Kokum – Indian Tree Fruit

The Indian fruit kokum has been used for curing various diseases for the past thousands of years. It has been credited with curing toothaches, stopping tooth decay, curing skin problems like rashes and acne, treating flatulence, curing diarrhea and so on. These are just some of the diseases that kokum has been used for curing. But now it has been proven that kokum also has amazing health benefits when it comes to our skin.

One of the best known uses of kokum among Indian cultures is that it is an excellent antioxidant. The dried peeled fruit is now used as a flavor-enhancing agent in various curries. Mangosteen helps in controlling obesity by decreasing the production of fat and increasing the production of a hormone (glucosamine) that decreases appetite. Taken as a dietary supplement, may also be helpful in dealing with gastric ulcers caused by inflammation and deficiency of glycogen (an energy source that supplies glucose to the cells). Taken as an antioxidant, kokum reduces free radical molecules that destroy healthy cells in the body.

As an excellent all round natural remedy, kokum acts as an antiseptic, astringent, digestive aid and mucous reliver. This is because the alkaloid content of the fruit helps to eliminate bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract and fights infection by strengthening the mucosal lining of the stomach. Also, as it is easily digested in the small intestine, it increases the absorption rate of other nutrients and vitamins in the body thereby providing the body with all the essential nutrients required for good health.

As a fruit-bearing tree, kokum fruit has a large number of seeds. The number of seeds found in a single fruit varies depending on the cultivar. The most common variety is the Moringa kokum which has about 500 seeds. However, the tree bearing kokum fruit (Moringa spicata) has about the same number of seeds as the Moringa indica kokum. These varieties are therefore interchangeable.

The medicinal properties of kokum are again different from those of other fruits. As an example, the leaves of kokum are used to treat diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. The leaves are chewed as a tea and applied to the rectum for relief of distemper symptoms. Also, they are a good tonic for the liver and help control diabetes. The regular consumption of kokum-mangosteen tea relieves constipation and improves bowel function in people suffering from chronic colic. The kokum-mangosteen combination is also used to control high blood pressure and to treat parasites and bacterial infections of the intestines and liver.

It is interesting to note that the bitter taste of kokum-mangosteen was discovered by a Chinese farmer while he was tending to his mango trees. He noticed that when he gave his mango pips to his workers to drink, they did not like the bitter taste. He concluded that the bitterness was caused by the bark of the kokum plant. Because of its bitter taste, the juice is often added to other sweet dishes for added sweetening.

Today, many restaurants in India serve kokum as an integral part of the menu. It is used for making pachadi-mandul, a traditional dish that consists of chicken and rice cooked in thick clarified coconut milk. Another popular ingredient kokum finds usage in most Indian dishes is ‘Khair’, a traditional sweet made using ripe dates. The flavor of this sweet is mildly nutty and it is flavored with cardamom and fennel. Cardamom adds a nutty aftertaste to the finished product.

In south India, there are many dishes where the kokum fruit or seed is used. They are often used in ‘Achaar’ dishes to give it a tangy twist. And even in north Indian cuisine, kokum is often used as a savory to provide a robust flavor without being too oily.

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