Gum Arabic

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

gum arabic sometimes called Senegal gum or acacia gum, is a product of Acacia senegal and other trees of the family Mimosoideae. A senegal grows in N. Africa, Arabia, and NW India. It is a small tree and its branches are protected from browsing wild animals by hooked thorns. The tree is now planted for gum production in other regions. For more general information, see gum in the previous entry.

Gum arabic was one of the first gums to be used. The Egyptians of 2000bc were already employing it in food as well as for binding paint (a role in which its effectiveness is demonstrated by the survival of Egyptian wall-paintings). It has been part of the pharmacist’s stock in trade since the Middle Ages in Europe, and for much longer in the Middle East.