The mangosteen (scientific name Garcinia mangostana) is an evergreen tree found growing in tropical regions. This species is thought to be a native of Sunda Islands as well as the Moluccas in Indonesia. In addition, this tree has also been introduced to and is found growing in tropical countries like Sri Lanka, Colombia, in India's southern state Kerala, as well as in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Usually, a mangosteen tree grows up to a height of anything between 6 meters and 25 meters (19 feet and 82 feet). This tree bears fruits that are sweet as well as tangy, succulent and slightly fibrous. The fruit contains vesicles filled with fluid (something akin to citrus fruits). When the fruit is ripe, the color of its inedible rind changes to deep reddish-purple. The flesh of the fruit is fragrant and encloses seed of the size and shape of an almond.
Mangosteen fruits are consumed in the same manner as people would eat any other tropical fruit. People in Southeast Asia have traditionally used the rind (pericarp) of mangosteen for therapeutic purposes for several generations. Folklore has it that the rind of mangosteen was employed to prepare an herbal tea that was consumed for treating a number of conditions like bladder infections, diarrhea and even gonorrhea. The rind was also used to make an ointment that was applied topically to cure skin rashes.
Findings of initial studies have hinted that the extract obtained from mangosteen fruits may be useful in protecting against the toxic actions of a substance called amyloid beta, which forms plaques in the brain and is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Apart from this, there is some proof that topical application of mangosteen extract to the skin may aid in treating acne. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that the findings of a test undertaken in a test tube may not be replicated in the human body.
Xanthone is the most important constituent of the mangosteen fruit and the health benefits that this fruit offers are attributed to this compound. In all, there are more than 200 xanthones that have been identified in nature. Among these different xanthones, 20 are present in mangosteen fruit - mostly found in the fruit's rind (pericarp). These compounds are useful in lessening free radicals, thereby boosting the immune system.
Moreover, mangosteen fruits also enclose elevated amounts of the essential mineral magnesium, which aids in regulating the heart's electrical functioning, maintaining a healthy heart rate and keeping the blood pressure in check. It also helps to promote normal heart beat. This mineral is extremely vital for people enduring minor problems related to their circulatory system.
The health benefits offered by mangosteen fruit are extensive, especially for people who have been enduring various diseases associated with inflammation. Since inflammation inside the lungs passageways is responsible for different respiratory conditions, lessening inflammation can help to clear the airways and also ensure normal breathing. Hence, mangosteen fruit is beneficial for all who are suffering from different types of problems related to breathing.
According to one long-existing line of thought, reducing inflammation effectively and safely may be useful in preventing any further or graver health conditions such as respiratory problems, heart disease and even cancer. Aside this, prevention of inflammation may also be helpful for those who are enduring mobility issues owing to soreness and swelling of the joints. When inflammation is reduced it helps such people to feel better and also enables them to move without restraint.
Mangosteen fruit also encloses dietary fiber, which is beneficial for all those who have been suffering from problems related to digestion of foods. In fact, dietary fiber helps to control the digestive system better. When the digestive system is in sound health, it results in improved overall health, because several digestive issues have a negative impact on various other areas of the body. In fact, a healthy digestive system may also help to prevent many other health problems.
In Southeast Asia, people discovered long back that topical application of mangosteen pulp to minor cuts helps to stop bleeding, besides serving the purpose of an antiseptic. In present times, several mangosteen products are available commercially and these are supposed to heal many skin complaints, including acne.
Apart from mangosteen's potential health benefits discussed above, this fruit may also prove to be useful for people suffering from allergies. This health benefit of mangosteen is attributed to the fruit's ability to reduce inflammation. In addition, mangosteen also serves the purpose of a natural antihistamine. In addition, a section of people enduring eye diseases cannot take allergy medicines. Hence, they need to find alternative solutions that are effective for them and, at the same time, do not exacerbate their existing health conditions.
Another benefit of consuming mangosteen fruit is that it has very low calorie content. This aspect of the fruit helps in metabolic activities in our body. In other words, mangosteen has the potential to keep us lean and healthy, while increasing the body's energy levels. As discussed earlier, mangosteen also contains elevated levels of dietary fiber, which together with B-complex vitamins enclosed by the fruit, helps us to sustain a healthy weight by improving the metabolism safely and helping in further efficient functioning of the digestive system.
Various folklores suggest that earlier the rind of mangosteen fruit was employed for making an outstanding herbal tea that was used to effectively treat several conditions like diarrhea, gonorrhea and infections of the bladder.
Usually, mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is propagated from its seed. Vegetative propagation of mangosteen trees is very difficult. On the other hand, plants grown from seedlings are not only robust, but also bear fruits much earlier compared to plants propagated vegetatively.
The seeds of mangosteen are difficult to manage (recalcitrant) and, in strict terms, are not true seeds. On the contrary, they are defined as a nucellar (a cellular mass) asexual embryo. Since no sexual fertilization is involved in the formation of mangosteen seeds, the seedling is always genetically exactly the same as the mother plant. If the seeds are let to dry out, they die quickly. On the other hand, when soaked, the seeds germinate within 14 days to 21 days. The seedlings can be grown in small pots in nurseries for about two years.
When mangosteen trees have grown up to a height of anything between 25 cm and 30 cm (10 inches and 12 inches), they are usually transplanted outdoors in the field maintaining a distance of 20 meters to 40 meters (66 feet to 131 feet) between them. Following transplantation, the field is mulched with a view to keep weeds in check. Transplanting of mangosteen plants are undertaken during the rainy season, as the young trees are prone to be damaged due to drought. Since the young mangosteen trees require shade, it is effective to intercrop with banana, rambutan, durian, plantain or coconut trees. Usually coconut palms are planted in places that experience a prolonged dry season, while palms also offer shade to the fully grown mangosteen trees. Intercropping offers another advantage - it helps to suppress weeds in fields where mangosteen is cultivated.
If grown in areas where the temperature is under 20°C, the growth of mangosteen trees will be retarded. The perfect conditions for growing trees of this species so that they bear ample fruits is a temperature range between 25°C and 35°C along with a relative humidity of higher than 80%. These trees can withstand a maximum temperature range of 38°C and 40°C. However, even at this temperature range, the leaves and fruits of mangosteen are susceptible to sunburn and scorching. The trees cannot survive in temperatures below 3°C to 5°C. While the young mangosteen trees have a preference for elevated level of shade, mature trees possess the ability to withstand shade.
The root system of mangosteen trees is weak and it has a preference for going deep into the soil, properly drained with elevated moisture content and frequently found growing on the banks of rivers. The mangosteen trees adapt themselves well to sandy, limestone, alluvial soils - even sandy soils having low organic matter. These trees require properly distributed rainfall throughout the year and a dry season lasting for anything between three and five weeks.
It is worth mentioning here that mangosteen trees are sensitive to availability of water and fertilizer application. The amount of both is increased as the trees grow older. This holds true for trees grown in any region. Harvesting is undertaken when the pericarps turn purple. Hence, mangosteen is also known as purple mangosteen.
The rind or exocarp of mangosteen fruit is made up of an exceptional variety of vitamins, polyphenols, such as xanthones and tannins that protect these trees against insects, as well as various types of plant fungi and viruses that infest these trees. Often these polyphenols also protect the trees from animal predation.
Basically, xanthones are phytonutrients that occur naturally and are obtained organically from plants growing in specific regions, for instance the mangosteen trees.
It is believed that xanthones support several important bodily functions, for instance insuring the health of our immune system. Superior quality of mangosteen juice obtained from the fruits' rind as well as flesh contains high levels of xanthones.
Findings of test tube studies have revealed that mangosteen also possesses anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic attributes.
Usually, it takes anything between 6 weeks to 12 weeks for mangosteen fruits to ripen. Best quality mangosteen fruits can be obtained by collecting all fruits whose color has turned pale red in each two to three days. The fruits are collected manually and harvesters climb the mangosteen trees to pick the fruits. Alternatively, the harvesters also make use of bamboo poles have a V-shaped slash at their top for getting the fruits. The harvested fruits, which are light red in color, ripen in five days and their color changes to deep purple. This fruit has a thick rind, which becomes hard when the fruit ripens. Notwithstanding this, the fruits are susceptible to damages. In fact, even a fall of just 20 cm can smash up the fresh fruits. Hence, it is essential to handle these fruits with great care. Usually, mangosteen fruits are graded according to their size. Fruits that contain gamboge spots are removed or discarded. These fruits have a reasonably short shelf life - just about a week. Mangosteen fruits are sold in various ways - by weight, by piece or even by bundle.