Mangnifera / Mango
Mangifera indica, an evergreen tree that can range from 30 feet to 100 feet in height, is one of about 50 mango species native to India, where it has been cultivated since 2000 BCE.1 The fruit of M. indica can differ in shape and size and the colors can vary from a yellowish-orange to green or red. Mangoes prosper in climates with clearly defined seasons.1 Though the tree now grows throughout the world, India remains the world’s largest producer.2
History and Cultural Significance
The common name “mango” is derived from the Tamil language that is native to southern India and Sri Lanka where the plant is called man·kay or man·gay. It is believed that a Chinese traveler named Hwen T’sang who visited India introduced the mango to the world in the first century CE. Mango cultivation spread to Brazil and the West Indies in the 1700s and Florida in the late 1800s. Portuguese traders brought mangos to East Africa, the Philippines and western Mexico. In the early 1800s mangos were transported to Hawaii where production is currently second only to India.2
In India the fruit is useful for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Popular foods are mango chutney, pickles, cereal flakes, custard powder and toffee.2 Mango is used in traditional Indian medicine as a laxative, diuretic and to treat heat stroke.1,3 Indians also chew the leaves to improve gum health.1 In African traditional medicine, a concoction made from the tree bark or roots is used to treat diarrhea and malaria. A leaf extract is rubbed on the forehead to treat headache.4 In western culture the plant is used predominantly for food. Mango is the second most popular fruit in the world. The fruit is common in jams, salads, squashes (sweetened fruit juice often served with added soda water) and preserves.5 The fruit contains vitamin A and C, and is a good source of potassium.1,3 Mango butter, an oily extract of the seed, is found in many cosmetic products such as lip balms and hand and body creams.
Recent studies indicate that mangoes may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain relieving properties.6,7,8 There is no current research regarding any therapeutic properties of mango butter.
India accounts for about sixty percent of the world’s production of mangoes.9 While the United States, Brazil and Mexico are also major producers and exporters of the fruit,2 India has the best capability of expanding and meeting increasing global needs, in addition to its large domestic demand.2,9
1 Parrotta J. Healing Plants of Peninsular India. New York: CABI Publishing; 2001.
2 Davidson A. The Oxford Companion to Food. New York: Oxford University Press; 1999.
3 Wood R. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin Books; 1999.
4 Neuwinger H. African Traditional Medicine: a Dictionary of Plant Use and Applications. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers; 2000.
5 Hocking G. A Dictionary of Natural Products. Medford, NJ: Plexus Publishing; 1997.
6 Ojewole J. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and hypoglycemic effects of Mangifera indica Linn. (Anacardiaceae) stem-bark aqueous extract. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. October 2005;27(8):547-554.
7 Remirez D, Tafazoli S, Delgado R, et al. Preventing hepatocyte oxidative stress cytotoxicity with Mangifera indica L. extract (Vimang). Drug Metabol Drug Interact. 2005;21(1):19-29.
8 Grover J, Yadav S, Vats V. Medicinal plants of India with anti-diabetic potential. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2002;81:81-100.
9 Mango Cultivation. National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (India). 2005. Available at: http://www.nabard.org/roles/ms/ph/mango.htm. Accessed November 14, 2005.