The Mango Tree: All You Need To Know
Apart from the fruit, even mango bark and mango leaves have immense health benefits? Read on to find out more information about mango tree’s uses, and its benefits and importance.
By Arun Sharma
Come summer and most of us conjure up dreadful images of the sun bearing down on us and making our life miserable. But, is summer only about unbearable heat and nothing else? Not really, for summer also brings along with it the 'king of fruits' — yes, everyone's favourite and the divinely delicious mango.
But, while enjoying the goodness of mango, have you ever wondered about mango tree uses, its benefits and importance?
It is an inseparable part of the Indian culture and customs, and folklore. Considered sacred, the Hindus believe the mango tree to be the abode of gods. They use its leaves to decorate their home on auspicious occasions and for conducting religious rituals. From Kalidas to Amir Khusrau to Mirza Ghalib, poets across India have waxed eloquent about both the mango tree and the mango.
So, how did this tree and its fruit come to occupy such an important place in our lives? Let's read on to find out more information about the mango tree.
About mango tree
The history of the mango tree can be traced back to the bronze age, or almost 4,000 years ago. Originally, a native of southern Asia, especially eastern India, the mango tree was introduced to southeast Asian countries by Buddhist monks. Later, it was brought to Africa by the Portuguese, from where it spread across the world.
The English word 'mango' is an adaption of the Malayalam name for the fruit, which is 'maanga'. A member of the Anacardiaceae, or the cashew family, the scientific name of mango is Mangifera indica.
Uses of mango tree
The lifespan of a mango tree is more than 100 years, and during all this time, it confers its valuable gifts on many generations. The importance of mango tree can be gauged from the fact that almost every part of the mango tree is useful and beneficial to us.
Benefits of mango tree
The most consumed product of a mango tree is its fruit. The mango is not only a sweet and juicy delight, but also has therapeutic properties. Here's how a mango a day may help in keeping ill-health at bay:
- Prevents anaemia: Mango is rich in iron. Consuming mango in adequate quantities helps in increasing iron levels. Also, the vitamin C present in mango increases the absorption of iron.
- Improves digestion: Disorders of the digestive system are a major cause of poor health. Being rich in fibre and polyphenols, consuming mango aids in decreasing constipation and inflammation of the bowels.
- Helps gain weight: Many individuals find it hard to gain weight. According to Ayurveda, consuming mango with milk helps in nourishing the body and gaining weight.
- Boosts immunity: Apart from vitamin C, mango also contains folate, zinc and vitamin B6. All these contribute greatly towards strengthening the immune system and boosting our immunity.
- Improves eyesight: Do you know why the mango pulp has a rich yellow colour? It is due to the presence of abundance of carotenoids which help in improving eyesight.
- Keeps heart healthy: Research shows that low selenium levels are linked to increased risk of heart disease. Mango is a good source of selenium and B6, both of which promote heart health.
- Has anti-cancer effects: Mangiferin, a natural polyphenol present in mango, has been shown to exert anticancer properties. Khurana et al in their study, 'Mangiferin: a promising anticancer bioactive', published in the journal ‘Future Science’, on 18 April 2016, say that mangiferin helps in inhibiting the progression of cancer. They also say that this polyphenol has antioxidant properties, which decreases oxygen-free radicals and reduces damage to the DNA.
Mango leaves benefits
Now that you know the health benefits of eating mango, let's look at some of the medicinal properties present in the leaves of the mango tree:
- Decreases blood pressure: Extracts of mango leaves have antihypertensive properties. As a result, having tea made with mango leaves a few times a day helps in decreasing blood pressure.
- Helps in controlling diabetes: Tender mango leaves which are pink or purple in colour are rich in tannins and anthocyanins. Juice extracted from these leaves taken on an empty stomach in the morning helps in controlling blood sugar levels.
- Treats oral problems: Poor oral hygiene or diseases of the gums can lead to bad breath. Clean a few old/mature mango leaves and boil them in water until the water turns slightly yellow. Add some salt to this water and rinse the mouth with it. This helps address problems of unhealthy gums.
- Eliminates free radicals: Mango leaves contain antioxidants and vitamin C. Consuming mango leaf extract can help eliminate free radicals and protect the body from oxidative damage.
- Cleanses the stomach: Soak a few mango leaves in warm water and leave them overnight. Consuming this water on an empty stomach in the morning helps in cleansing the stomach and flushing out toxins from the body.
- Consuming the powder of dried mango bark provides relief from diarrhoea.
- The gum obtained from the bark of the mango tree can be applied on cracked feet and areas affected by scabies.
- The juice that oozes from the branch after plucking a mango can be applied on bee stings to relieve pain.
- Mango butter, obtained from mango seed, can be applied on the skin to soothe sunburns, remove and prevent stretch marks, heal scars and reduce wrinkles. It can also be used as a hair moisturiser.
- Consuming mango seed extract has proved helpful in losing weight and decreasing obesity.
Varieties of mangoes
Some common varieties of mangoes found in India are, Alphonso, Banganapalli or Safeda, Neelam, Sindoora, Dasehri, Chaunsa, Kesar, Langra, Mulgoba, Himsagar, Himam Pasand and Totapuri.
Over the centuries, the mango tree has spread across India and the world. Today, according to the National Horticulture Board, about 1,500 varieties of mango are grown in India, with each having a unique taste and flavour. This is also a reminder of how popular the mango is in our country, and how much we love it. The next time you pass by a mango tree silently swaying in the wind or as you stand under its cool shade, don’t forget to appreciate its significance in your life. Also, if you are fortunate enough to have a garden or a backyard, you can grow your very own mango trees and relish the delicious fruits. Even if you aren't that lucky, you can still grow a bonsai mango tree in a pot in your balcony or terrace.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 4 April 2019; updated on 30 October 2019
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
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