WRITTEN BY TRANG TRAN AND DR. SWATHIMangosteen is typically grown in Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Sweet and sour in taste, it is a round, purple color fruit with the white edible portion of the fruit residing within the thick skin or husk (also called pericarp). Because the top of the fruit resembles a crown and the fruit is attributed to a plethora of medicinal benefits, it is designated as “The Queen of Tropical Fruit.” In folk medicines, mangosteen has been used for the treatment of diarrhea, wound infection, and fever. Found in the pericarp of mangosteen, the main bioactive compounds are xanthones with the majority being alpha-mangostin and gamma-mangostin. Compared to the edible flesh of the fruit that is contained within the pericarp, the pericarp contains 10 times more phenolic compounds and 20 times more antioxidant activity.
What are the medicinal properties of mangosteen?
Lab and animal research suggest that xanthones have anticancer effects on models of mammary, mouth, liver, lung, stomach, adrenal, prostate, and colon cancers. Mangostins have been shown to preferentially target cancer cells over non-cancerous cells, thereby indicating that they may avoid conventional chemotherapy-induced side effects. Furthermore, alpha-mangostin has been shown to prevent skin damage and wrinkling due to ultraviolet B radiation in hairless mice.
Mangosteen extract has been shown to possess antibacterial properties; more specifically, it was demonstrated that gauze coated with both sodium alginate and mangosteen extract was able to inhibit Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacteria found on the skin. Furthermore, mangosteen extract has been used as an antibacterial component in an adhesive paste to prevent dental caries as well as in a topical gel to cure chronic gum disease. Besides killing oral pathogens, mangosteen extract has been shown to reduce inflammation of the gums in rats.
Remarkably, alpha-mangostin was found to be active against several strains of bacteria that are resistant to some antibiotics. Moreover, alpha-and gamma-mangostins were found to possess antifungal properties.
Various xanthones such as garcinone E in mangosteen demonstrated strong inhibitory activity against an enzyme that is highly expressed in obese human fat cells, thereby decreasing the synthesis of long-chain fatty acids. Additionally, in a test tube study, mangosteen extract reduced the activity of digestive enzymes that are responsible for breaking down starch into glucose.
Alpha and gamma-mangostins possess antioxidant activity with the alpha-mangostin being claimed to prevent oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL), known as the “bad cholesterol,” thus being a potent substance for preventing the buildup of cholesterol in the wall of the blood vessel.
Notably, after a 30-day trial, the group given the mangosteen-based drink formula showed 15% more antioxidant capacity in the bloodstream than did the placebo group. Mangosteen pericarp has also been investigated as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease due to the antioxidant activity. Since psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are associated with oxidative stress, the antioxidant property of Mangosteen pericarp extract offers the therapeutic potential as an adjunctive psychiatric treatment.
Inflammation is linked with infections, diabetes, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases. Lab and animal studies suggest that xanthones inhibit inflammatory responses by decreasing the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and inflammatory signaling pathways. One study done in humans showed that the inflammatory biomarker significantly decreased in the group given the mangosteen-based drink without any side effects on immune, liver, and kidney functions for long-term consumption.
The bottom line
Overall, the medicinal properties found in the pericarp of mangosteen have been attributed to the bioactive compounds known as xanthones. Although there is a paucity of human data, lab and animal research demonstrate that mangosteen could potentially be a promising therapeutic agent for many diseases.
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This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Trang Tran. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon.