Garcinia livingstonei

Herbs gallery - Imbe

Common names

  • African Mangosteen
  • Imbe
  • Livingstone's Garcinia
  • Lowveld Mangosteen

Imbe (scientific name Garcinia livingstonei) belongs to the genus Garcinia. This plant is native to a wide area in the tropical regions of Africa, ranging from Côte d'Ivoire in the east to Somalia, and in the south to South Africa.

Although Garcinia livingstonei is native to a large part of tropical Africa and is used as a food plant, it is still not very popular among the people. This is a small evergreen tree that grows up to a height of anything between 6 meters and 18 meters in height. While the plant is eaten sometimes, it is mostly cultivated as an ornamental plant. The flowers of this species appear in clusters on the stems. The fruit is small and has a vivid orange hue, measuring anything between 1 cm and 4 cm across. The fruits of this tree are berries with thin skin and a solitary large seed. These berries have a very sweet flavour, but somewhat acidic and encloses latex.

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Garcinia livingstonei leaves appear in converse pairs of whorls - each whorl containing three to four blue-green leaves that are oval shaped and measure anything between 6 cm and 11 cm in length and 3,5 cm and 5 cm in width. The flowers also appear in clusters on the stems. This plant is usually grown as an ornamental plant and sometimes consumed too.

The juice of the Garcinia livingstonei fruits is said to stain clothes very badly. The juice is generally consumed fresh, but sometimes also used in beverages. This plant can be grown quite easily in the southern parts of Florida.

Commercial cultivation of imbe is undertaken for the plant's small berry-like fruits. Each fruit encloses only one large seed and a watery pulp. The fruits have a sweet flavor similar to the apricot, but they are somewhat acidic and enclose latex. Usually, imbe trees are grown in the form of ornamental plants as they look wonderful when placed in fruit baskets along with the fruits. However, they are also consumed sometimes.

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Imbe fruits are available in the markets during the period from June to October. These fruits generally ripen during August. Imbe fruits are a little bigger compared to another variety of mangosteen - the lemon drop mangosteen (scientific name Garcinia madruno) which measures anything between 2 cm and 4 cm across. The lemon drop mangosteen is indigenous to the Malayan peninsula. The juice of these fruits can leave stains that are difficult to remove.

Imbe (Garcinia livingstonei) plants attract a variety of insects mainly because of the fact that the flowers of this tree are loaded with nectar. These insects play a vital role in pollinating the flowers. The fruits of this plant are also a favourite of many animals and they help in dispersing the seeds far and wide. The imbe fruit seeds are surrounded by a hard coating, which helps to protect the delicate embryo while the fruits are eaten and digested by the animals before exuding the seeds.

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Parts used

Bark, roots, flowers.


Mangosteens are popular for their delectable fruits and imbe, belonging to the same family, is no different. Though the fruits exude a yellowish sticky juice that can cause terrible stains, it is worth trying them. Aside from being grown as an ornamental plant and sometimes a food plant, imbe trees also have medicinal uses, especially in folk medicine. In fact, the root of this tree is dried and powdered for use as an aphrodisiac. The berry-like fruits can also be fermented to prepare a pleasantly tasting alcoholic beverage. You can find the recipes of preparing have a dozen beverages with imbe fruits in nearly all books on English country wines. You may use these recipes to prepare the wine with imbe fruits of your preference. Though the wood of imbe is vulnerable to borers, it can be utilized in the form of a general-purpose timber.

Extracts obtained from the imbe flowers and leaves possess antibiotic properties. An infusion prepared from the tree's roots is employed for treating abdominal pains, especially during pregnancy and also after child birth. The fruits of this plant are effective for curing mumps.

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Garcinia livingstonei (imbe) fruits are a natural source of guttiferone A. Basically, guttiferones are derivatives of polyisoprenylated benzophenone which slow down the cytopathic or cytopathogenic effects (structural changes caused in host cells due to viral invasions) of in vitro HIV infection. In East Africa, people use these fruits to prepare an alcoholic beverage.

The root and bark of Garcinia livingstonei possess therapeutic properties and are used for preventing development of cancer and even tuberculosis. The plant possesses antioxidant properties too. As a result, use of the various parts of imbe helps to put off damages caused by the detrimental free radicals. And, in this way, it helps to delay the onset of aging process, protect our tissues and organs from degenerating, particularly the different body systems as well as the mental function of the body, and makes the body resistant against all types of infections.

Imbe is also excellent for people who are conscious about their body weight. As the fruits of this tree contains dietary fiber, consuming them results in higher metabolism. Thus, incorporating the fruit in your weight-loss program would be ideal. In addition, imbe fruits are excellent for the health of your skin. They also possess the ability to lower the blood pressure and regulate the cholesterol levels, provide anti-inflammatory benefits and enhance the vitality of the body. All these properties together make imbe fruits a powerful preventive fruit that helps to keep of type-2 diabetes.

The fruits of Garcinia livingstonei are also beneficial for our immune system. Since they are rich in vitamin C content they help in antibodies production that help in combating germs and bacteria that are responsible for various diseases. In addition, it contains the B-complex vitamin folate which contributes significantly to the fetus development inside the womb. This makes imbe a wonderful fruit for pregnant women. Moreover, folate is also responsible for the formation as well as regeneration of the cells in our body. Imbe fruits are also beneficial for the health of the circulatory system.

Imbe is among the popular fruits found in the tropical regions of Africa. It is appetizing as well as juicy. This berry-like fruit encloses a remarkable list of essential nutrients that are necessary for the normal growth as well as development of a person. In addition, it is also essential for the general nutritional well-being of an individual. The calorie content of these fruits is fairly low (100 gm of the fruit delivers 62 calories) and it also does not contain cholesterol or saturated fats. At the same time, imbe is loaded with dietary fiber (100 gm of this fruit supplies us with roughly 13% of our RDA of dietary fiber).

Additionally, imbe is an excellent natural source of vitamin C, which is a potent water soluble antioxidant. Consuming these vitamin C rich fruits helps our body to boost its resistance against viral flu. At the same time, it helps in scavenging the detrimental and pro-inflammatory free radicals, thereby ensuring that we remain free from diseases.

Freshly picked imbe fruit is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins like thiamine, folate and niacin. These vitamins serve as cofactors and help our body in metabolizing proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

In addition, these fruits also enclose sufficient amounts of essential minerals such as manganese, copper and magnesium. This fruit also contains potassium, which is a vital component of the cells as well as body fluids that help in regulating the blood pressure and heart rate, thereby offering us protection from coronary heart diseases and stroke.

Culinary uses

Aside from consuming the fruit fresh, the pulp of imbe can be used to make excellent jams and jellies. In addition, the pulp of the fruit can also be used in milkshakes, fruit leathers and ice cream.

The succulent pulp of imbe is refreshing, acid-sweet and has a pleasant flavor. While you can eat imbe raw, the fruit can also be cooked along with porridge.

This fruit is loaded with carbohydrates (mostly sugars), but its mineral content is moderate.

Habitat and cultivation

In tropical Africa, the imbe (Garcinia livingstonei) is a conventional food plant. Imbe fruits have the potential to improve food security, enhance nutrition, foster rural development and, at the same time, promote sustainable land care.

Imbe plants grow best on deep sandy soils. However, these plants are also able to endure saline soil and, hence, they can grow well close to oceans. For long, the imbe tree has been known to be widely used in traditional medicine for treating various conditions. While the roots of this tree are used in the form of a natural aphrodisiac, the leaf and flower extracts are used as an antibiotic.

The wood of imbe tree is vulnerable to insects, borers or insect larvae that thrive on this wood.

This tree is mostly grown in the form of an ornamental fruit plant, but sometimes the fruits are also consumed. The fruits are also eaten fresh and used to make pleasant alcoholic beverages. The sticky juice of the fruits has a reputation of causing bad stains that are difficult to get rid of.

In order to enable the plants to bear fruits the male as well as female plants are needed. However, it is possible to graft the plants of both the sexes on one plant for the plants to bear fruits.

In the warmer regions of tropical Africa extending from Durban in the north to Somalia and Guinea in the south imbe plants are widespread. In the southern regions of Africa, this plant can be found spreading very far till the Limpopo Valley and Zambezi Valley. This vast area experiences varying degrees of rain (from roughly 200 mm to 1,000 mm in a year). Even the soil variety is different in this range. However, the temperature is almost uniform factor. The winters (where it exists) are quite warm, while the temperature during summers varies from hot to very hot. Imbe trees can endure all these conditions. However, these trees are very sensitive to cold. On the other hand, they can easily endure heavy rain as well as drought.

Imbe trees can be propagated very easily from their seeds. However, the germination process as well as the growth of the young seedlings is very sluggish. While the germination process may take anything between three to four weeks, the plants may be even less than a foot tall after growing for a year. Generally, it takes anything between five to six years for an imbe plant to bear fruits. You can graft superior varieties of imbe onto seedling rootstocks. In fact, most people employ this method to get the plants to bear fruits earlier. Alternatively, imbe (Garcinia livingstonei) plants can also be propagated by the air layering process.


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