Kokum fruit whose botanical name is Garcinia indica has amazing health benefits and medicinal uses. Kokum juice, kokum butter and kokum sharbat all made from kokum fruit has amazing uses. From aiding weight loss, to treating constipation and skin rashes, it does have wide uses. In Ayurveda, kokum juice is used to balance pitta dosha, we use it as a body cooling drink in summer. Since kokum fruit is full of antioxidants, consuming kokum juice is amazing for skin and hair too.
What Is Kokum?
Kokum is a fruit bearing tree that has many medicinal and culinary uses. The tree is also called kokum butter tree and mangosteen oil tree in India. It belongs to the mangosteen family and there are more than 200 species of it. In India, they are mostly found in western ghats and Andaman Islands.
Kokum fruits are red in color and they are used to make the famous kokum sharbat (kokum juice) which is very popular in India as a body coolant drink. The ripe fruits are more commonly available in North India and we get only the dried fruits in South India. Fresh fruits have a shelf life of about 5 days whereas the dried rind can be stored for about 6 months at room temperature.
To dry the rind, the ripe fruits are collected from the tree and cut in half. The inner flesh and the seeds are removed and the outer covering of the fruit alone is spread on a sheet and sun dried to remove the moisture content, packaged and sold. When it is dried it turns black and it is called amsul or kokum. It has a sour taste and sweet aroma and is usually added to curries for sourness. Kokum is mainly used in Goan and Konkan cuisine.
Kokum Common Names:
It is called Wild Mangosteen In English, Kokum in Hindi, Punarpuli in Kannada, Birinda or Bhirand in Konkani, Ratamba in Marathi, Kokam in Gujarati, Tintali in Oriya, Murgal in Tamil, Chinta in Telugu and Kattampi in Malayalam.
Kokum Traditional Uses:
Traditionally, kokum is used as a body coolant, for treating heat strokes and as an appetizer to improve digestion. Usually kokum sharbat is consumed during summer months to cool the body. The fresh juice also is used to treat constipation. Kokum is generally confused with kudampuli (Garcinia Cambogia), both are different and you can read about kudampuli here.
Kokum Chemical Constituents:
The unique flavor and tart taste of kokum is due to the presence of high amounts of malic acid and small amounts of tartaric acid and citric acid. The fresh fruit contains small amounts of pectin, fat, tannins and anthocyanins and sugars. Fatty acid present in kokum butter are stearic acid, olein, palmitic acid and linolein. The major active compounds present in kokum that is responsible for it’s many medicinal uses are garcinol which is present in the rind, hydroxy citric acid and anthocyanins.
Kokum Medicinal Uses:
1. Anti Depressant Properties:
Kokum extract has a positive effect on our nervous system and helps reduce anxiety and depression. Given our stressful lives, anxiety and depression are getting more common and natural ingredients like kokum helps treat it safely. You can read the study that proves it here.
2. Antioxidant Properties:
Kokum sherbet has been known to improve immunity and prevent diseases that is because kokum is very rich in antioxidants. Antioxidant rich foods like kokum if consumed regularly will keep us healthy.
3. For Parkinson’s Disease:
Kokum has neuro protective properties and will greatly help treat nerve related problems. Antioxidants play an important role in Parkinson’s disease. Since kokum is rich in antioxidants, consuming it’s extract regularly will greatly help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. You can read the study that proves it here.
4. For Type 2 Diabetes:
Oxidative stress is one of the major factors in type 2 diabetes and oxidative stress depletes glutathione which in turn leads to diabetic complications. But consuming antioxidant rich foods like kokum reduces oxidative stress and helps restore the level of glutathione thus preventing diabetic complications.
5. Anti Cancer:
Garcinol extracted from the rind of the fruit have amazing anti cancer properties. The amazing anti cancer properties of garcinol is due to it’s antioxidant, anti ageing and anti inflammatory properties. You can read the study that supports this claim here.
6. As a Body Coolant:
Kokum has a cooling effect on the body and kokum sharbat if had during scorching summers actually reduces body heat and greatly prevents heat strokes. Also if you get fresh fruits, you can rub it on prickly heat rashes that is very common during summers, it is an amazing remedy for it.
7. Anti Ulcer:
Garcinol present in kokum has amazing free radical scavenging properties and it also has anti ulcer properties. You can read the study that proves it here.
If you are suffering from acidity consume kokum sharbat made at home regularly.
8. For Weight Loss:
Some of the plants in the genus Garcinia has been widely used for aiding weight loss. Especially Garcinia Cambogia is widely used for weight loss and now kokum also is used as a weight loss supplement. Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) present in garcinia extracts is reported to reduce blood lipids, suppress appetite thereby naturally aiding weight loss. But the weight loss benefits have not been proven 100 % clinically on a large scale.
Kokum Side Effects:
Kokum generally agrees with everyone but don’t over consume kokum. Pregnant women and breast feeding mothers can consume kokum sharbat (kokum juice) in moderation.
Where to Buy Kokum?
You can buy dried kokum in health shops in India. Since I live in a village, I buy kokum whenever I go to town, most departmental stores in my local town stock dried kokum. We also get ready made kokum sharbat easily in India but I would suggest making your own, it is so easy. Finally kokum butter is not readily available especially here in Tamil Nadu but you can easily order it online.
4 Top Ways To Use Kokum Fruit For Skin, Hair & Health:
1. Kokum Oil:
a. How is Kokum Oil Made?
Kokum oil is made from the seed kernels of the fruit. The seeds are roasted and the kernels are separated from the seed shells. The kernels are then ground to a fine paste and then the ground paste is pressed to extract kokum oil. To make pure kokum oil, the extracted oil is boiled in large vats with little water, the impurities settle down and the pure kokum oil which floats on top is skimmed off. Pure kokum oil has all the benefits of kokum butter mentioned below.
2. Kokum Butter:
a. How Is Kokum Butter Made?
The pure kokum oil thus extracted is churned for 6 to 8 hours to solidify and then it is poured into containers to set completely. Traditional kokum butter is made this way but refined kokum butter is made by adding lot of chemicals. Though expensive, I would suggest buying only unrefined kokum butter.
b. Kokum Butter Vs Shea Butter & Cocoa Butter:
Kokum butter is rich in stearic and oleic acids so it softens the skin well. It is perfect for dry and damaged skin and does not make the skin greasy. Kokum butter can be interchangeable used with cocoa butter, they both have same melting points. Though nice, cocoa butter does have a cocoa smell that is hard to hide when you are planning to make an unscented cream, in those situations use kokum butter instead. Also though shea butter is good for skin, it can be a bit grainy so if you want a super smooth cream, you can use kokum butter instead.
c. Kokum Butter Skin & Hair Benefits:
Kokum butter is used extensively in cosmetics and can be used in place of any natural butters. It has amazing skin and hair benefits. It does not clog pores so it is great for acne prone skin and greatly reduces dryness of the skin. Since it is rich in antioxidants, it helps keep the skin supple and it is also a great hair conditioner.
3. Fresh Kokum Juice:
If you have access to fresh kokum fruits, I would suggest making fresh kokum juice. It is full of antioxidants and also tastes amazing. The fresh juice can be applied on heat boils which is common during hot summer months and it is also a good remedy for constipation.
To make fresh kokum fruit juice, cut the fresh kokum fruits into two, kokum fruit has two layers, the outer red rind and the inner white fleshy part with the seeds. Remove the inner seeds and discard. Now grind the kokum rind, pulp to a smooth paste in a blender, strain and refrigerate.
To make the juice, add a tbsp of this fresh extract to a cup of water along with little honey to taste and tiny pinch of salt and enjoy. Make sure to refrigerate the fresh kokum extract else it will spoil very quickly. You can also freeze the fresh kokum fruit extract in ice cube trays and use when necessary.
4. Kokum Sharbat:
a. Kokum Sharbat Benefits:
Kokum sharbat is a sweet drink made by boiling the kokum rind in water along with sugar. I have given the recipe with sugar but you can make it without the sugar too. It acts as a body coolant and is full of antioxidants. It improves digestion and is also a good remedy for flatulence and indigestion. It is also a perfect weight loss drink, if made without the sugar. It is also a good remedy for stomach ulcers and has a soothing effect on our nervous system.
b.Kokkum Sharbat Recipe:
1. Take 1/2 cup of kokum, wash and soak in 1 cup of water for 3 to 4 hours.
2. Strain the water and take kokum alone (reserve the water).
3. Add little bit of the reserved liquid to kokum and grind to a fine paste.
4. Now take 1 cup raw unprocessed sugar and the reserved liquid in a pan and boil till thick.
5. Once thick, switch off and add in the ground kokum paste. Add 2 pinches of salt to it, mix well, cool, strain and store in a glass bottle in the refrigerator.
6. To make kokum juice, take 2 tbsp of the sherbet in a cup, add in a cup of chilled water and serve…