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The mangosteen fruit is a small, purple fruit about the size of a tangerine, with a rind similar in texture to the pomegranate. In Thailand, it is known as the “queen of fruits” and is prized the world over for its taste and medicinal value.
In India, Thailand and China, preparations made from the rind are used as antimicrobial and anti-parasitic treatments for dysentery and other forms of infectious diarrhea. The plant’s astringent qualities are also useful in preventing dehydration and the loss of essential nutrients from the gastrointestinal tract of diarrhea sufferers. The Thai people take advantage of the mangosteen’s antimicrobial properties to treat infected wounds, tuberculosis, malaria, urinary tract infections, syphilis, and gonorrhea.
It has long been recognized in Asia that the mangosteen has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and is therefore effective in treating eczema, hyperkeratosis and related skin conditions such as psoriasis and seborrhea. In the Caribbean, a tea made from mangosteen, known as “eau de Creole,” is used as a tonic for fatigue and low energy states, universal symptoms experienced by millions around the world. Brazilians use a similar tea as a de-worming agent and digestive aid. In Venezuela, parasitic skin infections are treated with poultices of the fruit rind, while Filipinos employ a fruit preparation to control fever. While known in many parts of the world for centuries, the mangosteen fruit is only now being discovered by North Americans. This is unusual considering that North America is often the first area to benefit from medical discoveries; in this case, however, it is one of the last. Fortunately, knowledge of the mangosteen is spreading quickly, and it is becoming known in countries far removed from where it is grown.
Named for the French priest and explorer Laurentiers Garcin (1673-1751), the mangosteen is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia. Its scientific name is Garcinia mangostana and today the fruit tree is cultivated in the tropical regions of both the eastern and western hemispheres with commercial plantations in Thailand, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. A number of other countries in both Asia and South and Central America are smaller producers of the fruit. Prized because of its excellent flavor, in Asia it is called “the queen of fruits” and in the French Caribbean “the food of the Gods.” Garcinia mangostana belongs to the family Guttiferae which includes over 800 species of plants. Two of the relatives of the mangosteen, Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort) and Garcinia cambogia have already become well known as medicinal plants. What is amazing is that the mangosteen (no connection with the mango) has never been utilized for its multiple health benefits in North America or Europe despite history and popularity as a folk remedy in Asia, Africa, and South America. Until recently, it has been one of nature’s best-kept secrets. From the time a seed is planted, a mangosteen tree takes from 7 to 10 years to yield fruit. Even though the mangosteen is one of the slowest growing of the tropical fruit trees, it can reach 75 feet in height.