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. Its fruit, including the rind and pulp, can be pureed 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 laboratory and animal studies suggest that further research should be done to determine whether it can help to prevent or treat cancer in humans. As of 2014, no studies have been done in people with cancer.
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 many other illnesses, including cancer. 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 puree or taken by mouth in capsule, tablet, or powder, 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, although it hasn’t been tested to see if it would work in humans. In the laboratory, mangosteen extracts have also slowed the growth of certain cancer cells. And a small study in rats suggested that the rind of the mangosteen might reduce the risk of cancer cell growth in the bowel. Numerous other studies have been done that show promising results, but they’ve been done on cancer cells in the lab or in lab animals. The ability of mangosteen to inhibit cancer growth has not been tested in humans.
In regard to its health promotion claims, researchers looked at all the available scientific evidence in 2013 and concluded this:
Despite the numerous health claims on advertising sites for producers and retailers of products and beverages containing mangosteen, there is insufficient scientific evidence at this time to support the use of mangosteen-containing supplements.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
This product is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. Unlike companies that produce drugs (which must be tested before being sold), the companies that make supplements are not required to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they don't claim the supplements can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.
Some such products may not contain the amount of the herb or substance that is on the label, and some may include other substances (contaminants). In a 2013 study, a test of 44 samples found that fewer than half the herbal supplements tested contained any of the herb that was listed on the label. More than half the samples contained ingredients that were not on the label. This suggests that the 2007 FDA rules to assure the proper listing of supplement ingredients are not always followed. Even when they are, the rules do not address the safety of the ingredients or their effects on health.
Most such supplements have not been tested to find out if they interact with medicines, foods, or other herbs and supplements, or if they even contain the ingredients on their labels. Although some reports of interactions and harmful effects may be published, full studies of interactions and effects are not often available. Because of these limitations, any information on ill effects and interactions below should be considered incomplete.
A few supplement makers pay the US Pharmacopeia to test and verify that their products contain the ingredients listed on their labels. These supplements all have the USP Dietary Supplement Verified mark on their labels.
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.
A 2014 study gave xanthone extract from mangosteen to mice with ulcerative colitis and found that it made the colitis worse. Even though this has not been tested in humans, it would suggest that people with ulcerative colitis might want to use these supplements with caution.
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. This concern is based largely on theories of how cancer treatments work, but 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 take.
Relying on this type of treatment alone, and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences.
To learn more
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 website (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
Chang HF, Wu CH, Yang LL. Antitumour and free radical scavenging effects of γ-mangostin isolated from Garcinia mangostana pericarps against hepatocellular carcinoma cell. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2013 Sep;65(9):1419-28.
Chen JJ1, Long ZJ, Xu DF, et al. Inhibition of autophagy augments the anticancer activity of α-mangostin in chronic myeloid leukemia cells. Leuk Lymphoma. 2014 Mar;55(3):628-638.
Gutierrez-Orozco F, Failla ML. Biological activities and bioavailability of mangosteen xanthones: a critical review of the current evidence. Nutrients. 2013 Aug 13;5(8):3163-3183.
Gutierrez-Orozco F, Thomas-Ahner JM, Berman-Booty LD, et al. Dietary α-mangostin, a xanthone from mangosteen fruit, exacerbates experimental colitis and promotes dysbiosis in mice. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Feb 17. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201300771. [Epub ahead of print]
Kosem N1, Ichikawa K, Utsumi H, Moongkarndi P. In vivo toxicity and antitumor activity of mangosteen extract. J Nat Med. 2013 Apr;67(2):255-263.
Lawenda BD, Kelly KM, Ladas EJ, Sagar SM, Vickers A, Blumberg JB. Should supplemental antioxidant administration be avoided during chemotherapy and radiation therapy? J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008;100:773-783.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Mangosteen, Clinical Summary. Accessed at: http://www.mskcc.org/mskcc/html/69295.cfm on May 9, 2014.
Moongkarndi P, Kosem N, Luanratana O, Jongsomboonkusol S, Pongpan N. Antiproliferative activity of Thai medicinal plant extracts on human breast adenocarcinoma cell line. Fitoterapia. 2004; 75:375-377.
Nabandith V, Suzui M, Morioka T, et al. Inhibitory effects of crude alpha-mangostin, a xanthone derivative, on two different categories of colon preneoplastic lesions induced by 1, 2-dimethylhydrazine in the rat. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2004;5:433-438.
Newmaster SG, Grguric M, Shanmughanandhan D, et al. DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products. BMC Med. 2013 Oct 11;11:222. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-222. Accessed at http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/222 on January 5, 2015.
Quackwatch. Mangosteen. Accessed at: www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/hm.html on May 9, 2014.
US Food and Drug Administration. Warning letters. Accessed at: http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2005/ucm076066.htm on May 9, 2014.
US Pharmacopeial Convention. USP Verified Dietary Supplements. Accessed at http://www.usp.org/usp-verification-services/usp-verified-dietary-supplements on January 5 2015.
Wong LP, Klemmer PJ. Severe lactic acidosis associated with juice of the mangosteen fruit Garcinia mangostana. Am J Kidney Dis. 2008;51:829-833.
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: 01/13/2015