So, I know what you’re thinking… “What exactly is a Mangosteen, anyway?” Good question. The mangosteen is a small purplish fruit grown primarily in Southeast Asia and is called the Queen of Fruits. Queen Victoria was so jazzed by the fruit she would offer Knighthood to anyone who could bring her fresh supplies. The fruit grows on trees that reach anywhere from 20 to 80 feet tall. It is widely believed that the trees originated in the islands of Sunda and Molucca in the East Indies. The trees are extremely sensitive to climate and cannot tolerate temperatures below 40°F or above 100°F. All attempts at growing mangosteen trees in locations north of 20° latitude have failed.

It takes up to 9 years for the tree to mature before the first harvest can be taken but on average the first harvest takes place within 10 to 20 years. So if you were thinking of planting a tree in the backyard you might what to reconsider. Unless you live in the tropics of course and have the patience of a saint. You might what to also take into consideration the amount of time you can dedicate to picking fruit because each mangosteen must be picked by hand and the average full-grown tree yields about 500 ripe mangosteen fruits. But some trees can yield as many as 5,000 and the trees can provide fruit for up to 100 years. Not gardening for the faint of heart.

The scientific name is Garcinia Mangostana, and for thousands of years it has not only been eating as a delicious tropical fruit but also used in folk medicine for various ailments. The medicinal value is actually not in the fruit itself but in the rind. The hard leathery rind is ground into a powder, poultice or tea and used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, skin ailments, chronic pain, infection, fever and inflammation amongst others.

Researched for over 30 years by doctors overseas the fruit has only recently come to the attention of western medicine. Mainly because of powerful phytonutrients called xanthones which the mangosteen has in abundance. In the same way that the discovery of antioxidants and their importance in overall health has become common knowledge, the xanthone is beginning to show the same promise.

OK, so now we know what a mangosteen is, “But what on earth is a xanthone?” Glad you asked. Xanthones are a unique class of phytonutrients that are a biologically active group of molecules. Let’s try that in plain English shall we. They are supercharged antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Several of the mangosteen’s xanthones possess additional disease fighting properties active against infectious agents, cholesterol damage, cancer cells and more. Over 200 xanthones have been identified in nature. The mangosteen fruit contains a greater concentration of xanthones then any other botanical known to man; over forty xanthones identified so far. They are largely responsible for the multifaceted health-promoting properties of the fruit.

Over the past decade more and more diseases have been shown to be the result of two major causes – inflammation and free radical damage. Those crazy radicals! Free radical damage has the ability to damage and destroy organs, cells and even our DNA. Chronic inflammation, as well, has been linked to numerous illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, allergies, heart disease, and Crohn’s. Offering an abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties mangosteen has the potential to be beneficial in a large number of health conditions.

The mangosteen is not readily available as a fruit outside of Southeast Asia. But it can be purchased as a supplement. It is available as a powder in pill form or as a liquid supplement. In pill form look for brands that contain the whole fruit including the rind. Look to make sure you are getting all forty of the xanthones available. Pay attention to the process in which the company creates the powder. Sometimes the extraction process can cause more harm then good. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you put down your hard earned money.

If buying a liquid supplement check to make sure you are getting a whole fruit puree including the rind. Not something reconstituted from a powder extract or something that contains only the fruit itself without the rind. Check to see that whole fruit mangosteen puree is one of the primary ingredients. If they give a list of other juices and no mangosteen juice then it comes from a powdered extract. When you see such things on the label as “unique mangosteen peel extract” or “Mangosteen Fruit & Pericarp Extract” these are powdered extracts. Also be on the look out for products that say things such as “Alpha mangosteen”. The Alpha is only one of the over forty xanthones available from the mangosteen fruit and you’re not getting the full bang for your buck. Shop wisely and be health. And there you have it a brief history of the mangosteen the funny little purple fruit from Asia.