Kokum: An Ancient Treasure

When I first heard about Kokum, I was intrigued. As I began my research into this mysterious relative of the famous Mangosteen tree, it proved to be quite difficult to see why it had such a long history in Ayurvedic medicine; with a limited amount of research papers available & a lot of online blogs saying all the things that is generally said about almost every ingredient, I started to lose hope in this plant:

  • It restores moisture to skin + hair
  • It treats inflamed skin
  • It’s non comedogenic
  • It reduces/prevents aging

On the surface, it’s not obvious if it’s any different to other skincare ingredients & products. I found myself researching until my eyes crossed trying to find even a basic outline of its chemical components. I needed to understand how these properties attribute to skin & hair care, maybe that would help me understand why it’s an esteemed ingredient in Ayurveda. Initially shrouded in old value hype & a bunch of causation = correlation with no tangible value, I really didn’t know if it was worth the time I’d already invested in it. I almost gave up on it & its ancient existence but it turned out to be a beautifully hidden gem.

Kokum is as magical as it is mysterious.

It’s an old world tree native to the Western & Southern regions of India. Garcinia indica is also known as Kokum (Hindi + English), Goraka (Sinhala), Murgal (Tamil), Vrikshamia/Vrikshamla/Amlabija/Raktavikshamla/Amlashaka (Sanskrit). There are many more regions & languages that I haven’t covered but these are the most popularly known where the fruit is still revered.

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it’s used to heal certain ailments:

  • Skin issues, ulcers, dermatitis
  • Bowel issues, digestion & balancing gut health
  • Infections & muscle function
  • Cell regulation, repair & function

What are the main components of Kokum that make it nutritional & why is it an esteemed plant in Ayurveda?

  • Kokum Butter is 80% Stearic-Oleic-Stearic Triglycerides which is potent to maintain moisture levels keeping the skin thoroughly moisturised while strengthening the skin’s barrier to keep moisture in.
  • Kokum contains Citric Acid which is a gentle cleanser that goes beneath the surface & removes excess oils whilst balancing the skin’s pH levels.
  • It contains Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) that works as a natural antioxidant. It’s an essential nutrient required for collagen production, tissue repair & strengthens resistance to infections.
  • Kokum is also rich in Vitamin E which is popularly known to be a wonderful skin conditioning agent.

How is it consumed & used? Leaves, fruit (rind & flesh) & seed are all used for different purposes.

  • Fruit:
    • It can be peeled & eaten as a deliciously juicy fresh fruit.
    • The flesh can be squeezed to be drunk as juice.
  • Peels/Rinds + Leaves:
    • The leftover rinds leftover can be filled with sugar & soaked with  its leaves & water before being left in the sun for several days which will eventually provide you with a potent syrup.
    • You can use the juice & steep the peels in & let it set in the sun for a natural syrup without any added sugar:
      • The syrup can be mixed with salt, spice & water as a drink
      • Or leave the water out &  it use it as a medicine
    • The leaves can be cooked in a variety of dishes.
  • Seed:
    • The seeds are dried in the sun then milled leaving you with a hard butter. This butter is then melted in water where impurities sink to the bottom. The purified Kokum Butter is skimmed from the top & left to harden. The hardened butter is melted down again until it’s refined further & mixed to thicken before it’s set in a block. This block of Pure Refined Kokum Butter is now ready to use in food as standard butter or for topical application for skin & hair.

Alright, after months of research I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting hyped about it but I still need to try it out for myself.

  • Is it as good as they say?
  • Is it suitable for my skin?
  • Is it going to be heavy or does it actually “melt to the touch”?
  • Is it actually as “lightweight” as they say?

Simply, hell yes!

  • It’s harder than Mango Butter but it melts faster.
  • It’s lighter & smoother than Shea Butter.
  • It slips along the skin easier than Cocoa Butter.
  • It melts to the touch & is as moisturising as Coconut Oil without the weight or greasiness.

I took it one step further & formulated it as a Butter Cream, similar to my Mango Butter Cream, I kept it simple to bask in the glory of Kokum.

How well does it mix with other ingredients? 

Like an absolute dream! It formulated into a deliciously light & ultra creamy concoction! It absorbs faster & is a touch lighter than the Mango Butter Cream but ultimately they both apply deliciously. I now also use kokum butter for my creamy eye shadows.

Are you convinced yet? Try it out for yourself!

While all of these are incredible claims, we have to remember that there is no one cure for all. Everyone’s situation is different; what works for one person won’t always work for someone else, so if you suffer from severe ailments or are unsure about allergic reactions, please check in with your health professional before diving into living off of Kokum or substitutes. Make sure you know where your kokum comes from! There are Western and Southern regions in India that sustainably source and make the butter using traditional methods that don’t harm the environment they live in as the Kokum tree and fruits grow in absolute abundance.

Research for the benefits of Kokum based on:

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