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Ask the doctor: Does mangosteen have any health benefits?

Q. I’ve seen advertisements for mangosteen juice claiming it has lots of antioxidants and health benefits, including anticancer effects. Is there any truth to this?

A. Mangosteen is a tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia. The fruit as well as the juice, rind, twig, and bark contain a number of active compounds—most notably xanthones—that have antioxidant and other important properties. In laboratory experiments, mangosteen extracts have shown some promising effects, which include halting the growth of some bacteria and fungi and slowing the growth of some cancer cells.

In the marketplace, mangosteen is promoted as a way to improve the balance of bacteria in the body, boost the immune system, and relieve conditions such as diarrhea, urinary infections, tuberculosis, eczema, and menstrual disorders. These purported health benefits are unproven in humans.

The compilers of the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database—an exhaustive compendium of evidence-based information on alternative treatments—have determined that there’s not enough evidence to support the use of mangosteen for treating infections or inflammation or for inhibiting cancer cell growth.

Mangosteen is consumed in various ways. In the United States, the fruit and rind are often pureed and sold as a health drink called Xango juice. The fruit may also be served as a dessert or made into jams. The rind is sometimes dried and made into a powder, and it can be steeped in hot water to make tea. Mangosteen is also available in capsules and tablets and in the form of an ointment claimed to be useful for skin conditions.

If you enjoy the taste, there doesn’t appear to be any harm in including mangosteen among the juices you drink. Like any plant food, it may cause an allergic reaction. Also, because of its antioxidant activity, mangosteen could potentially interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer. There’s been only one report of a serious adverse effect: severe lactic acidosis (the buildup of lactic acid in the blood) in a patient with chronic kidney disease and other health problems who drank mangosteen juice daily for a year. In this case, medications may have interacted with the juice.

Mangosteen is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States, mostly through health food stores and independent distributors. Supplement makers don’t need to prove that a product is safe or effective—as long as they don’t claim that it can prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease.

— Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

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