Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Other Common Name:
* Despite the similar common name, this species is not related to the tree that produces the mango fruit (Mangifera indica-Anacardiaceae).
Abeje, Agbono, Andoc, Andog, Andoo, Biba, Bofalanga, Boborou, Borbor, Dika, Ditoke, Ebi, Iba, Lubigniati, Magongo, Meba, Musosomba, Muiba, Peke, Weke, Wipa (Figuereido and Smith, 2017).
Common names in Spanish:
Árbol chocolate, Mango salvaje (Sánchez-Monge, 2000).
Where is it found?
This tall tree is native to various countries in tropical West-Central Africa, including the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Cameroun. It is currently grown in various tropical and subtropical areas of the world (Irvine, 1961; Keay, 2000; Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2017).
Parts of the plant used:
Leaves, bark, fruits, seed kernels, and root.
How is it used?
The kernel of the fruit is ingested as food, and also as an extract or powder mainly to treat Type 2 Diabetes and obesity (Ngondi et al., 2009; Onakpoya et al., 2013; Quattrocchi, 2012). Externally, the powdered bark is rubbed onto the body to assuage pain, applied to wounds or sores. The bark can also be boiled in water (decoction) and taken as a tea against diarrhea, yellow fever (antiviral action), as a mouthwash to treat toothaches, and as an antidote against poisons. The phytochemicals contained in the bark possess antibiotic and analgesic properties, and are employed to treat skin aliments. The leaves can be boiled in water to make a tea or taken as an extract to reduce fever (Irvine, 1961; Quattrocchi, 2012; Okolo et al., 1995).
What is it used for?
The seed and fruit are edible, “Dika nut”, mashed kernels are used to make “bread”, “butter” (similar in consistency to cocoa butter), and "Gaboon chocolate" (Irvine, 1961; Mabberley, 2017). . There are a few reports touting the African mango seed kernel and certain products made from it, could be a potential alternative herbal option for weight loss as well as for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes (Ross, 2011). In order to treat spleen infections, the leaves of the tree are combined with the stem bark of another plant (Kigelia africana); the leaves and bark are boiled in water and taken as a tea (Mann et al., 2003).
Onakpoya et al. (2013) undertook a systematic review of the scientific literature in order to evaluate the evidence from randomized controlled trials using I. gabonensis for weight loss in obese and overweight persons. The review identified three clinical trials, but all of them possessed flaws in reporting the methodology employed. The three studies mentioned participants showed statistically significant decreases in body weight and waist circumference compared to placebo. The results also showed positive effects of I. gabonensis supplements on the blood lipid profile. Some participants complained of headache and sleep difficulties while taking the plant. However, since there are few good quality controlled clinical studies, the effects of the African mango cannot be ascertained.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was undertaken in Cameroon by Ngondi et al. (2009) assessed the effects of a proprietary African mango extract, known as IGOB131, on body weight and associated metabolic parameters in 102 overweight human participants. These were randomly assigned to 2 groups, given either 1 capsule of standardized African mango IGOB131 (150.0 mg of extract per capsule) as the treatment group, or 1 capsule of placebo (150 mg maltodextrin) daily, taken 30 to 60 minutes before lunch and dinner for a period of 10 weeks. The product showed favorable effects on body weight, as well as on diverse parameters associated to the metabolic syndrome (blood glucose, C-reactive protein, body fat, waist circumference, plasma total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, adiponectin, and leptin levels, for example).
In Eastern Nigeria, the leaves are boiled in water and taken as a tea for the treatment of intestinal worm infestation in humans in rural areas. An extract obtained from the leaves showed moderate efficacy against the nematode Heligmosomoides bakeri infective larvae. However, the same experiment with mice also showed that during the acute toxicity test of a leaf extract, deaths of the rodents were recorded at doses above 500 mg/ kg. (Nweze et al., 2013).
In order to assess the effects of two herbal formulations, Cissus quadrangularis-only and a combination of C. quadrangularis plus Irvingia gabonensis, on weight loss in 72 overweight and obese human ( (45.8% men; 54.2% women) participants, a 10-week randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was undertaken. The participants were randomly assigned to three groups (24 participants each): consisting of 1). Placebo, 2). C. quadrangularis-only, and 3). C. quadrangularis / I. gabonensis combination capsules. The capsules containing either the placebo or herbal formulations were given twice daily before each meal, and no significant dietary changes or exercises were required during the trial. The result of the study demonstrated that the C. quadrangularis-only group showed significant reductions on all variables compared to the placebo group. However, more significantly, the C. quadrangularis/I. gabonensis combination demonstrated in even larger reductions. The authors of the study suggested that there is a synergistic effect when combining both herbs and that could potentially be useful in the treatment of obesity and its related comorbidities (Oben et al., 2008).
Research using chromatographic fingerprint analysis has shown that the bark of the African mango tree contains important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals which can be of use in treating various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. The possible mechanism by which the compounds contained in the bark exert their anti-Alzheimer's disease activity could be explained by their inhibition of cholinesterase activities, aside from suppressing oxidative-stress-induced neurodegeneration (Ojo et al., 2018).
A study assessed the effect of I. gabonensis on metabolic syndrome (MetS), insulin sensitivity, and insulin secretion. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study was undertaken with 24 patients with MetS. The participants were randomly assigned to 2 groups: twelve patients received I. gabonensis (150 mg) twice a day during the study’s 3 month duration, while the other 12 were given a placebo. The results of the study demonstrated that more than half (58%) of patients treated with I. gabonensis showed a remission of MetS and significantly decreased glucose, triglyceride, and VLDL levels, among other parameters (Mendez-del Villar et al., 2018).
With regard to safety, mutagenicity studies have shown that an extract from the African mango (IGOB 131) does not show genotoxic activity and seems to possess a low toxicity (Kothari et al., 2012). However, adulteration or improper processing techniques for certain nutraceutical products commercially available in the marketplace may result in toxicity to various organs (Kilinçalp et al., 2014; Stikel, 2015).
Safety / Precautions
- More good quality clinical research is needed to adequately ascertain if herbal supplements containing African mango are safe and efficient for weight loss and Type 2 Diabetes
- The safety of products made from the African mango have not been adequately evaluated during pregnancy
- Avoid taking products made from this plant during pregnancy and lactation
- Theoretically, an interaction could occur when taking this plant along with certain medications to treat Type 2 Diabetes; check with your healthcare provider first before taking supplements made from this plant
- Adulteration of herbal products, including certain supplements purportedly containing African mango, may occur and could be responsible for varying types of hepatic and renal toxicities (Kilinçalp et al., 2014; Stikel, 2015).
Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!
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