From Dr. Mercola:
For more than 7,000 years, people have been using arrowroot for many different applications. In more recent years, it’s commonly used as an alternative to cornstarch. Arrowroot powder is great as a thickener for everything from gravy to puddings to soups.
Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), which comes from the Marantaceae family of plants, isn’t a plant per se; it’s a nutritionally dense starch that can be extracted from the tubers of a number of perennial rhizomes. It’s not technically a root but rather an underground mass of roots or root system.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica,1 the name arrowroot is “sometimes applied to starches obtained from other plants and used as substitutes for true arrowroot.” The following list specifies some of the plant species that arrowroot is extracted from, depending on the source location:
The West Indies’ tulema arrowroot (Canna coccinea) East India arrowroot (Curcuma angustifolia) Brazilian arrowroot (Manihot esculenta) Otaheite or South Pacific arrowroot (Tacca pinnatifida) Portland or Dorset, England arrowroot (Arum maculatum)
Up until the mid-1980s, around 98 percent of arrowroot starch production originated in tropical regions such as the West Indies, but also in South America and Australia, for use in food for Britain, Canada, Europe and the U.S. It also has non-food uses, such as in paper manufacturing, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.2
In 1984, maranta rhizomes were collected in the West Indies and transported to a growing operation in Tifton, Georgia where, after harvesting, the starch content was found to be comparable in scientists’ assessments.
Manufacturers use extreme measures to produce the fine, silky powder known as arrowroot flour from the plants:
“Arrowroot powder is extracted from plants by a process of soaking the plants in hot water, peeling the tubers to remove their fibrous covers, mashing the tubers into a pulp and then washing the pulp to separate the starch.
The starch is then filtered and ground to powder. Cornstarch is usually made from genetically modified corn and is extracted by a harsh chemical process.”3
Arrowroot Is a Healthier Alternative to Cornstarch
Sometimes called a starch and other times a powder, arrowroot is more desirable as a thickener than often-genetically engineered (GE) flour, cornstarch or rice. Completely safe and with no side effects, it’s known to be safe even for baby formula (although there are far superior foods to feed an infant).4
“Cornstarch is a powdery substance made from (surprise!) corn and is used to thicken gravies and sauces. However, since the advent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), almost all cornstarch is made from corn that has been genetically engineered
You can buy non-GMO cornstarch but it is usually more expensive. The process of extracting cornstarch can be quite harsh as well, utilizing chemicals and high heat to transform the corn into the powder in the can.”5
Currently, many bakers use flour and cornstarch for cakes, bread and pasta. Anyone looking for an alternative recipe for any of these is likely to find arrowroot powder to be a superior ingredient.