What is Karaya? Origins and Uses of Karaya Gum in Ostomy Supplies

Karaya is a material used in Ostomy supplies such as skin barriers and powders, but what exactly is it, and why is it used?

Karaya, or “Karaya gum” is a vegetable-based all natural product derived from the soft Sterculia urens tree native to India and Pakistan. The karaya gum is produced by collecting the gum by removing bark or drilling holes into the trunk of the tree.

Recognized as safe and non-toxic, Karaya is used in many products ranging from food emulsifiers, adhesives, laxitives, dentures, lotions, and of course, ostomy supplies.

The best, purest medical grade Karaya gum is clear to white in color and can also come in powder form. From a chemistry standpoint, Karaya will absorb water quickly and forms a “gum”. It can absorb as much as 100 times its weight in water. With higher concentrations of water, Karaya forms a gel or paste that can be used to comfortably and safely smooth out rough or uneven skin.

Why is Karaya used in ostomy supplies?

Typically, you’ll find Karaya either as a powder or applied to skin barriers/wafers.

Helps Prevent Bacterial Infections: – Karaya has chemical qualities to help reduce bacterial adhesion, the same reasons that make it great for denture adhesion.

Helps Irritated and Sensitive Skin: – Irritated skin is a common affliction to the skin around a colostomy or illeostomy stoma, and Karaya’s unique chemical properties allow it to create a protective gel over the affected skin and absorb excess moisture. This ensures the skin is protected prior to attaching a barrier and ostomy appliance to the skin. This is also good for patients who may have sensitive or fragile skin that does not accept synthetic skin barriers.

What kind of Karaya ostomy supplies are available?

Karaya Powder – Powder is applied prior to using a skin barrier, commonly for irritated skin to serve as an extra layer of protection against bacteria infections and to keep the skin from further irritation due to the adhesion of the new barrier. When using the powder, it will absorb moisture from the skin to create a sticky and mildly adhesive “gel”. Powder is sold in small puff bottles that make it easy to apply evenly.

Karaya Paste – A karaya paste is applied to the skin to help prevent irritation as well as help smooth out irregular skin surfaces when an Ostomy appliance is applied. The skin is protected from leaks by the natural hydrocolloid Karaya gum. The pastes are commonly sold in squeeze tubes.

Karaya Skin Barriers – Skin barriers with natural Karaya serve many of the same benefits; it helps prevent skin damaging organisms from growing on the skin and offers some flexibility and convexity in the barrier, allowing it to conform to irregular stomas, flush stomas, or skin folds. Also, keep in mind Karaya skin barriers are only mildly adhesive so it’s likely that a tape border is necessary for a strong adhesion.