Gum tragacanth is a viscous, odourless, flavourless, water-soluble mixture of polysaccharides obtained from sap drained from the root of Astragalus adscendens, Astragalus gummifer and Astragalus tragacanthus and then dried. The gum seeps from the plant in twisted ribbons or flakes which can be powdered. It absorbs water to become a gel, which can be stirred into a paste. It is used in pharmaceuticals and foods as an emulsifier, thickener, stabilizer, and texturant additive (E-number E413). and is also used in leatherworking, as a paste to treat burns and as a herbal remedy for coughs and diarrhoea. It is also a component of artists's pastels.
Gum tragacanth is also used to make a paste used in floral sugarcraft to create life-like flowers on wires used as decorations for cakes. It makes a paste which dries brittle in the air and can take colourings. It enables users to get a very fine, delicate finish to their work.
Gum tragacanth is mainly produced in Iran which leads to it being less commonly used than other gums, such as gum arabic or guar. Commercial cultivation of tragacanth plants has generally not proved economically worthwhile in the west, since other gums can be used for similar purposes.