Image Credit: Ramnath Bhat @ Flickr
The Garcinia indica plant, commonly known as kokum, is a tree native to the Western Ghats region of India. It produces the highly prized kokum fruits, which are bright red in color and about the size of a small plum.
Kokum is part of the mangosteen family, a juicy fruit with a mildly sweet fleshy peel and an acidic pulpy interior. It is frequently used as a souring agent in Indian cuisine. Kokum sherbet is a sweetened traditional drink enjoyed in the tropical region of Goa, consumed to keep cool in the heat and protect the skin from the sun.
It has a long history of medicinal and cosmetic use in Ayurveda. While the fruit pulp contains fiber, protein, carbohydrates, pectin, and vitamin C, the most impressive of kokum’s healing qualities lie within the fruit rind and the seed…
The kernels of Garcinia indica seeds are comprised of 33% to 44% oil. Kokum butter is made by crushing the fruit seeds and boiling them in water. Fat is skimmed off the top and filtered twice to remove seed shells and debris.
Naturally white in color with a mild scent, kokum butter is somewhat dry and flaky. It has a melting point of 104°F, liquefying when it comes in contact with the skin. It’s also very lightweight and non-greasy. Kokum butter is among the most stable vegetable oils, with a shelf life of up to 2 years.
Similar in chemical composition to cocoa butter, kokum is entirely edible and possesses emollient, astringent, and soothing properties. It contains:
As its major constituent, kokum butter is made up of 56.4% stearic acid. This amino acid is a surfactant that has a cleansing effect on the skin, binding with oil molecules to help wash them away.
An emollient that keeps skin soft and moisturized, kokum butter contains 39.4% oleic acid. Oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid that exerts an anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effect on the skin. Its potent antioxidant activity helps repair damaged skin cells, making it especially beneficial for eczema and psoriasis sufferers.
Palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid that makes of 2.5% of kokum butter. Acting as both a hydrating emollient and a protective occlusive that creates a barrier on the skin against air and water, palmitic acid also displays some antioxidant properties. Although we naturally produce palmitic acid in our skin, it decreases by as much as 56% as we age so supplementing it may help reduce the signs of aging.
An important omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid comprises 1.7% of kokum butter. Linoleic acid has several far-reaching benefits, including easing inflammation, reducing acne, speeding up wound healing, stimulating blood circulation, repairing dry and damaged hair, as well as helping the skin retain moisture.
Kokum Fruit Rinds
Garnering much interest from the scientific community, kokum rinds contain a truly unique mix of phytochemicals. The fruit peels are so special because they consist of three valuable nutrients: anthocyanins, garcinol, and hydroxycitric acid.
1. Weight Loss Aid
Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a derivative of citric acid, making up 20% to 30% of the kokum rind. It is also found in Garcinia Indica’s Indonesian cousin, Garcinia cambogia.
Combined with a proper diet and plenty of exercise, HCA can help shoulder some of the burden of losing weight. HCA has been shown to inhibit the accumulation of visceral fat (abdomen), subcutaneous fat (lower body), and total fat area, according to a double blind study published in 2003. In it, 44 obese men and women took 1000 mg of HCA daily over a period of 12 weeks. The participants experienced an average of 10% to 15% reduction in each of these fat areas. Use of HCA supplements had no adverse effect and there was no weight rebound after 16 weeks.
Other studies suggest that HCA can help suppress appetite, increase energy, and boost the metabolism.
2. Ease Anxiety & Depression
Another interesting quality of HCA is its ability to increase serotonin levels in the brain. An animal study published in 2015 compared the effects of HCA with the anti-anxiety drug Diazepam on laboratory mice. Using several experimental models to assess anxiety in animals, the researchers found that mice given kokum fruit extract were less fearful, more active, and showed a willingness to explore new surroundings than the control group. The behavioral results were very similar to those treated with Diazepam.
3. An Antioxidant Powerhouse
Like the many fruits that stow a goodly sum of antioxidants exclusively in their peels, kokum rinds are enriched with anthocyanins and garcinol.
The red rinds of kokum fruit consist of anthocyanins, a class of flavonoids that help mitigate free radical damage, boost cognitive function, protect against several types of cancer, keep the heart healthy, improve eyesight, and may help prevent weight gain. Specifically, kokum rinds contain cyanidin-3-glucoside, a particularly potent free radical scavenger.
But the principal antioxidant of kokum fruit peel is garcinol, a type of chalcone. Garcinol is a super powerful substance, easing oxidative stress and neutralizing free radicals three times more effectively than vitamin E.
Chronic inflammation lies at the heart of many kinds of disease. Because it is the common underlying cause of cancer, dementia, heart disease, and diabetes, it is theorized that if we can prevent inflammation from occurring in the first place, we could avoid degenerative diseases altogether.
Studies on garcinol have shown that it suppresses several pro-inflammatory enzymes. It effectively inhibited the expression of COX-2, iNOS, and NF-?B in one study. In another, it interfered with the activity of 5-lipoxygenase, COX-1, prostaglandin, and PGE2.
Garcinol’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity also have implications when it comes to fighting and preventing cancer.
Though research is still in its infancy, so far the results have been promising. In an animal study, garcinol significantly reduced the spread of human colon cancer cell lines. It was likewise effective in inducing apoptotic cell death in human leukemia cells. And lastly, it was shown to be quite potent against breast and liver cancer cells.
Gastric ulcers are painful sores that appear in the stomach and small intestines. They can be caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection, long term use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or simply stress.
Not only is garcinol effective against several types of microbes, it is a recognized treatment for H. pylori.
Free radicals also play a role in the development of stomach ulcers, but because garcinol is such an efficient antioxidant, it has been shown to help prevent ulcers from forming.
How To Use Kokum
Even though Garcinia indica is relatively unknown in the West, there are a few ways to get your kokum fix on this side of the world.
Kokum Butter Recipes:
You can purchase 100% pure kokum butter here. Because it is a bit flaky on its own, here are a few ideas of the kinds of things you can make with it:
Kokum Body Butter – A deeply moisturizing mix of kokum butter, mango butter, shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil , sweet almond oil, arrowroot powder, and your choice of essential oils.
Kokum Butter Soap – This tutorial for cold-pressed soap incorporates olive oil, castor oil, eucalyptus essential oil, and ground pumpkin seeds.
Kokum Butter Lip Balm – Heal and condition chapped lips with this mix of calendula, avocado oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and vitamin E oil.
Kokum Butter Bath Melts – Combine kokum butter with cocoa butter, coconut oil, shea butter, argan oil, and your favorite essential oil.
Kokum Dietary Supplements:
Bolster your weight loss efforts with pure Garcinia cambogia capsules, fortified with hydroxycitric acid.
Or pick up a bottle of kokum fruit extract and add 20 to 30 drops to water, tea, or juice each day.
Dried Kokum Fruit:
Just as good as fresh, dried kokum fruit retains all of its healthful properties. Here are a few traditional recipes from the Goa: