Gums and Resins

True gums are formed from the disintegration of internal plant tissues, mostly from the decomposition of cellulose in a process called gummosis. Gums contain high amounts of sugar and are closely allied to the pectins. They are colloidal and soluble in water, either dissolving entirely or swelling, but they are insoluble in alcohol and ether. They exude naturally from the stems or in response to wounding of the plant. Commercial gums arrive in the market in the form of dried exudations. Gums are especially common in plants of dry regions. They are used primarily as adhesives, and are also used in printing and finishing textiles, as a sizing for paper, in the paint and candy industries and as drugs. Three important commercial plant gums are gum arabic, gum tragacanth and karaya gum.

Resins are formed as oxidation products of various essential oils and are very complex and varied in chemical composition. The resin is usually secreted in definite cavities or passages. It frequently oozes out through the bark and hardens on exposure to air. Tapping is usually necessary in order to obtain a sufficient amount to be of commercial value. Commercial resins are also frequently collected from fossil material. Resinous substances may occur alone or in combination with essential oils or gums. Resins, unlike gums, are insoluble in water, but they dissolve in ether, alcohol and other solvents. Resin production is widespread in nature, but only a few families are of commercial importance. These include the Anacardiaceae, Burseraceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Guttiferae, Hammamelidaceae, Leguminosae, Liliaceae, Pinaceae, Styracaceae and Umbelliferae. The exact botanical origin of a resin is often hard to trace, especially in the case of fossil and semi fossil types.

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