There is so much spoken about spices and condiments like cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and tamarind, but we hardly hear about kokum.
Kokum is a very good antioxidant [combats free radicals]. It is also rich in citric acid, hydroxicitric acid [HCA], malic acid, polyphenols and acetic acid. The seeds have between 23 – 25 per cent oil, which solidifies on room temperature and becomes like butter—kokum butter, which also has healing properties.
Here are some of the health benefits of kokum.
- Kokum has excellent antioxidant properties, which helps combat diseases like cancer and tuberculosis.
- The hydroxicitric acid [HCA] that is present in kokum is used in lowering cholesterol.
- It has been shown to be a good anti-obesity agent, as it suppresses synthesis of fatty acids, lipogenesis [conversion of sugar to fatty acids] and facilitates weight loss.
- Its powder and decoction is used to prevent dehydration and loss of nutrients. It improves digestion and appetite; reduces constipation and provides relief from piles and fissures.
- Traditional ayurvedic medicines use this fruit in infusions to treat skin ailments such as rashes, burns, and skin allergies. It is also known as a tonic for heart and liver in ayurveda.
- Kokum mixed with sugar and the concoction [aagal] made from the same is a tasty drink, which is refreshing. It is also an excellent remedy for sunstroke/dehydration.
- The bark and the seeds of the fruit are used in ayurvedic medicines for making powders or pastes.
- The butter/oil from the seeds, which is similar to cocoa butter is used in making creams and moisturisers.
- It helps prevent gastric disorders like constipation, diarrhoea, or gas trouble, aids digestion and builds appetite.
- Kokum is commonly used during the canning process. It helps to increase the shelf-life of the product and also adds a particular flavour due to its tangy nature.
Kokum in our diet
Kokum can be added to dals, vegetables or curries, as a healthy replacement to tamarind or lemon, due to its high antioxidant properties. It is also very colourful when added as strips to salads or raitas and gives a little tangy flavour along with the reddish purple colour.
Kokum also helps to reduce the fish odour: 3 – 4 pieces of kokum are enough to make the curry flavoursome. Using it in pickles and chutneys adds sourness and increases its shelf-life.
The best part about kokum is that it is free of side-effects. Due to its astringent properties, avoid kokum if you suffer from arthritis or gout or joint pain, though.