Acacia has been used in medicines, baking ingredients, tools, and woodwork for centuries. It has a long history in civilizations as ancient as the Egyptians and the aboriginal tribes of Australia. These kingdoms and tribes used acacia in surprisingly diverse ways, from making desserts to treating hemorrhoids. The first species ever discovered was given the name Acacia nilotica by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s, and since then, nearly 1,000 species have been added to the Acacia genus.
Acacia still sits on grocery store shelves in crushed, ground, and whole form. The name Acacia itself refers to a genus of plant that includes many different types of plants, such as trees and shrubs. They can be used in a variety of applications. The acacia that you can buy today may come from one or more of these species. Most of the time, the acacia in food or medicine is Acacia senegal (L.) Willd. This type of acacia is usually in gum form, and it will say acacia gum on labels and packaging.
Acacia gum has a naturally sticky texture. Materials with this property are often used to reduce irritation and inflammation. The gum has been shown to be especially effective in easing stomach or throat discomfort.
Acacia is often used in topical treatments to help wounds heal. Doctors, scientists, and researchers believe that this effect may be due to some of its chemicals, such as alkaloids, glycosides, and flavonoids. In one study, a species of acacia known as Acacia caesia was tested on rats as part of a topical wound treatment. It led to quicker wound healing than the standard treatment.
Another animal study suggested that acacia may also help heal ulcers.
The extract of a species of acacia known as Acacia catechu, sometimes called black khair, can be used in dental products like mouthwash to prevent gingivitis. Powdered acacia can also be used in a type of herbal toothpaste that’s been shown to clean teeth without being too abrasive to the surface of your teeth. An older study from 1999 showed that this herbal tooth powder cleaned and cleared well over two-thirds of tooth plaque, and nearly 100 percent in some cases.
Acacia gum contains water-soluble dietary fibers (WSDF) that are not only good fiber for your diet but also helpful in keeping your cholesterol under control. One study showed that taking 15 grams of acacia gum in liquid form every day helped manage the concentration of plasma cholesterols in blood. Although published in 1992, this is the most comprehensive study on the effects of acacia gum on the blood to date. WSDF can also help you maintain a healthy weight and is good for general cardiovascular health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even made changes to regulations to recognize the beneficial use of acacia as a good fiber source in many popular foods, including cereals, juice, and yogurt.
Acacia gum has the potential to keep your weight in a healthy range while also reducing your overall body fat. In a study involving 120 women, 60 women took 30 grams per day of acacia gum for six weeks, while the other 60 took a placebo containing just 1 gram of pectin. Results showed that women who took the acacia gum reduced their body mass index. Their body fat percentage was also reduced by over 2 percent.
Because it’s known to relieve irritation and inflammation, acacia gum can also help control coughs. The properties of acacia gum allow it to be used in solutions to coat your throat and protect the mucus in your throat from irritation. Using acacia for coughs can keep your throat from becoming sore as well as ease or prevent symptoms, including losing your voice.
The Acacia greggii plant, found in the United States and Mexico, can be used to help stop blood flow in gashes, wounds, and other surface cuts. Pouring an acacia-infused tea on cuts is an especially effective remedy. This can be helpful for stopping heavy bleeding and washing bacteria from the cut.
Ask your doctor before consuming any form of acacia to make sure you won’t have an allergic or drug interaction reaction. Acacia senegal has been found to interact with the efficacy of some medications. For example, it may prevent some antibiotics from being absorbed.
Some forms of acacia contain toxic chemicals that could cause hair loss, affect your digestive tract’s ability to take in nutrients, and stunt growth. Do not consume a form of acacia that you’re not familiar with. Also be sure to consult your doctor or an expert before taking any form of acacia that hasn’t been processed for use in food.
Acacia is often found already processed in foods, but it’s also available in ground, powder, or whole form at your grocery store. The studies above show that anywhere from 15 to 30 grams of acacia per day is a safe dose, but talk to your doctor before giving it to younger children or older adults. They may suggest adjusting dosage to avoid any potential digestive or absorption issues.
One study conducted on rats showed that Acacia arabica could potentially treat diabetes in the future. But the research is in early stages and the effect is not completely understood.
Acacia gum is already used in many types of foods and can usually be safely used in cooking,
drinks, and other substances. But talk to your doctor before using it as a supplement if you take any medications.