Pectin is normally thought of as an item used in the kitchen not in the medicine cabinet. Those little packets sold during canning season to jam and jelly makers have healing properties that have been used for centuries. Pectin is a polysaccharide which made of (mostly) carbohydrates (such as sugars and alcohols) bonded together. Pectin is a common plant compound which serves to strengthen the plant by linking cells. Soft fruit such as cherries have only 0.4% pectin per fresh weight whereas hard fruit like apples have 1–1.5% per fresh weight. If you drop a cherry on the floor, it will squish. If you drop an apple on the floor, the pectin will protect it and it will merely bruise.

Pectin is primarily used as a jelling or thickening agent and stabilizer in food but the use in medicine is slightly different. In 1960, the first pectin infused bandage was introduced to cover stomas. The advantages were many: it was water soluble thus easy to remove without reactive chemicals, it adhered well to the skin, protected the skin from fistula discharge and it was gentle enough to be used for tender premature infants. Adding pectin to bandages increased over the decades. It is an intrinsic ingredient of hydrocolloid dressings which are intended for noninfected wounds. The gel that pectin contributes makes the bandage flexible and easy to adhere to both wet and dry wounds.

Pectin is a dietary fiber which is stable in both the small intestine and the stomach, only breaking down in the colon. This makes it a valuable prebiotic that also serves to reduce high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol. They protect gut health and strengthen the immune system which is why they are often present in formula for infants.

Most pectin is made from citrus rinds as citrus has up to 30% pectin from fresh weight. The pectin in stores is marked MCP (modified citrus pectin). As citrus rinds are not as easy to digest as apple fiber, pectin from apple is preferred for working with delicate digestive systems. Those with heavy metal toxins are usually referred to apple pectin for smoother detoxification. This process is called chelation therapy. It is a delicate process that involves monitoring by a qualified healthcare professional. No chelation therapy is approved by the FDA without a prescription.

It is easy to make your own pectin for kitchen use with sliced apples. Slice 3 pounds of crab apples or green apples with their skins left on. Place in a pot with 3 cups water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to cover them so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Bring the pot to a boil, strain out the solids and bring to a boil again for 20 minutes. It can be preserved by canning. As a general rule 1/2 cup of the pectin stock is roughly equivalent to about 1 tablespoon of dry pectin.