CTFA Name: Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba (Guar) Gum
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Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, an erect, annual legume, grows from 2 feet to 9 feet high.1 The plant’s flower buds start out white and change to a light pink as the flower opens. The flowers turn deep purple and are followed by fleshy seed pods1,2 which ripen and are harvested in summer.2 The seed pods grow in clusters giving guar the common name cluster-bean.1 A gum extracted from the guar beans forms a gel in water, commonly referred to as guar gum.3 Guar, native to the Indian subcontinent, is grown mainly in India, Pakistan, and the United States with smaller crops grown in Africa and Australia.2,4 Guar is extremely drought resistant and thrives in semi-arid regions where few plants thrive. When limited moisture is available the plant will stop growing but does not die.4
History and Cultural Significance
Guar has been used for centuries in Pakistan and India as a vegetable (eaten green like snap beans), as cattle food, and as a green manure crop in agriculture. It was introduced to the United States from India in the early 1900s. Most of the U.S. crop is grown for a lower grade of guar gum which is broadly used in the production of paper, textile, oil drilling, explosives, ore flotation and an array of other industrial applications.4,5
Refined guar gum is used as a binding and disintegrating agent in pills and as a thickener in creams and lotions in medicinal, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. It is widely used as a thickener and stabilizer in food products such as cheese, condiments, gravy, ice cream, pudding, soup, and to bind meat products.4, 5
The guar seed has been used in Indian medicine as a laxative and a digestive tonic.2 It may be useful in prediabetic conditions and the early stages of late-onset diabetes. Guar gum is also believed to lower cholesterol.2
Lubricating eye drops made of guar effectively relieved signs and symptoms associated with moderate dry eye.6 Guar gum has been shown to slow glucose absorption in healthy older people,7 and to lower blood insulin and glucose levels after eating in both healthy and diabetic subjects.8,9 Some studies show promise for using guar gum as a weight-loss aid10,11 and as an appetite suppressant.11,12 Other investigations have shown guar gum to lower total serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.8,13,14
India supplies 80% of the total guar gum produced in the world.15 U.S. production is primarily concentrated in Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona1,4,5 and the U.S. imports an additional 45,000-60,000 metric tons each year.16 The current demand for guar gum is greater than its availability, despite its having been introduced as a cash crop to more countries. With its tolerance to high temperatures and dry conditions and adaptability to arid and semi-arid climates, guar offers a low input, yet high value and competitive crop that can be sold locally and nationally.3,4
1 Stephens JM, Guar – Cyamopsis tetragonoloba (L.) Taub. Fact Sheet HS-608, a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Revised for CD-ROM: May 1994. Last revision: October 2003.Available at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MV075. Accessed July 26, 2005.
2 Chevallier A, The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. London: Dorling Kindersley, Inc; 1996.
3 Beans Boost Income. Greenpeace Agriculture. Available at: http://www.farmingsolutions.org/successtories/stories.asp?id=165. Accessed August 18, 2005.
4 Undersander DJ, Putnam DH, Kaminski AR, Kelling KA, Doll JD, Oplinger ES, Gunsolus JL. Guar. Alternative Field Crop Manual. Available at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/guar.html. Accessed August 4, 2005.
5 Leung A, Foster S, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons; 1996.
6 Hartstein I, Khwarg S, Przydryga J. An open-label evaluation of HP-Guar gellable lubricant eye drops for the improvement of dry eye signs and symptoms in a moderate dry eye adult population. Curr Med Res Opin. February 2005;21(2):255-260.
7 O'Donovan D, Feinle-Bisset C, Chong C, Cameron A, Tonkin A, Wishart J, et al. Intraduodenal guar attenuates the fall in blood pressure induced by glucose in healthy older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. June 2005; 60(7):940-946.
8 Jenkins DJA, Leeds AR, Slavin B, et al. Hypocholesterolemic action of dietary fiber unrelated to fecal bulking effect. Am J Clin Nutr. 1979;32:2430-2435. Cited in Macintosh A, Fiber Supplements: New Thoughts, New Choices. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. August 1998;267-275.
9 Krotkiewski, M. Effect of guar gum on body weight, hunger ratings and metabolism in obese subjects. Br J Nutr. 1984;52:97-105. Cited in Macintosh A, Fiber Supplements: New Thoughts, New Choices. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. August 1998;267-275.
10 Tuomilehto J, Voutilainen E, Huttunen J, et al. Effect of guar gum on body weight and serum lipids in hypercholesterolemic females. Acta Med Scand. 1980;208(1-2):45-48. Cited in MacIntosh A. Fiber supplements: new thoughts, new choices. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. August 1998;267-275.
11 Brown JC, Livesey G. Energy balance and expenditure while consuming guar gum at various fat intakes and ambient temperatures. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;60(6):956-964. Cited in MacIntosh A. Fiber supplements: new thoughts, new choices. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. August 1998;267-275.
12 Van de Ven ML, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Wouters L, Saris WH. Effects of liquid preloads with different fructose/fibre concentrations on subsequent food intake ratings of hunger in women. Appetite. 1994;23(2):139-146. Cited in MacIntosh A. Fiber supplements: new thoughts, new choices. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. August 1998;267-275.
13 Jenkins DJA, Reynolds R, Slavin B, et al. Dietary fiber and blood lipids: Treatment of hypercholesterolemia with guar crispbread. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980;33:575-581. Cited in MacIntosh A. Fiber supplements: new thoughts, new choices. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. August 1998;267-275.
14 Smith U, Holm G. Effect of a modified guar gum preparation on glucose and lipid levels in diabetics and healthy volunteers. Atherosclerosis. 1982;45:1-10.
15 Guar Gum. Multi Commodity Exchange of India. Available at: http://www.mcxindia.com/Guar_Gum.aspx. Accessed August 22, 2005.
16 Guar. India Infoline. Available at: http://trade.indiainfoline.com/Commexwebsite/mcx/pdf/guar.pdf. Accessed August 22, 2005.