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Karaya is a vegetable gum produced as an exudate from the Gum Karaya tree, Sterculia urens, which is native to India and surrounding countries. The gum is harvested by making incisions in the wood (tapping) and collecting the exudate, which forms lumps once it dries on contact with the air and sunlight.
Karaya is sold in the form of lumps or a powder and is available in technical and food grades. It is an acid polysaccharide that swells when it absorbs water, forming a gel (hydrocolloid). It is sometimes used as substitute for Tragacanth.
Karaya is used as a food additive, acting as an emulsifier and thickener in sauces, ice cream and beverages. It is also used in baking as a binder and stabiliser.
Karaya is used as an ingredient in candies and chewing gum.
Karaya is used as a thickener in medications and a bulk-forming laxative to relieve constipation. It is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac, although there is little evidence to support this.
In the Paper industry, Karaya is used as a binding agent in paper manufacturing.
In the Dental industry, Karaya is used as a denture adhesive.
In the Personal Care industry, Karaya is used as a thickening agent, as well as an adhesive agent in hairsprays.