Mangosteen and Kokum are some of the popular species of Garcinia genus of plants. Garcinia gummi-gutta or Malabar tamarind is another tropical tree from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Africa and Malaysia and genus Garcinia. It has become popular in supplements industry by its scientific name Garcinia cambogia. This pumpkin shaped, greenish yellow colored fruit is also known by gambooge, Mangostana cambogia, brindle berry or brindall berry, Gorikapuli or Kankusta. In India they are known by various names – Dharambe (Marathi), Simachinta (Telegu), Kodakkapuli (Tamil), Upagimara or Simaihunase (Kannad), Kodampuli (Malayalam), Assam fruit or Fish Tamarind.
Like Mangosteen and Kokum, the protective rind of the fruit is rich in phytochemicals which have medicinal use. Very recently Garcinia cambogia have been marketed for its benefits in inducing weight loss. This fruit is commonly used in parts of South India and other Asia. Gracinia cambogia grows in hills of South Indian peninsula and recently being cultivated for export, thanks to its recent popularity.
The useful part of Garcinia Cambogia fruit is its rind. The fruit is too acidic to be eaten raw. Dried rind has been used in culinary preparations in local recipes for its sour taste. The flavor is subtle and unlike kokum or tamarind. Dried rind is also used as food preservative and carminative. It tastes similar to tamarind, hence the name malaar tamarind. In Sri lanka, ripe fruit is pickled and consumed. Try out some south Indian fish curry with garcinia cambogia rind. Kodampuli is often touted as Kerala’s Seafood Secret!
In Indian subcontinent, it is used in preservation of fish and polishing gold or silver. It also finds used in rubber industry for coagulation process. Local people also use the rind to treat cattle mouth diseases. Yellow resin from the fruit is used as varnish. In some parts of south India, chutney made of garcinia cambogia with grated coconut and salt is given to women during first week post childbirth to reduce postnatal weight.
Nutrition facts of Gracinia cambogia
Hydroxy citric acid (HCA) is unique chemical found in rind of this fruit. Weight loss benefits claimed by people are attributed to this ‘wonder’ nutrient. Chemically HCA is very similar to tartaric acid in tamarind or citric acid in lemon.
It contains other phytochemicals like xanthones, flavonoids and benzophenones. Dietary flavonoids in particular have antioxidant properties. Benzophenone derivatives have used in cosmetic industry as sunscreen lotion. The rind also contains low amounts of fibers, pectins, sugars and anthocyanins.
One third of Garcinia Cambogia seeds constitute fatty acids very similar to kokum butter. This Garcinia fat is rich in oleic acid and used in cosmetics as emollient or moisturizer.
Any health benefits of Gracinia Cambogia?
Traditional Asian medicinal science have been using Malabar Tamarind in cure of various diseases including rheumatism, arthritis, digestive and gastrointestinal problems. In Ayurveda, its rind has been used in treatment of piles, dysentery and tumors. It is long believed to help in reduction of weight in South India. Latest studies are step towards establishing scientific evidence to this traditional wisdom. Latest research has brought forward antioxidant properties and anti-microbial properties of various phytochemcials present in the rind of gracinia cambogia.
Gracinia Cambogia and Weight Loss
One fine day Dr. Oz announces in his show that Garcinia Cambogia can reduce weight like wonders! Possibly it was eye opener for Garcinia Cambogia itself of the potential hidden within! Read this if you want to know why? Long before Dr. Oz announcement many research had been done to establish such claim. Lately Hydroxy citric Acid or HCA has been identified as potent chemical in Garcinia Cambogia.
Various hypothesis are being tested –
- Does Garcinia Cambogia inhibits conversion of glucose into fats? Due to increased glycogen, brain gets signal to stop eating. This reduces appetite and thus induces weight loss.
- It is believed to reduce the availability of acetyl coenzyme A, which are building block for fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis.
- Can HCA reduce leptin levels from abdominal fat which are associated with weight gain?
- Can HCA influence body serotonin levels which result in decreased food intake and increased metabolism?
- Does HCA has a heat releasing effect which accounts for some of the weight loss?
It is yet to confirm if at all HCA can prove beneficial in reducing weight in human. More human studies in this area can be expected. There are recent claims about toxicity of HCA. This research published in World Journal Gastroenterology in 2013, suggests Hydroxycitric acid does not promote inflammation or liver toxicity. In the contradictory another research published during the same period in same journal suggests that Garcinia Cambogia induces liver collagen accumulation, inflammation and hepatic fibrosis. Toxicity of HCA is still not clear.
It is understood that people in India and Asia have been consuming this fruit, indicating its safety in reasonable quantity; but its toxicity in large dosage as in case of Gracinia Cambogia supplements is yet to be established. A clinical trial suggests that 2800 mg/day is safe for human consumption. However appropriate dose depends on several factors including age, gender, health conditions, etc. In general, human studies are essential to see if HCA have any real benefits. As more studies are carried out, use of gracinia cambogia supplements shall be established. Till then we recommend rather expend sweat to lose weight than money.
Malabar Tamarind – Diuretic
Leaves of Garcinia cambogia showed diuretic activity in animals. It resulted in increase urination. Diuretics have benefits in reducing blood pressure and get rid of excess salts and toxins form body.
Kotampuli reduces cholesterol
Most of the initial studies have been focused in benefits of Garcinia cambogia in reducing body fats and cholesterol. Most of the animal studies have been able able to establish the claim, hypocholesterolic effect of kotampuli needs more scientific evidence from human studies. Some initial studies have shown such results.
Gastro intestinal disorders and Garcinia cambogia
Malabar tamarind has been traditionally used in treating intestinal worms and parasites. Most of the phytochemicals possess such properties. It is also believed to have laxative effect and may help treat dysentery.
Benefits for skin
Garcinia cambogia seed provides oil which is rich in oleic acid and used as moisturizer in cosmetics. There are number of patents registered on Garcinia cambogia and its use as cosmetics. Garcinia cambogia extracts from fruit rind, leaves and root contains Benzophenone derivatives, which protects skin from sunlight and UV rays.
Side effects of Garcinia cambogia / HCA
Malabar tamarind has long history of its use in food preparations, suggesting safe consumption. However there are views about large dosages of HCA or Garcinia cambogia extracts resulting in liver damage and toxicity.
Were Dr. Oz wonder claims just another marketing campaign? With this thought we leave the decision to our readers. Rather we would like to share some wonderful Garcinia cambogia recipes.
Kotampul Fish Curry
Use 6 fillets of fish of softer kind. Clean them and cut them into pieces. Blend together, 1 inch piece of ginger, 2 cups of grated coconut, one pearl onion, 2-3 tsp of chilly powder, 1/4tsp of turmeric powder, 3 tsp of coriander powder, couple of curry leaves. Add water to make a smooth paste. In a pan, pour the blended mixture and add some more whole curry leaves, some Garcinia cambogia or Kodampuli, 3-4 cut green chillies. Add 2 or more cups of water. Allow the mixture to simmer at medium heat. Then add fish pieces and mix. Add salt as per taste. Cover the pan and allow to cook till fish pieces are cooked. Drizzle some coconut oil over curry and serve with steamed rice
Garcinia cambogia Soup
Take 3-4 dried Garcinia cambogia pieces and soak them in one and half cup of water. Soak 2-3 tablespoon of horse gram in another bowl with half cup of water. Allow them to be soaked overnight. Mix them both and boil till liquid reduces to one fourth. Add sunth or dry ginger powder, pinch of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of honey. This soup is best taken empty stomach.