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Ingredient of the month: Mangosteen

What is it?
Garcinia mangostana L is the fruit of the slow-growing tropical mangosteen tree. The fruit is the size of an apple, with a hard rind, and holds five to seven seeds surrounded by a sweet, juicy cover. In Asia, it is sometimes called the 'queen of fruits' in honour of its flavour and economic importance.

When was it discovered?
There are records of mangosteen trees being planted in Ceylon around 1800 and in India in 1881.

Where does it come from?
It is found in the ultra-tropical climes of Southeast Asia — Thailand, Kampuchea, southern Vietnam and Burma, throughout Malaya and Singapore, and the Philippines.

How is it beneficial?
It is extraordinarily high in antioxidant xanthones. One of these, the compound magnostin, has been shown to have antibacterial, antiseptic and fungicidal properties. The alpha and gamma mangostins appear to have seotonin and histamine reception blocking effects. Other health benefits of mangosteen's xanthones are yet to be proven, though early findings suggest that eating foods with a high ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), such as mangosteen, may help slow the processes associated with ageing in both body and brain.

What can be done with it?
The Chinese use the rind decoction to treat dysentery, diarrhoea, dystitis and gonorrhoea. In ointment form, it is applied to eczema and other skin disorders. Filipinos use a leaf and bark decoction to treat thrush, diarrhoea, dysentery and urinary disorders. The fruit rind is rich in tannin and rosin, and is used for tanning leather in China. Mangosteen twigs are used as chewsticks in Ghana. In the US, mangosteen is being marketed as a healthy juice, though as yet there is no scientific evidence to support health claims.

Industry insights from NBJ

The $8.4 billion U.S. Joint Health Products Market in 2005

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