by Natalie K. Bell
Recently introduced in the United States in 2006, mangosteen is still a novel and not-easily-found fruit.
Mangosteen is an enigmatic fruit. It’s deep plum shell hides away the strikingly white and tantalizingly sweet sections of its insides. The U.S. outlawed the fruit from Southeast Asia until 2006 when the irradiation technology for pests came about. Articles have been written on its indescribable flavor that’s become increasingly popular as yet another super food (StarTribune
). I would try my hand at describing the taste, but having never tried this mysterious fruit, I am in the dark. I can, however, shed light on what it does for your body.
Xanthones: A New Antioxidant
Preliminary studies show xanthones put up quite an antibacterial fight against MRSA.
This is a chemical, polyphenol, and antioxidant found in the pericap of the mangosteen that’s being studied for its antibacterial qualities. An in-vitro (test tube) study tested the effects of xanthones on strains of MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus
) found that it had high antibacterial activity (Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
). That anti-bacterial quality isn’t just good for fighting illness either, another in-vitro study found that this chemical also works to combat acne bacteria (Medical Principles and Practice
A True Cancer Fighter?
Xanthones are also being tested for fighting cancer and combating free radicals (The New York Times
). An ongoing test study of xanthones found in the plant clusiaceae found that it was a significant antioxidant and free radical scavenger (American Chemical Society
). As for it’s anti-carcinogenic properties, one study in rats found preliminary results for its cancer-preventative qualities and theorized that future studies with look into how it might be used as a supplement to current anti-cancer therapies (International Journal of Molecular Sciences
). It’s important to stress, however, that this research has not been done on humans, and these are early findings.
Where’s the Science?
The research on mangosteen is preliminary and hasn't been tested on humans.
Unfortunately, there haven’t been many research studies done on mangosteen involving humans, or even too many on rats (Harvard Women’s Health Watch
). It’s been marketed as an immune system booster that can aid in everything from help eczema to treating acne — but it's important to have studies testing this on humans. Its usage in folk medicine means that it’s not likely to be harmful when used for skincare unless you have an allergy (Skin and Allergy News
One of the criticisms of mangosteen is that it’s a pricey way to get antioxidants that we’d do just as well to get from prunes (Better Nutrition
). While those antioxidants aren’t xanthones, the research is so preliminary in terms of its benefits that it’s too early to say mangosteen is more of a wonder fruit than other fruits. A lot of the hype comes from advertisements and the juice industry, but it hasn’t passed through the research route it needs to in order to be confirmed (Cancer Decisions
). The studies' conclusions call for more research and research on humans to determine exactly how well mangosteen works and what it does.
Maybe in the future, researchers will find mangosteen does everything is says it does. Until then, some skepticism is healthy.
Mangosteen is an exotic and novel fruit that’s just recently been allowed into the U.S. It has an indescribably sweet flavor and preliminary tests showing its potential benefits. But they’re just that — preliminary and potential. Until tests are done on humans and more scientific literature is written, the hype around mangosteen should be taken with a pretty sizable grain of salt. Perhaps researchers will find it to be the wonder fruit it’s boasted as, but until then, it’s good to remain a bit skeptical as to whether it’s as good as they say it is. It’s been used in folk medicine for a long time and is generally safe. But like any food, you might have an allergy and it could conflict with certain medications. It should be fine on skin barring allergies, but just make sure to chat with your doctor before eating it, drinking it, or using it as a supplement to ensure you won’t compromise other medical treatments.