Health Benefits Of Kokum: 11 Reasons You Should Spice It Up

Health benefits of kokum.

Kokum can be eaten raw or juiced. Sun-dried kokum is also used as a flavoring agent in Asian cuisines. Water, in which kokum is soaked, runs pink and works as a natural food coloring agent. And kokum sherbet, a refreshing drink made with the extracts, is definitely worth a try!

Kokum’s appearance, especially when dried, isn’t much to write home about. But this tart fruit is slowly emerging as a superfruit. Not surprising, considering it has a special place in many traditional systems of medicine. Kokum or Garcinia indica is native to India and used extensively in traditional coastal cuisines and medicinal practices. And this humble fruit has a lot of health benefits to offer. Here’s a closer look!


1. Eases Diarrhea

Kokum has been traditionally used in ayurveda to treat diarrhea and dysentery. And scientific studies have found that the extract of the fruit rind does, in fact, act against pathogens like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus which can cause food poisoning and diarrhea. So the antimicrobial effects of this sour spice may be at least partly responsible for its effectiveness against diarrhea.1 2 3

2. Protects Against Gastric Ulcers

Stomach ulcers can cause burning abdominal pain as well as heartburn and indigestion. Infection by a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori is the most common cause of this condition. And factors such as the regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and excessive alcohol consumption can up your risk of developing ulcers.45 But kokum can have a protective effect against stomach ulcers. In fact, an animal study observed this protective effect in rats exposed to alcohol, hydrochloric acid, and a common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Garcinol, a potent antioxidant compound present in kokum, acts against the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, and may therefore, account for the its anti-ulcer effects. 6 7


3. Helps Manage Weight

Struggling to shed those extra pounds? Kokum may be able to help. Research indicates that hydroxycitric acid, a compound present in this spice, helps with weight management and works as an anti-obesity agent. Hydroxycitric acid is thought to work by inducing satiety and thereby reducing the amount of food you eat. It also speeds up the oxidation of fat and reduces the synthesis of fatty acids in the body.8 The rind of the kokum fruit is supposed to be richest in hydroxycitric acid.

4. Fights Skin Aging

Kokum butter is great for your skin and is used in lip balms, lotions, body butters, and even soaps. It may also help reduce stretch marks during pregnancy.9


One of the unfortunate effects of aging is that your skin starts to lose its elasticity. An enzyme known as elastase, which breaks down the fiber called elastin that keeps your skin supple, is mostly responsible for this effect. But kokum may help keep your skin young and supple by inhibiting the activity of elastase.10

It also has strong antioxidant properties which can further benefit your skin. A kokum infusion has traditionally been used in ayurveda to treat skin problems such as allergic rashes. Meanwhile, kokum butter is used for dealing with chaffed skin, scalds, and burns.11


5. Lowers Inflammation

Persistent inflammation can spell trouble for your health since it has been implicated in a wide array of diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. 12 Factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and smoking can all promote inflammation – essentially many of the lifestyle factors we all grapple with. If you are bearing the brunt of inflammation, kokum may be able to help thanks to its anti-inflammatory activity. Researchers suggest that phenolic compounds present in this fruit may be responsible for this effect.13

6. Counters Oxidative Stress

Studies show that extracts of kokum and kokum syrup have significant antioxidant properties. This means that they can fight the damaging effects of free radicals which promote oxidative stress. Free radicals are naturally produced by the body during the process of converting food to energy. We’re also exposed to them through environmental toxins, processed foods, alcohol etc. And these free radicals have been linked to the aging process as well as a range of illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.14 15


7. Protects The Liver

Kokum juice has a cooling effect and can help balance pitta dosha. “Amrutkokum” is a drink made with fresh kokum fruits steeped in sugar syrup. This offers respite in the summer and is even believed to remedy a sunstroke.16

Traditionally, kokum syrup has been used for protecting the liver against the effects of alcohol. And this is backed up by scientific research too. One animal study found that when kokum extracts were administered to rats who were given alcohol, it had a significant protective effect on their livers. It brought down levels of marker enzymes which were increased by alcohol and improved levels of endogenous antioxidants which were depleted by alcohol.


Alcohol causes liver injury by creating oxidative stress. Kokum may exert a protective effect by inhibiting the oxidative degradation of lipids in the liver. Research has also found that kokum protects the liver from the damage due to certain toxic chemicals.17

8. Helps With Diabetes

Diabetes is a major health concern today with an estimated 30.3 million Americans grappling with this disease. Over time, high blood sugar levels can result in complications such as nerve damage, heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems.18In ayurveda, a decoction of the kokum fruit is used for treating diabetes. As an animal study found, kokum extracts can significantly reduce both postprandial and fasting blood glucose in type 2 diabetes. But that’s not all. Oxidative stress plays a role in the development of diabetic complications and the neutralization of free radicals can inhibit the development of these complications significantly.19 And kokum can be beneficial in this respect as the study also found that it restored an antioxidant known as glutathione which was depleted in rats with type 2 diabetes. So kokum’s antioxidant capacity can also help prevent complications due to diabetes.20


9. Is Good For Your Heart

Scientific research has found that kokum lives up to its stellar reputation as a cardiotonic. One animal study found that it significantly reduced levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol while at the same time improving levels of HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol. It was also found to reduce the level of triglycerides, which are a kind of fat found in your blood that can increase your risk of coronary artery disease. Polyphenols such as hydroxy citric acid and garcinol present in kokum are thought to account for these beneficial effects.21 22

10. Eases Anxiety And Depression

In animal studies, when mice were given kokum extracts, their behavior indicated that they were less anxious. So how does kokum work? Low level of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin is associated with anxiety and depression. Hydroxycitric acid present in kokum has been found to increase the release of serotonin.23

11. May Help Fight Cancer

Cancer remains a leading cause of disability and death across the world. Kokum may be able to help fight this dangerous disease as well. Studies show that garcinol, a compound with potent antioxidant properties present in this spice, has anti-cancer effects. It has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells as well as induce their death, acting against breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer cells.24 However, do keep in mind that these effects have been observed in lab studies and how well they translate to actual benefits for people suffering from cancer remains to be seen. Talk to your doctor about whether supplementing conventional cancer treatment with kokum can be helpful.