Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L.) is a tropical fruit said to offer a number of health benefits. Often touted for its antioxidant effects, mangosteen is sometimes referred to as a "superfruit."
Mangosteen is widely available in juice form. Mangosteen juice products typically include the fruit, rind and pulp of the fruit, which contains compounds called xanthones. Although some research indicate that xanthones may offer certain benefits, the health effects of mangosteen have yet to be extensively studied.
Uses for Mangosteen
In Southeast Asia, mangosteen rind has been used for medicinal purposes for generations. According to folklore, mangosteen rind was used to make a tea for such conditions as diarrhea, bladder infections and gonorrhea. An ointment made from the rind was applied to skin rashes.
Proponents claim that mangosteen can also help with the following health problems:
- chronic pain
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- irritable bowel syndrome
- Parkinson's disease
In addition, some proponents suggest that mangosteen may slow the aging process, aid in Alzheimer's prevention, increase energy, preserve eye health, stimulate the immune system, improve bone health and protect against heart disease.
Health Benefits of Mangosteen
To date, very few studies have tested the effects of mangosteen on human health. In experimental research, scientists have shown that mangosteen extract may possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-tumor properties. Additionally, preliminary research suggests that mangosteen extract may help shield the brain from the toxic effects of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease). There's also some evidence that applying mangosteen extract to the skin may help treat acne. However, it's important to note that what happens in a test tube may not occur in the human body.
In one of the few clinical trials testing the effects of mangosteen, researchers found that mangosteen may help boost the immune system. Published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2009, the study involved 59 healthy adults. For 30 days, study members took either a placebo or a mangosteen product containing vitamins and essential minerals. By the study's end, members of the mangosteen group had experienced a significantly greater improvement in immune response (compared to members of the placebo group). Mangosteen also appeared to reduce levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).
Despite claims that mangosteen can help fight cancer, there's no evidence to support the use of mangosteen in cancer treatment or prevention. In a 2006 report published in the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, scientists warn that cancer patients should use caution before consuming mangosteen products. Mangosteen can potentially interact with cancer treatments and also affect blood sugar levels, the report's authors noted.
Side Effects of Mangosteen
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 of Mangosteen
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.
Often sold in juice form, mangosteen extract is also available in capsules and powders.
Should You Use Mangosteen for Health Purposes?
Due to a lack of supporting research, mangosteen cannot be recommended for any health condition. It should also be noted that while mangosteen's health benefits are often attributed to the xanthone content, some of mangosteen's medicinal properties may result from other compounds found in the rind. Known as tannins, these compounds have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties. Tannins are ubiquitous in the plant world and are found in common, less expensive foods such as black tea, green tea and cranberries.
If you're considering using mangosteen for treating or preventing any health problem, talk to your doctor before starting.
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.
Obolskiy D, Pischel I, Siriwatanametanon N, Heinrich M. "Garcinia mangostana L.: a phytochemical and pharmacological review." Phytother Res. 2009 Aug;23(8):1047-65.
Pedraza-Chaverri J, Cárdenas-Rodríguez N, Orozco-Ibarra M, Pérez-Rojas JM. "Medicinal properties of mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana)." Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Oct;46(10):3227-39.
Sakagami Y et al. "Antibacterial activity of alpha-mangostin against vancomycin resistant Enterococci (VRE) and synergism with antibiotics." Phytomedicine. 12.3 (2005):203-8.
Tang YP, Li PG, Kondo M, Ji HP, Kou Y, Ou B. "Effect of a mangosteen dietary supplement on human immune function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):755-63.
Yeung S. "Mangosteen for the cancer patient: facts and myths." J Soc Integr Oncol. 2006 Summer;4(3):130-4.