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Review Article
Year : 2019   |  Volume : 11   |  Issue : 1   |  Page : 10-13  

Pharma additives of natural origin: A mini-review

Rishav Gupta, Sharib Raza Khan, Rohit Bhatia

Correspondence Address:Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Analysis, ISF College of Pharmacy, Moga, Punjab, India

Source of Support: Nil, Conflict of Interest: None Declared

DOI: 10.4103/2231-4040.197331


In the present time, a large number of natural additives are being used in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. Their demand is consistently increasing day by day due to several advantages offered by them. They are easily available, cheap, and stable and have very low incidence of toxicity. They are basically of plant and animal origins. The plant derived gums and mucilages comply with many requirements of pharmaceutical additives as they are non-toxic, stable, easily available, and associated with less regulatory issues as compared to their synthetic counterpart and inexpensive; also these can be easily modified to meet the specific need. In this article, authors have summarized various pharmaceutical additives of natural origin with their description and pharmaceutical applications.

Keywords: Additives, toxicity, gums, mucilages, volatile oils

How to cite this article:
Gupta R, Khan SR, Bhatia R. Pharma additives of natural origin: A Mini-review. Pharmaspire 2019;11(1):10-13


Pharmaceutical additive is a substance which is actually not the part of the product, but added deliberately to improve some properties of the product.[1] In the past recent years, plant derived additives have been used extensively in the manufacturing of pharmaceutical products. These additives may be polymers, mucilage, gums, resins, volatile oils, alkaloids, plant extracts, or various animal derived products.[2] These substances are generally added to the pharmaceutical preparation as coloring matter, flavoring agent, stabilizers, disintegrating agents, opacifying agents, emulsifying agents, absorption enhancers and antioxidants, etc.[3] The plant sources are renewable and we can reproduce them by harvesting at a large scale. Therefore, manufacturers have set their attention toward exploration of plant sources to obtain these additives. Hence, many waste products obtained from the food industry can be used to extract various herbal additives.[4] Animals and marine organisms are also very important sources of pharmaceutical additives.


Various additives which are used commonly in the pharmaceutical formulations fall under the following categories:[5]

  • Binding and diluting agents
  • Lubricating agents and glidants
  • Suspending and emulsifying agents
  • Film forming and coating agents
  • Coloring and flavoring agents
  • Preservatives and antioxidants
  • Taste enhancers and sweetening agents
  • Moisturizing agents, etc.
  • The natural additives are basically polymers which are almost produced by every plant. These polymers are biodegradable and do not produce any kind of adverse effect on human beings or environment
  • Chemically almost all the natural additives are composed of carbohydrates and hence they do not produce any kind of toxicity on administration
  • These additives are easily available and their cost of production is cheaper
  • There are no major regulatory issues for the use of natural additives.

The most important and widely used pharmaceutical additives obtained from natural sources have been described hereunder with their source of availability and pharmaceutical applications.


Gums are usually formed in the cell wall commonly by breakdown of cellulose when plant is damaged.[7] These have capacity to increase the viscosity of the solutions even when these are used in small concentrations. They are used as thickening agents, stabilizing agent, emulsifier, adhesive, and binding agents.[8] Various types of gums which are used as pharmaceutical additives are discussed Table 1 with their sources and pharmaceutical application.[9-15]


Mucilage is a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants and some microorganisms. It is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide.[16] Mucilage in plants plays a role in the storage of water and food, seed germination, and thickening membranes.[17] The common pharmaceutical applications of mucilages are summarized in Table 2: [9,14,18,19]

Volatile oils

These are also known as essential oils and chemically these are mixtures of hydrocarbons and oxygenated derivatives of these hydrocarbons. Basically, these are hydrophobic liquids containing a compound having aroma.[20] Common volatile oils obtained from the plants which are used in pharmaceutical preparations for specific purposes are summarized in Table 3. [8]

Pharmaceutical additives of animal origin

A large number of compounds are derived from animal sources which are used as additives in pharmaceutical preparations. The most commonly used and important compounds derived from animals are summarized in Table 4. [8,21]

Pharmaceutical additives from natural mineral sources

Minerals are abundant sources of pharmaceutical additives which are widely distributed in the nature in the form of rocks, clays, or ores. These must be firstly extracted, isolated, and purified with the suitable techniques before use. The most important of them are specified in Table 5 with their pharmaceutical application.[22]

Polysaccharides other than gums

There are other polysaccharides which are not basically gums and used at a large scale in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Various polysaccharides obtained from natural resources are represented in Table 6. [23-29]




Nature is an abundant source of pharmaceutical additives and these natural additives have found a huge application in pharmaceutical manufacturing in the current time. A wide range of natural additives has been already in use in preparation of pharmaceuticals. These substances are easily available, economic, least toxic, and offer several other advantages over the other synthetic compounds. The natural polymers can be easily modified to newer derivatives which are more effective according to the requirements. Hence, in future researchers should identify the newer sources and should isolate the newer pharmaceutical additives from them.

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