African Mango is a common name for Irvingia gabonensis, a large-growing tropical tree of west Africa. Also known as ogbono, dika or bush mango, it is not closely related to the better known Mango, Mangifera indica. In Africa, the fruits and seeds of Irvingia are eaten or processed into paste or oil.
Recently African Mango extracts have been investigated for medicinal uses, including as a weight-loss product. The genus Irvingia was named by the eminent 19th century British botanist William Jackson Hooker for Edward Irving, a Scottish doctor who collected plants in west Africa while serving as a navy surgeon and who died in Africa. There are several species of Irvingia in Africa and one in Asia. Irvingia gabonensis is a large species, eventually growing to over 130 feet in height. Its seeds historically were dispersed by Gorillas, but now depend on humans as the lowland gorillas have declined. A recent blogger has proposed renaming the fruit “African Mango” as “Chin of Prometheus” for the chin-like cleft seen in the fruit and as allusions to the HMS Prometheus on which Irving served, and the human friendly Titan, Prometheus, of Greek/Roman mythology.
In Africa, the ripe fruits (drupes) are collected and traded or sold, usually from wild trees, to be eaten fresh or to be processed into fruit paste. The seed nuts are separately processed for gabon-chocolate, oil and seedcake for animal feed. In the last two decades, human medicinal uses have been investigated, including as a weight-loss aid.
Several published studies suggest that capsules of African Mango extracts can help people to lose weight, perhaps as the soluble fiber from the nut binds to food in the human gut and reduces obsorption and therefore calories. But an exact mechanism of action is not known. However, a recent (2013) scientific review on the subject is cautious : “Due to the paucity and poor reporting quality of the randomized clinical trials, the effect of I. gabonensis on body weight and related parameters are unproven. Therefore, I. gabonensis cannot be recommended as a weight loss aid” (1).
African Mango is a little known fruit with potential as a tropical crop. Apparently the seeds are tricky to germinate, however. It is on-the-radar of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Perhaps more will be heard about this intriguing fruit in the future.
(1) Onakpoya, Igho; Davies, Lucy; Posadzki, Paul; Ernst, Edzard (March 2013). The Efficacy of Irvingia Gabonensis Supplementation in the Management of Overweight and Obesity: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Dietary Supplements 10 (1): 29–38. doi:10.3109/19390211.2012.760508