What is Kokum?

Kokum (botanical name: Garcinia indica) is a tropical tree found in the rainforests of the western ghats of India.

The tree bears beautiful deep red/purple fruits also known as Mangosteen.

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These fruits are native to northern Mumbai and southern regions of India and are similar in taste to a childhood favourite of mine, tamarind.

Just like tamarind it has a tangy, salty, sweet taste and is used to flavour dishes in Indian cuisine.

More than just a fruit

This tropical fruit has more than culinary uses it is also prized in the eastern world for its medicinal benefits in Ayurvedic remedies.

Research has also shown some potential health benefits of Kokum including: A role in weight maintenance, a cancer preventative and a role in brain and cardiovascular health. However these claims are yet to be confirmed with further research and clinical trials in humans.

Kokum in Ayurveda Medicine

Ayurveda is the sanskrit word meaning ‘life knowledge’.

Ayurvedic practitioners have believe Kokum to possess healng properties which they have used in remedies for many years.

Ayurvedic remedies are used to aid health and wellness and are even believed to cure certain ailments.

Some uses of Kokum in Ayurveda medicine include: prevention of infection, treatment for ear infections, treatment for ulcers, arthritis pain and digestive health including treatment for constipation and diarrhoea.

Kokum in conventional medicine

Kokum has a long way to go into terms of proving its usefulness in health and disease in humans.

However, research carried out at the institute of science and the Bhabha Atomic research centre in Mumbai, India has shown Kokum to possess greater antioxidant properties compared to other spices. It was shown to suppress reactive oxygen species in rats, which provoked thought into potential role in cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers disease and brain health in humans.

The main active ingredient in Kokum is Garcinol which has antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties shown to prevent oxidative damage to neurons in the brain and allowing growth of new neurons.

It has also proven affective in killing the H.pylori bacteria which causes ulcers.

kokum benefits_2Kokum as an anti-cancer agent?

Research undertaken at the Wayne State University, Michigan and the Patil University of Pharmaceutical Science and Research in Pune, India has shown some exciting evidence of the potential role of Garcinol as an anti-cancer agent as some in-vitro and in-vivo studies have shown Garcinol to have potent antioxidant properties which has proven affective in scavenging free radicals causing oxidative stress and inflammation (which are characteristic of cancers).

The action of Garcinol has shown inhibition in growth of various types of cancers including: pancreatic, prostate, leukaemia, breast and colon. This exciting new evidence is yet to be proven in humans.

Can Kokum aid weight loss?

You may find Kokum herbal supplements claiming they can help you to lose weight – But how true is this?

Kokum contains hydroxycitric acid (HCA).

HCA is a competitive inhibitor of ATP citrate lyase within the citric acid cycle (a biochemical process in our bodies which makes energy from the oxidation of acetyl-CoA derived from carbohydrates, fats and proteins).

This sparked thought into HCA as potential modulator in lipid metabolism and as a potential anti-obesity agent. So this idea was researched.

Research for a potential anti-obesity agent

A study that was published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association, concluded that HCA had no affect on weight loss or reduction in fat mass on the other hand, another study has shown HCA affective in maintaining satiety (Westertern-Plantenga and Kravacs).

The research and evidence of HCA’s role in weight weight loss is some what conflicting however it generally doesn’t support HCA as an effective weight loss agent.

Importantly, it should also be noted that HCA may increase gastrointestinal adverse affects therefore it is contra-indicated in people with disease of the gastrointestinal tract.

Cosmetic uses

Kokum is not just limited to its medical and culinary uses!

Did you know that Kokum butter serves a purpose as a moisturising cream for supple skin? – It can be used as an emollient similar to Shea and Cocoa butter.

The versatile Kokum butter can also been seen trending in common cosmetics such: soaps, conditioners and also lipsticks!

Kokum really is a fruit of all trades! Although its full potential and benefits are yet to be unlocked and proven in humans – perhaps we are on to something good? Have you tried this exotic fruit before? Tell me what you think!

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