According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, each meal should be a healthy mix of six different tastes—salty, sweet, bitter, pungent, sour and astringent. The sour elements in a person’s diet is said to promote digestion, aiding the body to absorb essential minerals and also cleanse the tissues. Kokum, a special plant grown all over Western India, including states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat and Karnataka, is the bedrock of everything sour. Scientifically known as Garcinia indica, a close relative of the Garcinia cambogia, this plant is commonly known as the Malabar tamarind.
The interesting bit about this plant is its acute affinity to Indian soil. Once commercialised, kokum immediately attracted foreign investors who tried to cultivate the plant abroad, but to no avail. Mostly grown in Southeast Asia (specifically India), kokum lends a sharp tanginess to any dish it is added to. The Western Ghats provide the optimal growing conditions for the plant. The frequent use of the ingredient in every Southwestern Indian dish, proves the popularity of this plant. Kokum Juice is also a well-liked beverage, sold mostly in these regions. A common sight under the Goan or Keralan shacks beside the seaside, Kokum Juice is slowly gaining ground among enthusiastic tourists. A rich source of Vitamin C, kokum is a storehouse of elements like manganese, potassium and magnesium. The high hydroxy citric acid (HCA) content makes it an absolute winner, owing to its effects on weight loss. The Gracinol levels in the kokum fruit is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and is also believed to be a good neuroreceptor, bolstering brain health. In fact, kokum is often prescribed to combat an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The large amounts of Garcinol in kokum is known to be helpful in cases of pancreatic, colorectal and intestinal cancers. The element is scientifically proven to exhibit anti-tumour activities against the human leukemia HL-60 cells. Because of its ability to be a free radical scavenger, kokum also helps against ulcers.
As kokum lends an astringent quality to any dish, it is an extremely effective digestive. The Kokum Juice is believed to have very compelling ‘pitta’ (bile) balancing qualities. A dash of salt to the drink and it can also serve to fight hyperacidity.