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Mangosteen

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated June 27, 2014

Mangosteen is a tropical fruit that is grown primarily in hot, humid climates of southeast Asia such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Mangosteen is a dark purple fruit about 2 to 3 inches in diameter – the size of a small peach or apple. Mangosteens are unrelated to mangos.

Instead of peeling it like an orange, a mangosteen is typically opened by pressing firmly or twisting the outside until it breaks apart.

The hard rind can be nearly one inch thick. At the center is the soft opaque white fruit, which resembles a head of garlic but tastes slightly sweet and tart.

In North America, fresh mangosteens can be found in Canada and Hawaii but they cannot legally be imported into continental United States due to concerns that they transport insects into the country.

Alternate names for mangosteen are Garcinia mangostana L., mangostan, manggis, mangis, and mang cut.

Brand names for mangosteen include XanGo, Thai-Go, Mangosteen Plus, and Mango-xan.

Uses for Mangosteen

People eat mangosteen as they would any other tropical fruit. In southeast Asia, the rind—or pericarp—has been used for medicinal purposes for generations. According to folklore, the rind was used to make a tea for conditions such as diarrhea, bladder infections, and gonorrhea. An ointment made from the rind was applied to skin rashes.

Today, the rind has been found to contain the compounds alpha-mangostin, beta-mangostin, garcinone B, and garcinone E, which are collectively called xanthones.

Laboratory studies suggest xanthones have anti-cancer effects when they are studied in test tubes. Mangosteen has also been found to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties in test tube studies.

Popularity of Mangosteen

Mangosteen was virtually unknown in North America until a Utah-based network marketing start-up introduced a mangosteen drink called XanGo in late 2002. XanGo is sold around the world through a network of independent distributors and many new mangosteen products have entered the market.

Although the "superfruit" properties are often attributed to the xanthone content, some of mangosteen's medicinal properties may be attributed to compounds called tannins in the rind. Tannins have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent properties, and are used for such conditions as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and skin conditions.

Tannins are ubiquitous in the plant world and are found in common, less expensive foods such as black tea, green tea, and cranberries.

Little is known about the side effects of mangosteen and whether mangosteen extracts will interact with certain medications. For example, xanthones are believed to be one of the active ingredients in the popular herbal anti-depressant St. John's wort. Xanthones have been found to inhibit serotonin-receptor binding and inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO). One study found that mangosteen xanthones may also have these effects on serotonin.

Safety

Research indicates that xanthones may interfere with normal blood-clotting. It's not known whether mangosteen xanthones may interact with blood-thinning medication such as warfarin and possibly lead to bleeding.

Studies suggest that higher doses of xanthones may depress the central nervous system in animals and cause sedation.

Xanthones may cause excess sedation when combined with other herbs or medication, and it may be toxic at higher doses. Human studies have not been conducted.

Sources

Chen IJ et al. "Effects of xanthone glycoside on ephedrine-induced biting behavior and motor activity." American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 21.1 (1993):79-84.

Jiang DJ et al. "Pharmacological effects of xanthones as cardiovascular protective agents." Cardiovascular Drug Reviews. 22.2 (2004):91-102.

Matsumoto K et al. "Preferential target is mitochondria in alpha-mangostin-induced apoptosis in human leukemia HL60 cells." Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 12.22 (2004):5799-806.

Nabandith V et al. "Inhibitory effects of crude alpha-mangostin, a xanthone derivative, on two different categories of colon preneoplastic lesions induced by 1, 2-dimethylhydrazine in the rat." Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 5.4 (2004): 433-8.

Sakagami Y et al. "Antibacterial activity of alpha-mangostin against vancomycin resistant Enterococci (VRE) and synergism with antibiotics." Phytomedicine. 12.3 (2005):203-8.

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