You know the hoodia craze that swept the weight loss industry? Well, garcinia cambogia is like the hoodia of India. This isn’t to say its use is widespread amongst Indians, (it’s well known in Ayurveda, though) but a few companies are trying to find as many ways as possible to promote and manufacture it under this guise.
In India, the fruit is better known as the Malabar tamarind, kudampuli (in Kerala) and under the name “cambodge.”
Origin of Garcinia Cambogia
This fruit originated in Indonesia, but is grown and cultivated along the Western Ghats of Kerala. Sri Lanka and Malaysia are also well acquainted with the garcinia cambogia.
Availability of Garcinia Cambogia in India
Malabar tamarinds grow exclusively in the south, particularly in Kerala. It’s not uncommon for homes in this region to have such fruit trees and their yard. Kudampuli season is June through August, during the rainy months.
Where to find Garcinia Cambogia in India
You might find fresh fruits during a stroll through the streets of Kerala and in the local markets or pushcarts there. Beyond that, it’s not widely shipped or grown throughout India. You have better luck finding it in its dried, blackened form, or as a nutritional supplement in health food stores.
Checking for Ripeness in Garcinia Cambogia
These fruits are generally green when unripe, and vary in color once ripened as they turn hues of red, orange, yellow and brownish yellow.
Taste of Garcinia Cambogia
--The taste of Malabar tamarind is sour and acidic, which is why it’s known as a digestive aid in Ayurveda.
-Though there’s a bit of sweetness to the fruit, the overwhelming sourness of it makes it unpalatable to eat raw, but the fruit can be used in several dishes.
Nutritional Value of Garcinia Cambogia
I’ve not found its nutritional information, unfortunately. That said, its medicinal benefits resemble fruits high in vitamin C. Like most fruits, it’s also probably low in fat, high in water content and fiber.
Health Benefits of Garcinia Cambogia
In ayurvedia, the Malabar tamarind treats ailments from rheumatism, arthritis, digestive disorders and gum disease. It also treats worms, parasites, dysentery, purgatives, and allegedly, tumors.
The most touted health benefit of the Malabar tamarind is its hydroxycitric acid or, HCA. If you've heard of the weight loss supplement, "Hydroxycut," its alleged benefits derive from this fruit. The HCA compound is touted as a fat-burning, metabolism-boosting, appetite-suppressing weight loss mechanism. To get sciency about it, HCA supposedly inhibits an ezyme, citrate lyase, from converting carbs into fat. This in turn compels the body to burn the carbs instead of storing it as fat.
The book, “The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs” also purports HCA to have the following benefits:
-Removes LDL cholesterol from circulation
-Its garcinol lowers stomach acidity, and protects the stomach’s mucus lining
-Its xanthones are anticancerous and fights heart disease
-Reduces fat formation and cholesterol in the liver while increasing its glycogen production
-Activates thermogenesis (or, the metabolism)
-Reduces desire for sweet foods
The conclusion amongst the scientific health community is that the fruit shows positive weight loss results in trials with animals, but are inconclusive in human trials.
According to the book, “The Health Professional’s Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements” and the book, “Earl Mindell’s New Herb Bible,” trials for garcinia cambogia extracts produced these results:
--HCA burned fat without losing body protein and lean muscle mass in obese animals
--A double-blind study with HCAs and placebos indicated a reduction in appetite, but not of statistical significance. However, energy intake with the HCA group was reduced by 15-30%.
--One study prescribed 60 overweight adults in India to take HCA+niacin, and another to take a placebo. Both groups ate 2,000 kcal a day and did a walking program. At the end of the trial, the HCA group lost 1% more weight (not significant), but the group taking HCA also left more food on their plate.
--The Journal of the American Medical Association’s double blind study with 135 subjects (one with HCA supplements, the other with placebos) showed no statistical significance in weight loss between the two groups.
--A Korean study published in the Nutrition Journal also failed to prove any weight loss results when its human subjects took garcinia cambogia extracts.
--When combined with another ayruveda herb, guggul gum, a 1999 study showed that over the course of 6 weeks, 20 obese people lost weight and had more energy.
Those endorsing the garcinia cambogia as a weight loss tool (ie, manufacturers) claim that certain factors affect the fruit’s efficacy. They suggest a high fiber diet inhibit’s the body’s ability to absorb HCA, and the drug won’t work as well for those who are not already at their ideal body weight.
Safety and Side Effects of Garcinia Cambogia
A study at Spain’s Virgili University showed that taking garcinia cambogia extracts produced no harmful or adverse side effects. The FDA does not currently regulate this weight loss supplement.
Anecdotally, the comment section of a well-written Wisegeek article showed a number of interesting posts: some complain of dizziness and shortness of breath, stomach pains, diarrhea, headaches and cramps after taking the supplement.
Though the garcinia fruit extract itself might be safe, it’s best to verify the safety of other ingredients which might be included in the supplement. Extracts are seldom made from just one ingredient.
How to Open/Prepare Garcinia Cambogia
Garcinia cambogias must be prepared like a mangosteen, which isn’t surprising given that they’re from the same family.
If you’ve never had a mangosteen, then you want to slice knife only partly through the pliant, yet thick flesh along its ridged lines. This will be enough for you to manually “crack” open the fruit with your hands. The edible fruit will be revealed inside and from there, its fleshy pods can be scooped out easily.
Malabar Tamarind Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Though the fruit’s rind is what contains the medicinal, commercial HCA, Garcinia Cambogia has a couple of culinary uses as well.
-Kodampuli is a smoked version of the fruit that’s described as heady, sour, bold, and of course, smoky. It goes well in curries and doubles as tamarind paste.
-The fruit is used to preserve food (like fish) due to its antibacterial properties.
-Garcinia cambogia is pickled and served as a condiment akin to mango chutney or garlic pickle.
-The juice can be a good substitute for anything calling for lime, lemon and orange.
None—first time I heard of the fruit was in writing this article.