Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is a leguminous evergreen tree of the family Leguminosae (pulse family). Although it was originally native to Mediterranean regions, it is now cultivated in many warm climates, including Florida and California. The pods may be ground into a flour, which is often used as a cocoa substitute because it has a somewhat similar taste to chocolate and one-third the calories.
Carob has been used to treat infantile diarrhea and carob bean gum has been used to control hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and as a dietary adjunct to elevated plasma cholesterol management.
There is conflicting data on the effect of carob bean gum as a formula thickener and its effect on regurgitation frequency. The use of soluble dietary fibers, such as carob bean gum, has been shown to alter food structure, texture and viscosity, the rate of starch degradation during digestion, and the regulation of postprandial blood sugar and insulin levels.
As a food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given carob generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Fiber, such as oat fiber, has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels. Carob pod fiber or carob bean gum may also have this ability, although additional research is needed to confirm these findings.
Traditionally, carob has been used for the treatment of gastrointestinal conditions, especially diarrhea. Preliminary study used different types of carob products as an adjunct to oral rehydrating solution and showed promising results. Additional study is needed in this area.
Locust bean gum is a common food thickener and may prove helpful in infantile gastroesophageal reflux. However, additional study is needed in this area.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Anthelmintic (expels worms), antioxidant, antiviral, cancer, celiac disease, cough (retching, in infants), demulcent (soothing agent), diabetes, diarrhea (in adults), digestive disorders, dyspepsia (upset stomach), eye infections, flavoring agent, food uses, laxative, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, nutritional deficiencies, obesity, stomach pain, vision improvement, vomiting (in infants).
There is no proven safe or effective dose for carob. Traditionally, 20 grams carob daily with plenty of water has been used. As a powder, 20-30 grams added to water, tea, or milk taken once daily has also been used.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is no proven safe or effective dose for carob in children, and use is not recommended.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to carob (Ceratonia siliqua), its constituents, or any plants in the Fabaceae family, including tamarind. Pollen from the carob tree has been reported as an important inhalant allergen. Asthma and rhinitis to carob bean flour have been reported. Explosive vomiting, urticaria (hives), and a rash have also been reported following allergy to an anti-regurgitation milk formula containing carob bean gum in an infant. Individuals allergic to peanuts may also have cross-sensitivity to raw carob pulp.
Side Effects and Warnings
There are no reports of serious adverse effects related to the consumption of carob. The consumption in designated therapeutic doses can be generally considered as safe, although side effects may include a feeling of fullness. Carob is likely safe when consumed in amounts usually found in foods; in the United States carob has generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status.
Carob is possibly unsafe when used uncontrolled and unreflected in infants with gastroesophageal reflux, in pregnant women, or in patients with anemia, diabetes, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), hypouricemia (low uric acid), known allergies to members of the Fabaceae family, peanuts, or other nuts, or who have experienced previous complications with powdered, bulk forming laxative drinks. Carob is also possibly safe when used by patients taking herbs or drugs by mouth, as carob bean gum may decrease bowel transit time. Use cautiously in patients with diabetes as locust bean gum may decrease glucose response and glycemic index.
In patients with renal (kidney) failure, ingestion of locust bean gum showed laxative effects, decreased high blood pressure, and caused a fall in serum urea, creatinine, and phosphorus.
A five month-old child who was allergic to an anti-regurgitation milk formula containing carob bean gum experienced urticaria (hives) and a rash within 30 minutes of administration of the formula. Thickening milk feeds (Carobel®) may cause necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious intestinal illness in babies that may cause tissue damage to the intestines) in low birth-weight infants.
Avoid in patients with a chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, or zinc disorder or deficiency as carob bean gum may reduce absorption of these minerals. Use cautiously in patients with anemia (red blood cell deficiency) as carob bean gum may reduce the absorption of iron. Avoid in patients with metabolic disorders, with acute diarrhea or in underweight infants.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Carob is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific data.
Carob may alter blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also affect blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Carob bean gum may reduce hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) in adults and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in children and adolescents with elevated plasma LDL cholesterol levels. Caution is advised in patients taking cholesterol-lowering agents due to additive effects.
Although not well studied in humans, carob bean gum polysaccharides may block a step in rubella virus replication subsequent to virus attachment, and may interact with antiviral agents. Consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before combining therapies.
Carob leaf extracts may act as chemopreventive agents. Caution is advised when taking with other drugs with similar effects.
Carob bean gum may decrease bowel transit time or increase fecal weight. It may also reduce the adherence of Escherichia coli on intestinal epithelial. Thus, it may interact with laxatives or other agents taken by mouth, and caution is advised.
In children and infants with acute diarrhea, carob bean juice or carob pod powder may reduce the symptoms of infectious diarrhea. Caution is advised when taking carob with other agents that have similar effects.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Based on a laboratory study, carob may reduce the adherence of Escherichia coli on intestinal epithelial.
Carob may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that can also alter blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Carob bean gum may reduce hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) in adults and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in children and adolescents with elevated plasma LDL cholesterol levels. Caution is advised in patients taking cholesterol-lowering herbs, such as red yeast rice, due to additive effects.
Carob bean gum polysaccharides may block a step in rubella virus replication subsequent to virus attachment. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs with antiviral effects, due to possible additive effects.
Carob leaf extracts may act as chemopreventive agents. Caution is advised when taking with other herbs with similar effects.
Although not well studied in humans, carob bean gum may reduce the absorption of zinc, iron, copper, chromium and cobalt. Carob bean gum may decrease bowel transit time or increase fecal weight, and caution is advised when using with laxative herbs, such as psyllium.
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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.