Adding mangosteen, a fruit native to Indonesia, to your diet is a very tasty way to better your health.
The mangosteen, technically the purple mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), is the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree native to Indonesia. About the size of a tangerine, it has an inedible deep reddish-purple rind when ripe. The fragrant white flesh inside is juicy, sweet, tangy, and somewhat fibrous, like a peach. Because of the tree’s susceptibility to cold temperatures, only a few trees have been successfully grown in the U.S., in extreme southern Florida. Most mangosteen fruit comes from Thialand, with some coming from similar climates in South America, such as Colombia.
Because the fruit itself is difficult to find here, most Americans get their mangosteen from juice, as the fruit doesn’t have a long shelf life after being removed from the tree. It is also becoming available in frozen or dehydrated forms. Some mangosteen juice products are made using the whole fruit, including the inedible purple exocarp, or rind. By including polyphenols extracted from the rind, additional phytochemical value is added, such as xanthonoids and tannins, both offering many health benefits.
The juvenile mangosteen fruit does not require fertilization. It grows on trees that reach anywhere from 20 to 80 feet, after about six to eight years of maturity. It grows in the shade of the canopy over several months. The chemistry of the exocarp contains several polyphenols, including xanthones and tannins that give it astringency, which discourages insects, fungus, bacteria, and animals while the fruit is immature. (http://www.mangosteen.com/historyandfolklore.htm)
The role of mangosteen in folk medicine
The leaves, bark, rinds, and fruit of the mangosteen have been used for thousands of years in Asian folk medicine. It was used to remedy things like diabetes, dysentery, fever, diarrhea, cystitis, skin infections such as eczema and psoriasis, wounds, and digestive system ailments. Often, a tea was made from the rind for internal use or a poultice was made for application to the skin.
Explorers to the Malyay Archipelago came across the mangosteen but had trouble transporting it back to their home countries due to the fragile nature of the extremely perishable fruit. The seed even dies if it is allowed to dry. Still, attempts were made to export the live plant before the 1800s. Needless to say, it took a very long time for the rest of the world to learn about mangosteen. The mangosteen fruit is sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Fruits.” Some believe this is because, as legend has it, Queen Victoria was brought some mangosteens from an explorer and was quite taken with them, though this has never been proven. Others believe it is because the health benefits of the fruit itself make it the “Queen of Fruits.” (http://www.mangosteen.com/historyandfolklore.htm) Still others claim the nickname comes from the fruit’s sweet, amazing taste.
Why scientists are interested in this superfood
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in mangosteen make it a valuable weapon in the fight against chronic disease. Extensive research on antioxidants has verified the value of consuming them to fight the free radical damage that occurs at the cellular level, contributed to aging, degenerative disease, and even cancer. Xanthones, found in mangosteen, are also known as adaptogens. They are antioxidants considered to be more powerful than those found in traditional sources of antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. (http://www.naturalnews.com/009179_mangosteen_fruit_cure.html)
Scientists have conducted numerous studies on the phytochemicals and nutrients in mangosteen for decades. Xanthones have been shown to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular diseases including heart disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), hypertension (high blood pressure), and thrombosis (formation of blood clots). This is likely due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, and vasorelaxant activities of the xanthones. Researchers have also found that some of the xanthone activity inhibits the causes of inflammation and acts as a pain reliever.
Laboratory research shows that mangosteen xanthones and xanthone derivatives inhibit the growth of various cancer cells, including: leukemia, liver, breast, colon, stomach, and lung, having anti-tumor activity. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22622784)
Mangosteen also has antibacterial properties, and has been shown to inhibit tuberculosis and staphylococcus aureus, an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” known to cause pneumonia as well as bone, skin, and bloodstream infections (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22494050). Ongoing research is being done on applications of mangosteen xanthones for asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
Mangosteen is available as a food in canned, frozen, or dehydrated form. Some specialty stores may have the fruit when it is in season. As a supplement, it can be found in capsule, tablet, and cream forms. It is most popular as a beverage, mixed with other juices or alone. Because of the power of the nutrients, it is a good idea to consult your health practitioner when adding it to your diet if you are on prescription medication, or have a delicate medical condition. Adding mangosteen to your diet is a very tasty way to better your health.