The fruit rind of Garcinia gummi-gutta, commonly known as Garcinia cambogia (syn.), is extensively used traditionally as a flavourant in fish curries due to its sharp sour taste. Additional ethnobotanical uses include its use as a digestive and a traditional remedy to treat bowel complaints, intestinal parasites and rheumatism. This small fruit, reminiscent of a pumpkin in appearance, is currently most popularly used and widely advertised as a weight-loss supplement. Studies have shown that the extracts as well as (-)-hydroxycitric acid (HCA), a main organic acid component of the fruit rind, exhibited anti-obesity activity including reduced food intake and body fat gain by regulating the serotonin levels related to satiety, increased fat oxidation and decreased de novo lipogenesis. HCA is a potent inhibitor of adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase, a catalyst for the conversion process of citrate to acetyl-coenzyme A, which plays a key role in fatty acid, cholesterol and triglycerides syntheses. The crude extract or constituents from the plant also exerted hypolipidaemic, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anthelmintic, anticholinesterase and hepatoprotective activities in in vitro and in vivo models. Phytochemical studies of various plant parts revealed the presence of mainly xanthones (e.g. carbogiol) and benzophenones (e.g. garcinol) together with organic acids (e.g. HCA) and amino acids (e.g. gamma aminobutyric acid). Currently, a large number of G. cambogia/HCA dietary supplements for weight management are being sold although the possible toxicity associated with the regular use of these supplements has raised concerns. In most cases, complaints have been related to multicomponent formulations and at this stage G. cambogia has not been confirmed as the potentially toxic culprit. This review presents a scientific overview of G. cambogia with reference to relevant botanical aspects, ethnobotanical uses, phytochemistry and biological activity as well as toxicity.
Keywords: Garcinia cambogia; Garcinia gummi-gutta; Hydroxycitric acid; Malabar tamarind; Obesity; Toxicity.
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