Muntingia calabura Linn. (Kersen)
I never thought before that this kersen, an Indonesian name for the tree of Muntingia calabura Linn., has so many health benefits. The kersen trees are fast growing fruit trees. Kersen tree could grow up to 3 m high within two years. Kersen are commonly planted in roadsides, or parking lots. Kersen leaves, barks, flowers and roots have been used as a folk remedy to treat fever, cold, liver disease, and use as an antiseptic agent in Southeast Asia.
A Tree With Hundreds of Names
Since I was a child, I knew kersen by the name of keres. The Dutch was used to call it as Japanse kers (Japanese cherry), and Indonesian people then called it as kersen, or keres. Although some Indonesian would call it as talok, baleci, or ceri jawa (Javanese cherry).
Kersen is widely cultivated, and thoroughly naturalized in many places around the world, which made kersen is thought by the local people to be native. The fact, kersen is native to southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America.
In its originate country of Mexico, where kersen is sold in the market, kersen is known by the name of capolin, palman, bersilana, jonote, or puan. Can you believe it? Five different names for just a tree.
Other common names around the world include:
- Jamaican cherry, Panama berry, Singapore cherry, Bajelly tree, Strawberry tree (common English names).
- Datiles, alatris, aratiles, manzanitas and sarisa (Philippines).
- Chitató, majagüito, chirriador, acuruco, tapabotija and nigua (Colombia).
- Majagua, majaguillo, mahaujo, guácimo hembra, cedrillo, niguo, and niguito (Venezuela).
- Bolina, iumanasa, yumanaza, guinda yunanasa, or mullacahuayo (Peru).
- Takop farang, or ta kob farang (Thailand), kakhop (Cambodia), cay trung ca (Vietnam),kerukup siam, or Japanese cherry (Malaysia),Chinese cherry (India), and jam fruit (Ceylon).
- Capulin blanco (Guatemala and Costarica), capulin de comer (El Salvador), pasito, or majagüillo (Panama), nigüito (Ecuador), calabura, or pau de seda (Brazil), capulina, or chapuli (Cuba), cedrillo majagua (Argentina),bois d' orme, or bois de soie marron (Haiti), memiso, or memizo (Dominican Republic), bois ramier, or bois de soie (Guadeloupe). (Morton, J. 1987)
The Health Benefits of Kersen
An undergraduate thesis from Indonesian student of Malang Muhammadiyah University, had demonstrated the anti-hyperglicemic and anti-diabetic properties of kersen. The study resulted the efficacy of kersen fruit juice in lowering blood glucose levels in rats. (Verdayanti TE, 2009)
Kersen leaves are reported potentially to possess antihypertensive effect. The methanol leaf extract of kersen had been studied to demonstrate its antihypertensive effect in anesthetized spontaneously hypertensive rats. The study resulted that the activation of sGC (soluble Guanylyl Cyclase)/cGMP (cyclic Guanosine MonoPhosphate)/PKG (Protein Kinase G) signaling pathway may participate in kersen biphasic (two separate phases) cardiovascular effects. (Shih CD, 2009)
A study in Srimad Andavan Arts and Science College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India, had confirmed the cardioprotective effects of kersen leaves extract against isoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction (heart attack) in rats. (Nivethetha M, 2009)
Kersen leaves possess potential antiproliferative and antioxidant activities due to its high content of phenolic compounds. The aqueous, chloroform and methanol extracts of kersen leaves had been studied using Microculture Tetrazolium (MTT) assay in Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia.
The aqueous and methanol extracts of kersen leaves inhibited the proliferation of breast (MCF-7), cervix (HeLa), colon (HT-29), and leukemia (HL-60 and K-562) cancer cells lines. Meanwhile, the chloroform extract only inhibited the proliferation of breast (MCF-7), cervix (HeLa), and leukemia (HL-60 and K-562) cancer cells lines.
But, all extracts were failed to inhibit the breast (MDA-MB-231) cancer cells proliferation, and did not inhibit the proliferation of normal (3T3) cells, in which indicated its safety. (Zakaria ZA, et al. 2011)
So, how do you call kersen in your country? Have you ever try to eat kersen fruit? You should try it now. Because, when you are in Mexico, you will have to buy for this tropical climate fruits, which easily to find in every roadsides in my country.