The Purple Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), colloquially known simply as "the mangosteen", is a tropical evergreen tree, believed to have originated in the Sunda Islands and the Moluccas of Indonesia. The tree grows from 7 to 25 m (20–80 ft) tall. The rind (exocarp) of the edible fruit is deep reddish purple when ripe. Botanically an aril, the fragrant edible flesh can be described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavor and texture.
The Purple Mangosteen belongs to the same genus as the other — less widely known — mangosteens, such as the Button Mangosteen (G. prainiana) or the Lemondrop Mangosteen (G. madruno). Botanically, they are not related to the mango (Mangifera spp.), which belongs to the Anacardiaceae plant family.
Mangosteen is typically advertised and marketed as part of an emerging category of novel functional foods sometimes called "superfruits" presumed to have a combination of 1) appealing subjective characteristics, such as taste, fragrance and visual qualities, 2) nutrient richness, 3) antioxidant strength and 4) potential impact for lowering risk against human diseases.
The aril is the flavorful part of the fruit but, when analyzed specifically for its nutrient content, the mangosteen aril only meets the first criterion above, as its overall nutrient profile is absent of important content.
Some mangosteen juice products contain whole fruit purée or polyphenols extracted from the inedible exocarp (rind) as a formulation strategy to add phytochemical value. The resulting juice has purple color and astringency derived from exocarp pigments, including xanthones under study for potential anti-disease effects. However, as xanthone research is at an early stage of basic laboratory research and only preliminary evidence has been found for anti-disease activity, no conclusions about possible health benefits for humans are warranted presently.
Furthermore, a possible adverse effect may occur from chronic consumption of mangosteen juice containing xanthones. A 2008 medical case report described a patient with severe acidosis possibly attributable to a year of daily use (to lose weight, dose not described) of mangosteen juice infused with xanthones. The authors proposed that chronic exposure to alpha-mangostin, a xanthone, could be toxic to mitochondrial function, leading to impairment of cellular respiration and production of lactic acidosis.
I first discovered these unusual looking fruits in Thailand when I was a little kid. Looking like a small, round, burgundy, Thai eggplant, it did not look appetizing at all as a kid, but my mom insisted that I try it. She cracked open its hard little reddish-purplish shell and fed me the snow white aril inside... And I was hooked for life! Every time I traveled to Asia thereafter, I had to consume mangosteens at least once during the trip. The mangosteen … more