Gum Tragacanth

From London's Ghost Acres

Tragacanth is obtained from the dried sap of various members of the genus Astragalus. Iran in the major producer of this gum. It can be used in the leatherworking of vegetable-tanned leathers, and is sometimes used as a stiffener in textiles. It is used in medicine, food stuffs, the making of artists pastels, and adhesive in cigar rolling. (

The Compendium describes its uses as similar to those of gum Arabic in creating a mucilage.

British Pharmacopoeia 1867

Tragacanth Tragacantha

“A gummy exudation from the stems of Astragalus verus… and possibly other species. Collected in Asia Minor.” [1]


“White or yellowish, in broad shell-like slightly curved plates, tough and elastic, but rendered more pulverisable by a heat of 120° Fahr; very sparingly soluble in cold water; but swelling into a gelatinous mass, which is tinged violet by tincture of iodine.” Used in the preparations of:[2]

  • Confectio Opii (as part of Compound Powder of Opium)
  • Mucilago Tragacanthae
  • Pulvis Opii compositus
  • Pulvis Tragacanthae compositus

Preparations of Tragacanth

Mucilage of Tragacanth / Mucilago Tragacanthae[3]

  • tragacanth in powder (60 grains), distilled water (10 fl oz)

Compound Powder of Opium / Pulvis Opii Compositus [4]

  • opium in powder ( 1 ½ oz), black pepper, in powder (2 oz), ginger, in powder (5 oz), caraway fruit, in powder (6 oz), tragacanth, in powder (1/2 oz)
  • Dose: 2-5 grains
  • used in the preparations of: confection opii

Compound Powder of Tragacanth / Pulvis Tragacanthae Compositus[5]

  • tragacanth, in powder (1 oz), gum acacia, in powder (1 oz), startch, in powder (1 oz), refined sugar, in powder (3 oz)
  • dose: 20-60 grains

A Compendium of Domestic Medicine, 1865

"As an article of Material Medica its virtures resemble those of gum arabic, to which it is sometimes preferred, forming a more tenacious mucilage."[6]

Used to thicken water (one drachm of tragacanth has the same thickening abilities of one ounce of gum arabic per pint of water).

Remedies Containing or to be used with Gum Tragacanth Listed in CDM1865

  • Balsam, Copiva: tragacanth used in a mixture to deliver Copiva Balsam[7]
  • Buchu Leaves: tragacanth used in treatment for rheumatism and affections of the mucous surfaces (esp urinary organs)[8]
  • Glycerine: combined with tragacanth and other waters to form a jelly topically applied to treat "superficial burns, scalds, or excoriations, tetters of the lips, noes, &c., and after colds"[9]

Diseases Treated with Gum Tragacanthas listed in CDM1865

  • Cough: Linctus used at St. Bartholomew's Hospital contains Gum Tragacanth[10]

Prescriptions Containing Opium as listed in CDM1865


  • Antacid Powder for the Diarrhoea of Children[11]


  • Demulcent Mixture (Another)[12]
  • Cough Mixture [13]


  • Diaphoretic Powders [14]


  1. General Medical Council of Great Britain, British Pharmacopeia, (London: Spottiswoode & Co.,1867), 346
  2. GMCGB, 346
  3. GMCGB, 217
  4. GMCGB, 265
  5. GMCGB, 266
  6. Savory, John. A Compendium of Domestic Medicine (London: John Churchill and Sons, 1865), 99.
  7. Savory, 46
  8. Savory, 55
  9. Savory, 91
  10. Savory, 240
  11. Savory, 326
  12. Savory, 343
  13. Savory, 344
  14. Savory, 348

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