Purple mangosteen – What is it?


The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a tropical evergreen tree, believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas. The tree grows from 7 to 25 meters tall. The edible fruit is deep reddish purple when ripe. In Asia, the mangosteen fruit is known as the “Queen of Fruits”.
The outer shell of the fruit (pericarp) is rather hard, typically 4-6 cm in diameter, resembling a spherical, black cartoon bomb. Cutting through the shell, one finds a very pale, fleshy fruit 3-5 cm in diameter. Depending on the size and ripeness, there may or may not be pits in the segments of the fruit. The number of fruit pods is directly related to the number of petals on the bottom of the shell. Commonly, on average a mangosteen has 5 fruits (round up figure).

The shell of mangosteens looks tough and hard, but they are soft and easy to open. Care must be taken when opening the fruit as the red husk outside produces a purplish, inky juice that stains fabric, which can be almost impossible to remove (the reason why they are banned from some hotels in countries where they are available). To open a mangosteen, the shell is usually broken apart, not cut. Holding the fruit in both hands, press it gently (thumbs on one side, the other fingers on the other) until the shell cracks. It is then very easy to pull the halves apart along the crack and remove the fruit without staining.

Health benefits
For hundreds of years, the people of Southeast Asia have used the mangosteen, especially the rind, to ward off and treat infections, reduce pain or control fever, and treat various other ailments.
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.

Medicinal Uses: Dried fruits are shipped from Singapore to Calcutta and to China for medicinal use. The sliced and dried rind is believed to contain over 40 Xanthones, super anti-oxidants and is powdered and administered to overcome dysentery. Made into an ointment, it is applied on eczema and other skin disorders. The rind decoction is taken to relieve diarrhea and cystitis, gonorrhea and gleet and is applied externally as an astringent lotion. A portion of the rind is steeped in water overnight and the infusion given as a remedy for chronic diarrhea in adults and children. Filipinos employ a decoction of the leaves and bark as a febrifuge and to treat thrush, diarrhea, dysentery and urinary disorders. In Malaya, an infusion of the leaves, combined with unripe banana and a little benzoin is applied to the wound of circumcision. A root decoction is taken to regulate menstruation. A bark extract called “amibiasine”, has been marketed for the treatment of amoebic dysentery.

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