Garcinia mangostana

Garcinia mangostana
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Garcinia mangostana

Many tropical plants have interesting biological activities with potential therapeutic applications. Garcinia mangostana Linn. (GML) belongs to the family of Guttiferae and is named “the queen of fruits”. It is cultivated in the tropical rainforest of some Southeast Asian nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Thailand. People in these countries have used the pericarp (peel, rind, hull or ripe) of GML as a traditional medicine for the treatment of abdominal pain, diarrhea, dysentery, infected wound, suppuration, and chronic ulcer.

Experimental studies have demonstrated that extracts of GML have antioxidant, antitumoral, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral activities. The pericarp of GML is a source of xanthones and other bioactive substances. Prenylated xanthones isolated from GML have been extensively studied; some members of these compounds possess antioxidant, antitumoral, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Xanthones have been isolated from pericarp, whole fruit, heartwood, and leaves. The most studied xanthones are α-, β-, and γ-mangostins, garcinone E, 8-deoxygartanin, and gartanin. The aim of this review is to summarize findings of beneficial properties of GML’s extracts and xanthones isolated from this plant so far.


Garcinia mangostana L.

One of the most praised of tropical fruits, and certainly the most esteemed fruit in the family Guttiferae, the mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana L., is almost universally known or heard of by this name. There are numerous variations in nomenclature: among Spanish-speaking people, it is called mangostan; to the French, it is mangostanier, mangoustanier, mangouste or mangostier; in Portuguese, it is mangostao, mangosta or mangusta; in Dutch, it is manggis or manggistan; in Vietnamese, mang cut; in Malaya, it may be referred to in any of these languages or by the local terms, mesetor, semetah, or sementah; in the Philippines, it is mangis or mangostan. Throughout the Malay Archipelago, there are many different spellings of names similar to most of the above.

The fruit, capped by the prominent calyx at the stem end and with 4 to 8 triangular, flat remnants of the stigma in a rosette at the apex, is round, dark-purple to red-purple and smooth externally; 1 1/3 to 3 in (3.4-7.5 cm) in diameter. The rind is 1/4 to 3/8 in (6-10 mm) thick, red in cross-section, purplish-white on the inside. It contains bitter yellow latex and a purple, staining juice. There are 4 to 8 triangular segments of snow-white, juicy, soft flesh (actually the arils of the seeds). The fruit may be seedless or have 1 to 5 fully developed seeds, ovoid-oblong, somewhat flattened, 1 in (2.5 cm) long and 5/8 in (1.6 cm) wide, that cling to the flesh. The flesh is slightly acid and mild to distinctly acid in flavor and is acclaimed as exquisitely luscious and delicious.

Despite early trials in Hawaii, the tree has not become well acclimatized and is still rare in those islands. Neither has it been successful in California. It encounters very unfavorable soil and climate in Florida. Some plants have been grown for a time in containers in greenhouses. One tree in a very protected coastal location and special soil lived to produce a single fruit and then succumbed to winter cold.

Despite the oft-repeated Old World enthusiasm for this fruit, it is not always viewed as worth the trouble to produce.

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In Jamaica, it is regarded as nice but overrated; not comparable to a good field-ripe pineapple or a choice mango.

It is limited in Malaya to elevations below 1,500 ft (450 m). In Madras it grows from 250 to 5,000 ft (76-1,500 m) above sea-level. Attempts to establish it north of 200 latitude have all failed.

It ordinarily requires high atmospheric humidity and an annual rainfall of at least 50 in (127 cm), and no long periods of drought. In Dominica, mangosteens growing in an area having 80 in (200 cm) of rain yearly required special care, but those in another locality with 105 in (255 cm) and soil with better moisture- holding capacity, flourished.

Inasmuch as the percentage of germination is directly related to the weight of the seed, only plump, fully developed seeds should be chosen for planting. Even these will lose viability in 5 days after removal from the fruit, though they are viable for 3 to 5 weeks in the fruit. Seeds packed in lightly dampened peat moss, sphagnum moss or coconut fiber in airtight containers have remained viable for 3 months. Only 22% germination has been realized in seeds packed in ground charcoal for 15 days. Soaking in water for 24 hours expedites and enhances the rate of germination. Generally, sprouting occurs in 20 to 22 days and is complete in 43 days.

Because of the long, delicate taproot and poor lateral root development, transplanting is notoriously difficult. It must not be attempted after the plants reach 2 ft (60 cm). At that time the depth of the taproot may exceed that height. There is greater seedling survival if seeds are planted directly in the nursery row than if first grown in containers and then transplanted to the nursery. The nursery soil should be 3 ft (1 m) deep, at least. The young plants take 2 years or more to reach a height of 12 in (30 cm), when they can be taken up with a deep ball of earth and set out. Fruiting may take place in 7 to 9 years from planting but usually not for 10 or even 20 years.

Conventional vegetative propagation of the mangosteen is difficult. Various methods of grafting have failed. Cuttings and air-layers, with or without growth-promoting chemicals, usually fail to root or result in deformed, short-lived plants. Inarching on different rootstocks has appeared promising at first but later incompatibility has been evident with all except G. xanthochymus Hook. f. (G tinctoria Dunn.) or G. lateriflora Bl., now commonly employed in the Philippines.

In Florida, approach-grafting has succeeded only by planting a seed of G. xanthochymus about 1 1/4 in (3 cm) from the base of a mangosteen seedling in a container and, when the stem of the G. xanthochymus seedling has become 1/8 in (3 mm) thick, joining it onto the 3/16 to 1/4 in (5-6 mm) thick stem of the mangosteen at a point about 4 in (10 cm) above the soil. When the graft has healed, the G. xanthochymus seedling is beheaded. The mangosteen will make good progress having both root systems to grow on, while the G. xanthochymus rootstock will develop very little.

Some of the most fruitful mangosteen trees are growing on the banks of streams, lakes, ponds or canals where the roots are almost constantly wet. However, dry weather just before blooming time and during flowering induces a good fruit-set.

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Where a moist planting site is not available, irrigation ditches should be dug to make it possible to maintain an adequate water supply and the trees are irrigated almost daily during the dry season.

In Malaya and Ceylon, it is a common practice to spread a mulch of coconut husks or fronds to retain moisture. A 16-in (40-cm) mulch of grass restored trees that had begun dehydrating in Liberia. It has been suggested that small inner branches be pruned from old, unproductive trees to stimulate bearing. In Thailand, the tree is said to take 12 to 20 years to fruit. In Panama and Puerto Rico trees grown from large seed and given good culture have borne in six years.

Cropping is irregular and the yield varies from tree to tree and from season to season. The first crop may be 200 to 300 fruits. Average yield of a full-grown tree is about 500 fruits. The yield steadily increases up to the 30th year of bearing when crops of 1,000 to 2,000 fruits may be obtained. In Madras, individual trees between the ages of 20 and 45 years have borne 2,000 to 3,000 fruits. Productivity gradually declines thereafter, though the tree will still be fruiting at 100 years of age.

Ripeness is gauged by the full development of color and slight softening. Picking may be done when the fruits are slightly underripe but they must be fully mature (developed) or they will not ripen after picking. The fruits must be harvested by hand from ladders or by means of a cutting pole and not be allowed to fall.

Ripe mangosteens keep well for 3 to 4 weeks in storage at 40º to 55º F (4.44º-12.78º C). Trials in India have shown that optimum conditions for cold storage are temperatures of 39º to 42º F (3.89º-5.56º C) and relative humidity of 85 to 90%, which maintain quality for 49 days. It is recommended that the fruits be wrapped in tissue paper and packed 25-to-the-box in light wooden crates with excelsior padding. Fruits picked slightly unripe have been shipped from Burma to the United Kingdom at 50º to 55º F (10º-12.78º C). From 1927 to 1929, trial shipments were made from Java to Holland at 37.4º F (approximately 2.38º C) and the fruits kept in good condition for 24 days.

In Puerto Rico, thread blight caused by the fungus, Pellicularia koleroga, is often seen on branchlets, foliage and fruits of trees in shaded, humid areas. The fruits may become coated with webbing and ruined. In Malaya, the fungus, Zignoella garcineae, gives rise to "canker"–tuberous growths on the branches, causing a fatal dying-back of foliage, branches and eventually the entire tree. Breakdown in storage is caused by the fungi Diplodia gossypina, Pestalotia sp., Phomopsis sp., Gloeosporium sp., and Rhizopus nigricans.

The fleshy segments are sometimes canned, but they are said to lose their delicate flavor in canning, especially if pasteurized for as much as 10 minutes. Tests have shown that it is best to use a 40% sirup and sterilize for only 5 minutes. The more acid fruits are best for preserving. To make jam, in Malaya, seedless segments are boiled with an equal amount of sugar and a few cloves for 15 to 20 minutes and then put into glass jars. In the Philippines, a preserve is made by simply boiling the segments in brown sugar, and the seeds may be included to enrich the flavor.

The seeds are sometimes eaten alone after boiling or roasting.

The rind is rich in pectin.

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After treatment with 6% sodium chloride to eliminate astringency, the rind is made into a purplish jelly.

Garcinia mangostana

The Garcinia mangostana tropical fruit from Asia comes from a tree that grows nearly twenty-three meters in height and can take up to ten years of cultivation to bear fruit. It has been used by tens of thousands of people for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.

Chinese medical accounts mention this exquisite fruit dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.-1644 A.D.) It is not only claimed by some to be the best tasting fruit in the world, but is also recommended in preventive maintenance of the body. Garcinia mangostana or Mangosteen as used interchangeably here for simplicity is rich in antioxidants, and contains forty-three of the possibly two hundred xanthones found in nature. Xanthones support and enhance our body's immune system.

In India, Thailand, China, and other parts of Asia preparations made from the mangosteen's bitter but valuable rind are used as anti-microbial and anti-parasitic treatments for dysentery and other forms of infectious diarrhea. The mangosteen plant’s astringent qualities are also used in preventing dehydration and the loss of essential nutrients from gastrointestinal tract of diarrhea sufferers.

In the United States, Garcinia mangostana is taken by mouth and is supposed to support microbiological balance, help the immune system, improve joint flexibility, and provide mental support. Some proponents claim that Mangosteen can help in tuberculosis and a host of other illnesses.

It has been long recognized in Asia that the garcinia mangostana fruit along with its leaves and bark of the tree has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and is therefore effective in treating eczema, hyperkeratosis and related skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrhea. In the Philippines, and in areas where this magnificent and valuable fruit is grown, the mangosteen rind may be steeped in water to make tea, while others boil the leaves and bark of the tree to make a medicinal drink, or to mix with other herbs to apply to wounds. The roots may be boiled to make a drink for women with menstrual problems. In the Caribbean, a tea made from mangosteen, known as “Eau de Creole”, is used as a tonic for fatigue and low energy states, a universal symptom experienced by millions of people around the world. Brazilians use a similar tea as a de-worming agent and digestive aid. In Venezuela, parasitic skin infections are treated with poultices of the mangosteen fruit rind while a fruit preparation to control fever is employed in the Philippines. Additional studies in Japan and India found that the mangosteen fruit possessed effective anti-inflammatory capabilities. It is also said that the xanthones found throughout Mangosteen have the ability to prevent atherosclerosis, which involve the hardening of the arteries.

While the healing property of Garcinia mangostana is known in many parts of the world for centuries, it is only recently that it is being discovered by North Americans. It is ironic that North America being the first to benefit from medical discoveries will turn out to be one of the last in discovering Garcinia's phenomenal cure for a multitude of ailments. Fortunately, word about this fabulous fruit is spreading quickly via the internet, and Garcinia mangostana is becoming known in countries far removed from where it is grown.

In Western Society, although currently there is no reliable evidence that mangosteen juice, puree, or bark is effective as a treatment for cancer in humans, its fruit has been shown to be rich in antioxidants.

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Very early studies in the lab suggest that Mangosteen may have promise as a treatment to be applied to the skin for acne. While there simply hasn’t been enough studies conducted on Garcinia mangostana that can conclusively assess its medical power, early small studies in the lab and on rats suggest that further research should be done to find out if it can help with cancer prevention in humans. Extracts of garcinia mangostana have shown in lab tests that they can stop certain bacteria and fungi from growing. One lab study suggested that mangosteen extract inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria. However, it has not been tested on people to find out if mangosteen helps acne in humans. In a lab dish, it also showed activity that slowed the growth of certain cancer cells. A small study on cancer inhibition in rats suggested that the rind of the mangosteen may reduce the risk of cancer cell growth in the bowel. Garcinia mangostana's cancer inhibitory effect has not been tested in humans. If there any possible problems or complications, no ill effects have been reported to date ( ). Incidently, tests have been done on human breast cancer cell line where these investigations suggested that the methanolic extract from the pericarp of Garcinia mangostana had strong antiproliferation, potent antioxidation and induction of apoptosis. Thus, it indicates that the pericarp substance of the mangosteen can show different activities and has potential for cancer chemoprevention which were dose dependent as well as exposure time dependent.

As with all plants, allergies may be possible. Because of antioxidant effects, mangosteen supplements might interfere with radiation therapy or other forms of chemotherapy, possibly making these treatments less effective. While this is only a theory, people getting treatment for cancer should speak with their doctors before taking this supplement. Other interactions are not well described.

Although many believe that mangosteen juice may aid in the maintenance of intestinal prosperity, create a stronger immune system, increase cartilage and joint function, neutralize toxins, and increase respiratory health, the FDA observed that the product was being promoted to treat illness for which it had not been proved safe and effective. Hence, the FDA sent a warning letter to one overzealous mangosteen vendor that the product was being illegally marketed. Garcinia mangostana is categorized as food and not a drug. The FDA therefore may never have to prove the efficacy of mangosteen juice.

I myself have tried a mangosteen extract and was very pleased with the results. This happened at a time when I had pain on the underside of one leg deep inside the muscle slightly above the knee area. I had difficulty getting up when I squatted. Months went by without any improvement until one day I remembered learning about Mangosteen several months earlier at a house party and decided to try it. I was skeptical at first, but I had nothing to lose. I have always known about Mangosteen and was lucky to have eaten it many times on occasion. It is a rare and expensive fruit even in areas where it is grown. But I never gave thought to its medicinal qualities because I only ate the delicious pulp of the fruit itself, and people like me unaware of mangosteen's use threw away the bitter rind.

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Within a matter of about four hours after drinking a half a cup of a mangosteen extract mixed with local fruits which included pears and I think blueberries, I felt a click occur inside my pain afflicted leg. I then could literally feel the muscle in that leg relax very quickly, and the pain began to subside. Three days later I was completely cured.

I have seen the same near miracle result to a friend that had a swollen hand which he could not move because of the pain. Ceasar's hand looked like it had some sort of an infection. The skin on his hand was so stretched from being swollen that I was afraid for him. He played it down, but deep inside I hoped that it was not the onset of Gangrene . He needed help quickly but may not seek medical attention for it. I decided to give him a free bottle of mangosteen. I had just purchased this only bottle from a specialty herb and fruit store in New York City. My wife had intended to sell it for a small profit, but I assured myself that she would understand. The following week I met him at a park where we usually meet and again the result on his problem hand was impressive. His hand was no longer swollen, and was able to move it normally with only a tinge of pain remaining. I had asked him if he had finished the mangosteen bottle, his reply was: "I didn't want to drink all of it. I Wanted to Have Something Left Over for the Next Time". And I felt very happy for him.

Named for the French priest and explorer Laurentiers Garcin (1673-1751), the Mangosteen is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. Its scientific name is Garcinia mangostana and today this fruit tree is cultivated in the tropical regions of both the eastern and western hemispheres with commercial plantations in Thailand, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A number of other countries in both Asia and Central to South America are smaller producers of the fruit. Prized because of its excellent flavor, in Asia it is called “the Queen of Fruits” and in the French Caribbean “the Food of the Gods.” Garcinia mangostana belongs to the family Guttiferae which includes over 800 species of plants. Two relatives of the mangosteen, Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) and Garcinia cambogia have already become well known as medicinal plants. What is amazing is that the mangosteen (no connection with the mango) has never been utilized for its multiple health benefits in North America or Europe despite history and popularity as a folk remedy in Asia, Africa, and South America. Until recently, Mangosteen has been one of nature’s best-kept secrets. Even more amazing is that many people that live in areas where Garcinia mangostana is grown are also unaware or has only recently known about its inherent healing capability. From the time a seed is planted, a mangosteen tree takes from 7 to 10 years to yield fruit. Although Garcinia mangostana is one of the slowest growing of the tropical fruit trees, it can reach 75 feet in height when fully matured.

This fruit popularly known as Mangosteen, Mangustin, Mangostin, Mangustan, Manggista, Mangis, Manggis, and Mangusta has been said to be Queen Victoria's favorite fruit. It is also known as the "Food of the Gods" and "Queen of Fruits" in some areas around the world.