What are Xanthones and How Can They Possess So Many Health Benefits

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What are xanthones?

They are biologically active plant phenols found in a few selected tropical fruit, in fact the majority of them have been found in just two families of higher plants – Guttiferae and Gentianaceae. They are one of the unique classes of phytonutrients. 

According to the research done in vitro (under laboratory and controlled condition), they have antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and antitumor properties. This has validated the traditional uses of mangosteen in the treatment of diarrhea, infection, dysentery and inflammatory skin conditions despite the fact that little clinical studies were completed in vivo (in live organism) so far.

What are so Special about These Xanthone Elements?

  • It is among one of the most potent antioxidants known, stronger than vitamins C and E.
  • They are heat stable molecules. They won’t lose their structure when under heat.
  • There are over 200 types of xanthones in nature, and over 40 are found in the mangosteen and vast majority of them are available in the pericarp (skin). When we eat mangosteen, the only part we consume is the tasty flesh, and the pericarp which is the healthiest part is the part that we throw away. Due to its unbearable bitter taste, it is just not edible by all means.


How can Mangosteen Offer so Many Health Benefits?

To explain this, I will use an analogy of Barbie dolls which is well explained in the book “Mangosteen The X Factor” by Dr J. Frederic Templeman, M.D. How can Barbie be so versatile? When she goes to work in the morning, goes jogging in the afternoon and goes to visit the queen all in the same day, what changes? The changes are her outfits. You do not go to a store and buy a naked Barbie doll. You buy “Jogger Barbie” or “Go visit the queen Barbie”. The outfits and accessories that Barbie wears are making her to be so versatile.

xanthones structures

Likewise, how can mangosteen offer so many health benefits? It is the varieties of it that possess so many health benefits. Just as you don’t find a naked Barbie in a store, you do not find a “naked” xanthone skeleton in nature.  

Let us look at the chemical structure.

Technically speaking, it is composed of planar, six-carbon conjugated ring system consisting of a backbone molecule with various attaching chemical groups. The left side of following illustration shows the backbone of xanthone. Carbons 1 to 4 and carbon 5 to 8 forms 2 rings bridged through a carbonyl group and oxygen. Each ring is connected in a fused formation not allowing free rotation about carbon-carbon bonds. This basic backbone attached with different side chains defines the different benefits of these elements.

Mangosteen alone has over 40 xanthones, each consists this basic backbone structure with its side chains. This forms unique chemical formulas allow each one to perform a specific biological function. For instance, the following are the most studied:

  • Alpha-mangostin serves as an antioxidant
  • Gamma-mangostin serves as an anti-inflammatory
  • Garcinone E serves as an antitumor agent

This unique basic backbone structure attaching with its different side chains enable the mangosteen to have wide spectrum of health benefits. No wonder it has won the title of "queen of fruits"!



J. Frederic Templeman,M.D., Mangosteen The X Factor, Orem, Utah, USA, Sound Concepts, 2005.

David A. Morton, Ph.D., The Xanthone Effect, Orem, Utah, USA, Sound Concepts, 2005.

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