In general, natural chewing gum contains primarily organic ingredients, such as cane sugar and chicle. Flavors can include peppermint, spearmint, and different berries, as well as citrus and cinnamon. Some types of gum include natural sugar alternatives for diabetics, as well as production that does not include common sources of food allergies such as nuts, eggs, and yeast. The use of organic flavors and sweeteners means these products do not usually last as long as other brands, but they can provide an alternative for people with food sensitivities.
Lack of Artificial Sweeteners
One of the most important benefits of natural chewing gum to many people is the fact that it does not include artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. Aspartame has a fairly controversial history in many countries, including the US and UK. It was approved as a sugar substitute by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US in 1974, though some people have claimed it can be linked with serious health issues. As of 2012, no reputable, peer-reviewed study has demonstrated any carcinogenic properties or other health issues for humans from aspartame, though some people still prefer to avoid it.
Some brands of natural chewing gum are designed for chewers with allergies and other dietary restrictions. They can be made free from lactose, gluten, and eggs as well as yeast and soy, all of which are common sources of allergic reactions in some people. Some companies also use "Fair Trade" products such as cane syrup, which they purchase from farmers at reasonable prices that ensure ongoing business for both parties.
The bases for many types of natural chewing gum are made from chicle. Chicle is a type of sap harvested from rainforest trees in Central America called sapodilla trees. The roots of its use in chewing gum can be traced back to the Mayans and Aztecs. Companies that use it help to support local economies in Central America, which assists with protecting sapodilla trees from clear cutting.
Certain sugar-free brands of natural chewing gum use a type of natural sweetener called "xylitol." Despite its strange name, which may seem synthetic, xylitol is harvested from various fruits and hardwood trees. It does not promote tooth decay, as many other sweeteners like sugar often do, and evidence suggests it actually helps strengthen teeth and fight the formation of plaque. While the amounts necessary for these benefits might not practically be received by chewing gum with xylitol, doing so at least avoids increasing tooth decay.
Disadvantages and Criticism
Due to the lack of artificial sweeteners and preservatives, many types of natural chewing gum do not keep their flavor very long. This is one of the most prevalent complaints leveled against various brands, and many people chew two or three pieces at once to make the flavor last longer. Chicle is quite firm and does not make a very pleasant base on its own, requiring additives to soften it. Many companies still use synthetic additives to form their gum base, which can diminish some of their "all natural" appeal.
Most brands of natural gum can be found in "health food" stores. Large mainstream grocery stores can also carry them, though this depends a great deal on local markets and what people want to buy. Shoppers can also use online retailers to find many of these brands, and some companies that produce natural chewing gum sell packs directly to consumers through an online storefront.