The name certainly sounds exotic, but Sri Lankans of all ages, are more than familiar with the cooking ingredient Goraka. This humble condiment famous for its acidic and tenderizing properties is now known throughout the world by its more exotic botanical name – Garcinia Cambogia. More importantly, nutritional supplements containing Garcinia cambogia extract have become the rage, touted for their purported ability to curb appetite and stop weight gain.

Goraka is thought to have originated in the Indian sub-continent and then spread to Malaysia, Burma and Thailand. This fruit has also become popular in Florida, USA and Australia. This tree is not only grown because of the fruits it bears but it also has aesthetic value. The tree is not very large and produces pretty blossoms and shiny green leaves. This is a perennial tree as it produces fruits twice within a year. It thrives well in sub-tropical and tropical climatic conditions and should be planted in the soil that is well drained. Though the fruit resembles the Mangosteen fruit which is sweet, this fruit is sour and acidic.

Goraka, in its raw form has the most wonderful orange colour. Not unlike the shade of a persimmon the fruit Garcinia cambogia is the less popular cousin of the more revered Mangosteen. The fruit is as big as an apple, and deeply ridged. In some trees it is yellow, in others red. In its fresh from, Goraka is pretty much useless. Extremely sour, if eaten, it would coat a tongue with a wax that tastes unpleasant. The fruits are picked, and dried in the sun.  The once-beautiful orange colour turns to a blackish-brown. It is not attractive to look at – wrinkled, leathery, squishy and with a slightly putrid smell. However, once added to a curry, it gives out the most delicious and subtle tang.

People have long used the dried Goraka rinds for chutneys or curries, and sometimes as an aid for stomach problems. But in the late 1960s, scientists identified a substance in the rind of the fruit called Hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, which has some potentially attractive qualities. Obesity is wide spread in the world and affects both men and women. If not properly treated it could even lead to death. The Garcinia fruit is a rich source of Hydroxycitric acid. Research claims that Hydroxycitric acid helps to reduce weight by controlling fat production and suppressing appetite. It also lowers cholesterol production and increases glycogen production in the liver.

If glycogen stores are full, additional carbohydrates are converted to fat. Hydroxycitric acid blocks up this process and helps to prevent added fat getting stored in the body. Some people use this acid as a chemical supplement to get immediate results. Researchers advise people not to do so as it will create health problems.

Nutritional composition

Goraka fruit has several nutrients that bring about health benefits in the body. They include;

Calcium, Hydroxycitric acid, Vitamin C, Fibre and Water.
The fruit produced by the goraka tree has the following health benefits in the body;
•    Treats obesity – This fruit is a natural remedy for obesity. The hydroxycitric acid in it helps to break up and burn down the fats in the body system leading to weight reduction. Also, the same acid helps in suppressing the pangs of hunger hence reducing the uptake of food that leads to massive weight gain. Moreover, consuming it does not result in weight gain as this fruit does not contain sugar or calories.

•    Reduces cholesterol – the Hydroxycitric acid reduces the cholesterol levels in the body. This is why the fruit should be taken soon after the major meals. This makes the fruit a natural remedy for treatment of hypertension and other cholesterol related conditions in the body.

•    Diabetes – The fruit produced by the Goraka tree is essential in home management and control of blood sugar. The fruit does not contain glucose hence is ideal for lowering the blood sugar thus when combined with proper diet replaces over the counter medicine for diabetes.

•    Digestion related issues – This fruit is best for digestion related issues such as constipation and bowel problems. This is made possible by the presence of fibre and water in the fruit that enhances digestion.

•    Cancer – The fruit is a good source of antioxidants that blocks the multiplication and spread of cancer cells. The fruits works for colon, prostate and breast cancer.

•    Anti-inflammatory properties – The fruit has some anti-inflammatory properties that helps in preventing inflammatory diseases.

Unlike other fruits, Goraka is not highly perishable when ripe. This is because it can stay fresh for about three weeks when stored in room temperature. It can also be refrigerated where it gets an additional three weeks of shelf life. When the juice is extracted, it can be frozen as it does not lose its nutrients.
Other uses

Gamboge Yellow is a partially transparent deep saffron to mustard yellow pigment. It is used to dye Buddhist monks’ robes because the colour is a deep tone of saffron, the traditional colour used for the robes of Theravada Buddhist monks.

Gamboge is most often extracted by tapping resin (sometimes incorrectly referred to as sap) from various species of evergreen trees of the family Clusiaceae (also known as Guttiferae). The tree most commonly used is the gamboge tree (genus Garcinia. The orange fruit of Garcinia gummi-gutta (formerly called G. cambogia) is also known as gamboge or gambooge.

The trees must be at least ten years old before they are tapped. The resin is extracted by making spiral incisions in the bark, and by breaking off leaves and shoots and letting the milky yellow resinous gum drip out. The resulting latex is collected in hollow bamboo canes. After the resin is congealed, the bamboo is broken away and large rods of raw gamboge remain.

The humble Goraka is only one in a list of many Sri Lankan wonders of nature that though commonplace to us, have taken the world by storm. There is no doubt that as scientists make new and groundbreaking discoveries, nature’s gifts to Sri Lanka will take centre-stage.