K. Baird, gums chapter
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • John S. Mills, Raymond White, The Organic Chemistry of Museum Objects, Butterworth Heineman, London, 2nd ed., 1994
  • Website address 1 Comment: "Violin Varnish Glossary" at