The nutritional benefits of Kokum

Kokum is a purple berry whose seeds, rind, bark, root, juice, pulp; all have a myriad of health benefits. Read on to know more about these wonder berries…

By Preethi Rahul, Consultant registered dietician

Native of the Western ghats and Konkan region, this tangy berry is little spoken about. Kokum is a purple berry whose seeds, rind, bark, root, juice, pulp; all have a myriad of health benefits. Kokum, which belongs to the mangosteen family, is a no-fuss crop, which is rain fed, disease free, and is almost a “zero-attention” crop says a research done by the Goa University. Read on to know more about these wonder berries…

Nutrition Profile

  • Kokum is low in calories, contains no saturated fats or cholesterol and is rich in dietary fibre

  • It is rich in vitamin C which is a powerful anti-oxidant

  • Fresh Kokum fruit is a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and folates. These vitamins are co-factors in many of the biochemical reactions and they also have other important roles to play in the system

  • Kokum is a den to minerals like potassium, manganese and magnesium. Potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure; thus offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases

Health benefits

  • Digestion: Kokum is normally used to combat digestive problems like flatulence, acidity and constipation. It is also used in the treatment of piles and anal fissures. It is also used to stimulate the appetite and has anti-helmintic properties (removes worms like ascaris from the stomach).

  • Healing wounds: Kokum infusions are used to treat rashes, chaffing, burns and scalds. Kokum paste and oil are often applied to open wounds to fasten the healing process.

  • Reduces body heat: Kokum has long been known as a cool refreshing drink in the scorching summer heat. It reduces sunstrokes and prevents dehydration. It is a great thirst quencher and is also known to reduce fever.

  • Skin care: Kokum butter is gaining rapid popularity. It is an intensive skin moisturizer. Its effects are miraculous on dry, chapped, sensitive or irritated skin.

  • Cardio-care: Kokum rind contains hydroxycitric acid, which is used to lower cholesterol. The anti-inflammatory properties of kokum prevent the onset of heart diseases.

  • Fights obesity: Kokum is a strong anti-obesity agent as it suppresses lipogenesis - synthesis of fatty acids and food consumption. By doing these activities, kokum brings about weight loss. Reducing inflammation in obese people is a treatment goal and kokum does this wonderfully well.

  • Anti-cancer: According to the Journal of Oncology and Haemotology, Garcinol, present in kokum, can inhibit intestinal cancer cell growth without affecting normal cells. Garcinol also has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce the cancer causing reactive oxygen species.

Kokum is available fresh during summer. Fully matured deep purple coloured fruits are picked up either by hand or by means of hooking to prevent damage. Injury to outer skin results in percolation of bitter latex into the edible flesh which makes the whole fruit bitter and inedible. While buying, look for fresh fruits that feel heavy in hand with firm green calyx at the stem end and bright purple colour skin as they indicate freshness. Avoid those appearing dry and blotched skin as they indicate old stock.

Dried Kokum is easily available in most of the groceries and supermarkets. The rinds may be soaked in hot water for a few hours to extract the juice similar to tamarind. Alternatively, you could add a few pieces of the dried rind to curries and gravies to give that subtle flavour change.

Culinary uses

  • Kokum fruit is an ideal snack by itself. Adding a little salt and chilly powder can make it yummier.

  • Seasoning: the rind and the pulp are often dried and then pulverized into a powder. This sweet and sour combo is a great addition to a number of dishes, both hot and cold. It is mostly used in curry dishes, especially fish. Sometimes it is added to vegetables to give a different flavour and taste. Kokum powder can also be added to juices and sodas, to give a tangy kick.

  • Canning: The heat resistant nature of kokum makes it an ideal canning agent. Pickles, chutneys and relishes often contain a dash of kokum, providing a little extra bite to the flavour of the canned item. Kokum is also added to prevent spoilage.

  • Food colour: The anthocyanins present in the rind provide a dark purple colour. Its use in the area of food coloration is being explored.

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