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Carob

Common names: St. John’s bread, Locust bean

Botanical name: Ceratonia siliqua

Photo

© Martin Wall

Parts used and where grown

Carob is originally from the Mediterranean region and the western part of Asia. Today it is grown mostly in Mediterranean countries. The gum from carob seeds is called locust bean gum. The dried, powdered pods of the plant are used in herbal medicine.

Carob has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
2Stars

Diarrhea

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Carob has long been eaten as food. John the Baptist is said to have eaten it, and thus it is sometimes called St. John’s bread. Powdered carob pods have been used to treat diarrhea for centuries.

Active constituents

The main constituents of carob are sugars and tannins. Carob tannins have an astringent effect in the gastrointestinal tract making them useful for treating diarrhea. They may also bind to (and thereby inactivate) toxins and inhibit growth of bacteria. The sugars make carob gummy and able to act as a thickener to absorb water—another action that may help decrease diarrhea. A double-blind clinical trial found carob useful for treating diarrhea in infants.1 A less rigorous trial showed it did not help adults with traveler’s diarrhea.2

How much is usually taken?

Some trials have used up to 15 grams of carob powder for treating diarrhea in children.3 Adults should take at least 20 grams a day for treating diarrhea. The powder can be mixed in applesauce or with sweet potatoes. Carob should be taken with plenty of water. Please note that infant diarrhea must be monitored by a healthcare professional and that proper hydration with a high electrolyte fluid is critical during acute diarrhea.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Carob is generally safe. Only rarely have allergic reactions been reported.

At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with carob.

References:

1. Leob H, Vandenplas Y, Wursch P, Guesry P. Tannin-rich carob pod for the treatment of acute-onset diarrhea. J Pediatr Gastroent Nutr 1989;8:480–5.

2. Hostettler M, Steffen R, Tschopp A. Efficacy of tolerability of insoluble carob fraction in the treatment of travellers’ diarrhea. J Diarr Dis Res 1995;13:155–8.

3. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 206.

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