The key difference between gum and mucilage is that gum is an amorphous, translucent, viscous, and sticky substance produced due to an injury in plants, while mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced in the normal metabolism of plants.
Gum and mucilage are natural plant products. Both are plant hydrocolloids. They have similar constitutions, and on hydrolysis, they yield a mixture of sugars and uronic acids. Gum is considered to be a pathological product, while mucilage is formed within the normal metabolism. Furthermore, gums and mucilage contain hydrophilic molecules that can combine with water to form viscous or gel-like solutions.
What is Gum?
Gum is a polysaccharide of natural origin. It is capable of causing a large increase in the viscosity of a solution even when it is present in small concentrations. Gum usually has a botanical origin. Therefore, it is found in woody elements of plants or in seed coatings. Natural gums can be classified according to their origin and can also be classified as uncharged or ionic polymers. Some of the gums from seaweeds include agar, alginic acid, sodium alginate, and carrageenan. Some uncharged gums that originate from non-marine botanical resources include guar gum, locust bean gum, beta glucan, and dammar gum. Moreover, some polyelectrolyte gums that originate from non-marine botanical resources include gum arabic, gum ghatti, gum tragacanth, and karaya gum.
Gum is used in the food industry as a thickening agent, gelling agent, emulsifying agent, and stabilizer. In industry, it is used as adhesives, binding agents, crystal inhibitors, clarifying agents, encapsulating agents, flocculating agents, swelling agents, and foam stabilizers. When these gums are consumed by humans, they are fermented by microbes that inhabit the lower gastrointestinal tract microbiome.
What is Mucilage?
Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance that is produced in the normal metabolism of plants. It is nearly produced from all plants and by some microorganisms. These microorganisms include protists which use mucilage for their locomotion. The movement of the protist is always opposite to that of the secretion of mucilage.
Mucilage is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide. In plants, mucilage plays a vital role in the storage of water and food. Mucilage is also very important for seed germination and thickening membranes. Cacti and other succulents and flax seeds are very popular mucilage-rich sources. Furthermore, mucilage is edible. In medicine, it relieves irritation of mucous membranes by forming a protective film. It also acts as soluble dietary fiber that thickens the fecal mass. In addition, mucilage is typically mixed with water to make glue used for bonding paper items such as labels, postage stamps, and envelop flaps. Mucilage from insectivorous plants like sundew and butterwort is traditionally used for the production of a Swedish dairy product called filmjölk.
What are the Similarities Between Gum and Mucilage?
- Gum and mucilage are natural plant products.
- Both are plant hydrocolloids.
- They have similar constitutions.
- On hydrolysis, they yield a mixture of sugars and uronic acids.
- Both substances can also be produced by microorganisms.
- They have a variety of human uses.
What is the Difference Between Gum and Mucilage?
Gum is an amorphous, translucent, viscous, sticky substance produced due to an injury in plants, while mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced in the normal metabolism of plants. Thus, this is the key difference between gum and mucilage. Furthermore, the gum is produced by marine plants, non-marine botanical plants, and some microorganisms. On the other hand, mucilage is produced by almost all plants and microorganisms, such as protists.
The below infographic presents the differences between gum and mucilage in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Gum vs Mucilage
Gum and mucilage are natural plant products that are plant hydrocolloids. Gum is considered to be a pathological product, while mucilage is formed within the normal metabolism. Moreover, the gum is an amorphous, translucent, viscous, sticky substance produced due to an injury in plants, while mucilage is a thick, gluey substance that is produced in the normal metabolism of plants. So, this summarizes the difference between gum and mucilage.
1. “Plant Gum.” An Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.
2. Nazari, Meisam, et al. “Mucilage Polysaccharide Composition and Exudation in Maize from Contrasting Climatic Regions.” Frontiers.