Tragacanth is a natural gum obtained from the dried sap of several species of Middle Eastern legumes of the genus Astragalus, including A. adscendens, A. gummifer, A. brachycalyx, and A. tragacanthus. Some of these species are known collectively under the common names "goat's thorn" and "locoweed". The gum is sometimes called shiraz gum, shiraz, gum elect or gum dragon. The name derives from tragos and akantha, which means in Greek "goat" and "thorn", respectively. Iran is the biggest producer of the best quality of this gum.
Gum tragacanth is a viscous, odorless, tasteless, water-soluble mixture of polysaccharides obtained from sap which is drained from the root of the plant and dried. The gum seeps from the plant in twisted ribbons or flakes which can be powdered. It absorbs water to become a gel, which can be stirred into a paste. The gum is used in vegetable-tanned leatherworking as an edge slicking and burnishing compound, and is occasionally used as a stiffener in textiles. The alkaloid it contains has historically been used as an herbal remedy for such conditions as cough and diarrhea. As a mucilage or paste, it has been used as a topical treatment for burns. It is used in pharmaceuticals and foods as an emulsifier, thickener, stabilizer, and texturant additive (code E413). Also, it is the traditional binder used in the making of artists' pastels, as it does not adhere to itself the same way other gums (such as gum arabic) do when dry. Gum tragacanth is also used to make a paste used in floral sugarcraft to create lifelike flowers on wires used as decorations for cakes. It makes a paste which air-dries brittle and can take colorings. It enables users to get a very fine, delicate finish to their work. Additionally, it has traditionally been used as an adhesive in the cigar-rolling process used to secure the cap or "flag" leaf to the finished cigar body, and to make pastels.
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