Gambier is the extract of a climbing shrub (Uncaria Gambier) found extensively in West Indonesia and other regions close to the Mallacca Straits. The extract is obtained by the application of a crude hydraulic press mechanism to water-boiled leaves and twings of the shrub. This process results in the creation of thick, semi-solid, yellow mass, high in moisture. The thickened extract is then put into cork or coin shaped moulds and then sun dried in the open. Once the excess moisture has evaporated, the dried gambier extract is ready for consumption.
Dried gambier extract is normally brown to brownish black in colour. Its chemical composition is primarily made up of catechin, catechutannic acid, tannin, water soluble and insoluble ash/ vegetable impurities and moisture. It is available in 5 main variants based on shape, % of ash and catechin. Bootch / Buch grade gambier (cork shaped) is the most commonly sold variant. Higher end variants are Dollar grade gambier (coin one end). The purest form of gambier extract is solid in the form of a flat square Biscuit. Purer forms of gambier tend to show lower concentrations of ash and higher concentrations of catechin.
In India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – gambier is normally used in the manufacturing of “kattha”. Kattha – which is basically purified catechin, is used in the preparation of a post meal digestive and masticatory called ‘paan’ and ‘pan masala’. Kattha is normally extracted from the pith of the ‘khairwood’ tree found in these countries. However, as sales of khairwood have been restricted with a view to conserve the environment, gambier-another rich source of catechin – is used as a substitute in the extraction process.
Gambier is also used occasionally in pharmaceutical formulations. Gambier is sedative and is used to dilate peripheral blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Gambier can therefore be used to treat hypertension, dizziness and relieve muscle spasms. Gambier also used in formulations to decrease unusual bleeding. It can also treat chronicdiarrhea and be used as a gargle for sore throats.
Gambier is also used in production of environmentally friendly leather dyer.