Other common name(s): xango, mangostan, queen of fruits, numerous brand names
Scientific/medical name(s): Garcinia mangostana
Mangosteen is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia that is touted for its antioxidants, especially xanthones, a type of chemical in certain plants. Its fruit, including the rind and pulp, can be pureed together and is sometimes sold as a drink. Mangosteen juice products may also be mixed with other types of juice. Its rind may be dried and made into a powder, and substances are also extracted from its bark. Mangosteen products are also available in capsule and tablet form. They are sold in health food stores, on the Internet, and through individual independent distributors.
Despite the name, mangosteen is not related to the mango.
Although there is no reliable evidence that mangosteen juice, puree, or bark is effective as a treatment for cancer in humans, its fruit has been shown to be rich in anti-oxidants. Very early laboratory studies suggest it may have promise as a topical treatment for acne. Early small laboratory and animal studies suggest that further research should be done to determine whether it can help to prevent cancer in humans.
How is it promoted for use?
Mangosteen is promoted to support microbiological balance, help the immune system, improve joint flexibility, and provide mental support. Some proponents claim that it can help diarrhea, infections, tuberculosis, and a host of other illnesses. In countries where the tree grows, various parts of the plant are used by native healers.
What does it involve?
In the United States, mangosteen is consumed as a juice or purèe or taken by mouth in capsule or tablet, often along with other herbs, fruits, or plants. In Asia and the Philippines, the rind may be steeped in water to make tea. Some folk healers prepare an ointment or salve to apply to the skin for conditions such as eczema, injuries, and infections. Others boil the leaves and bark of the tree to make a medicinal drink or to mix with other herbs to apply to wounds. The roots may be boiled to make a drink for women with menstrual problems.
What is the history behind it?
Parts of the mangosteen tree, including the fruit and bark, have been used in folk medicine in Asian countries for many years. In the mid-1800s, a compound in mangosteen, mangostin, was identified as a xanthone, a type of anti-oxidant. Mangostin was found to have anti-inflammatory effects in rats in the late 1970s. Today, mangosteen is sold in the United States mainly through a network marketing system, in which independent distributors, rather than stores, buy and sell mangosteen juice. Many mangosteen products are also available from health food stores and on the Internet.
In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned one mangosteen vendor that the product was being illegally marketed. The FDA observed that the product was being promoted to treat illness, for which it had not been proved safe and effective.
What is the evidence?
Like many other plants, mangosteen extracts have shown in laboratory tests that they can stop certain bacteria and fungi from growing. One laboratory study suggested that mangosteen extract inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria. It has not been tested on people to determine whether it can help acne. In the laboratory, it also slowed the growth of certain cancer cells. A small study in rats suggested that the rind of the mangosteen may reduce the risk of cancer cell growth in the bowel. However, the ability of mangosteen to inhibit cancer growth has not been tested in humans.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
Only one case of a serious adverse event possibly related to mangosteen juice has been reported. Doctors described a daily user of mangosteen juice who developed lactic acidosis (acidic blood due to buildup of a byproduct of sugar metabolism). Because mangosteen juice is quite popular and most users do not develop lactic acidosis, the doctors suggest that this problem may have resulted from an interaction of this supplement with other drugs he was taking.
No other ill effects have been reported to date. As with all plants, allergies may be possible. Because of its antioxidant effects, mangosteen supplements may make radiation therapy or chemotherapy less effective. While this concern is based largely on theories of how cancer treatments work, it is supported by some recent studies. For this reason, people being treated for cancer should speak with their doctors before taking this supplement. Other interactions are not well described. Always talk with your doctor and pharmacist about all the supplements and herbs you are taking.
Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences.
More information from your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).
The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
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Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
Last Revised: 11/01/2008