Tragacanth gum

Dublin Core


Tragacanth gum


Tragacanth gum is a natural gum obtained from the dried sap of the Astragalus species (Leguminosae family). While it shares similar uses to gum arabic, it produces more viscous solutions and is more expensive.


Tragacanth gum is exuded from the tree Astragalus gummifer, which grows in desert areas. It is native to parts of Turkey and the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Khurdistan, and Syria).


While versatile tragacanth gum was used in a variety of ways in the early modern period, such as for skin care and making sugar paste, its use as a base for stucco is unique among sixteenth-century recipes in Ms. Fr. 640:

Fol. 29r - “Stucco for molding”
Take tragacanth gum and put it to soak until, having drunk its water, it is swollen & rendered like jelly. Then grind it quite hard on marble & next take rye flour, which is better than wheat because it is more humid and does not make the paste as brittle, and sprinkle your tragacanth gum with it, & continue to grind and mix in thus, little by little, the very finely sieved flour…


Alan Davidson, "Gum tragacanth," in The Oxford Companion to Food, ed. Tom Jaine (Oxford University Press, 2014).

John S. Mills, “Gum,” Grove Art Online, 2003.

Jonathan Stephenson, "Painting medium," Grove Art Online, 2003.

L. Masschelein-Kleiner, “Gum tragacanth,” in Ancient Binding Media, Varnishes and Adhesives, trans. Janet Bridgland, Sue Walston, and A.E. Werner (Rome: ICCROM, 1985), 50.

Nina Elizondo-Garza, “Stucco for Molding,” in Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, ed. Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano (New York: Making and Knowing Project, 2020) DOI:

Image: Tragacanth gum, from Relation d'un voyage du Levant by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (Lyon : Chez Anisson et Posuel, 1717).

Helena Seo, Columbia University




“Tragacanth gum,” om+ka, accessed June 16, 2024,

Output Formats