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Ice Apple: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction:  

Ice apple is a less known tropical fruit of the palmyra palm tree. It is widely available in the hot sizzling summer seasons. It is scientifically known as Borassus flabellifer and belongs to the family Arecaceae. Ice apple fruit is a deep brown to black in appearance and spherical upon ripening. It is a coconut-like fruit with a juicy mass of white fibre coated with orange or yellow pulp. The pulp of mature ice apple is eaten directly from the wiry fibre of peeled fruits.1 

ice apple benefits

The fleshy ice apples are packed with translucent, juicy liquid and may have exceptional cooling properties. It provides a perfect mixture of vitamins and minerals required for the body during summers. The palmyra tree grows in tropical countries such as India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia.1,2 

So, let’s gather more information about this less-known fruit. In this blog, you will find the uses and health benefits of ice apples. 

Did You Know?

  • The United States imports approximately 90% of its Ice Apple supply. source: USDA
  • Ice Apple is commonly used in the United States for making desserts and beverages. source: Food Network
  • The consumption of Ice Apple in the United States has been steadily increasing over the past decade. source: Statista
  • Ice Apple is low in calories, with an average serving containing only 80-100 calories. source: Eat This, Not That!
  • The United States is one of the largest consumers of Ice Apple globally. source: World Atlas

Nutritional Value of Ice Apple: 

Ice apples are considered a hydrant due to the high water content. The ice apples are rich in vitamins such as A, B, and C and minerals such as zinc, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, etc.3 The nutritional value of ice apple is as follows: 

Nutrient Components Value/100 g 
Energy 87 kcal 
Fats 1.0 g 
Proteins 2.8 g 
Carbohydrates 18.5 g 
Fibre 15 g 
Sugars 14 -16 g 

Did you know that India has the highest number of Palmyra trees in the world? That is approximately 85.9 million trees. Out of these, around 60% of the Palmyra trees are located in Tamil Nadu alone.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Table 1: The nutritional value of ice apple pulp per 100 grams3  

Also Read: Custard Apple: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Properties of Ice Apple: 

The ice apple fruit contains different phytonutrients. These might contribute to various biological properties that may benefit human health.1 Ice apples may have the following properties: 

  • Antioxidant  
  • Anti-inflammatory  
  • Antibacterial  
  • Wound-healing  
  • Sedative (might calm and induce sleep)  
  • Stomachic (may increase hunger)  
  • Laxative (may relieve constipation)  
  • Diuretic (may excrete water from the body)  
  • Anthelmintic (might act against parasitic infection)  
  • Immune response suppressing1,2  

Also Read: Grapefruit: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Potential Uses of Ice Apple for Overall Health: 

Various parts of the palmyra tree, including the ice apple fruit, might have beneficial properties, which may be contributed by its phytochemicals.2 Some of the potential uses of ice apple are described as follows: 

1. Potential uses of ice apple for skin:  

The health benefits of ice apple for the skin might be due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Ice apple may be helpful in skin inflammation problems such as boils, prickly heat, and rashes. Ice apples may have cooling properties. You may use ice apple in the face pack; applying a thin layer of jelly on the affected area might be beneficial in soothing sensitive skin. It may ease the itchiness associated with prickly heat.2 

These studies are insufficient, and further studies are necessary to support the potential use of ice apples to manage skin-related problems in humans. 

2. Potential uses of ice apple for diabetes:  

Ice apples are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, and they might be good for people having diabetes.2  

An animal study conducted by Uluwaduge et al. in 2006 demonstrated that a steroid-like component of ice apple might have a beneficial effect in lowering blood glucose levels. In addition, their subsequent study also reported that dried ice apple fruit pulp (pinattu) might be used as an anti-hyperglycemic (glucose-lowering) agent. A previous clinical trial conducted with mild diabetic patients also suggested that eating dried ice apples might be helpful in lowering serum glucose levels.4 

These studies, however, are insufficient, and more research is needed to prove the effectiveness of ice apples in managing diabetes-related issues in people. Therefore, before using ice apples for diabetes, it is best to speak with a doctor.  

Based on my understanding and research, I have come across some studies that suggest Palmyra products have potential anti-arthritic properties. This means that these products may help in reducing arthritis-related symptoms and provide relief from joint pain and inflammation.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Check out  Accu-Chek Active Glucometer Kit  for accurate blood glucose reading

3. Other potential uses of ice apple:  

  • The potential benefits of ice apple might demonstrate a solution for digestive problems and other ailments. 
  • Ice apple may be used as an aperient to relieve constipation and might benefit the digestion process.  
  • Ice apple may be suitable for dealing with nausea and vomiting. 
  • The anthelmintic properties of ice apple might be helpful in dealing with a worm infestation. 
  • It may be used as an expectorant (cough syrup), which might help expel the mucus during cough. 
  • During the hot summer seasons, eating ice apples might be helpful to keep the body hydrated. It might also help in replenishing the nutrients of the body. 
  • The benefits of ice apples might help with painful urination and tiredness in the body.  
  • Ice apple may be also beneficial for dealing with malnutrition in children and adults.2 

Though studies show the benefits of ice apples in various health conditions; this information is insufficient. Therefore, further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of ice apples on human health are necessary.   

Also Read: Plums: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

In my experience, incorporating different parts of the plant, like leaves, bark, and roots, into your diet can provide disease prevention and overall health benefits. These plant components contain valuable substances such as polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and proteins that have positive effects on our well-being. Including them in your meals can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and potentially help prevent certain diseases.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

How to Use Ice Apple? 

Ice apple is a delicious fruit with a juicy fluid and sweet taste.4 The uses of ice apple are given as follows: 

  • The tender pulp of ice apple contains sweet juice, which you can drink like coconut water. 
  • Ice apples can be pickled in vinegar. They are also canned. 
  • Ice apples are used to make refreshing delicacies like squash juice, sarbat, toffee, burfi, candy, peda and kheer, etc. 
  • It can be sundried (punatoo), roasted or boiled. 
  • The outer layer of ice apple is often eaten by roasting or boiling it. 
  • It is also used to make jams and cordials (candy).3,4 

You should consult a physician before taking herbal supplements. Do not change or discontinue your ongoing medicine with any herbal or Ayurvedic preparations without consulting a physician. 

Side Effects of Ice Apple: 

There are no significant reports suggesting side effects of eating ice apples. Therefore, more studies are required about the side effects of ice apples on human health. 

However, if any side effects are seen upon eating ice apple, immediately contact your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed you to have it. They will give you the correct advice. 

Precautions to Take With Ice Apple:  

Ice apple may be safe when eaten in a small amount. However, general precautions must be followed.  

  • There is insufficient information available to suggest the safe use of ice apples for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, it is crucial to take advice from a doctor before taking ice apple as a herb. 
  • You need to be extra cautious while giving it to older adults and children because their immunity is not very strong, and they might develop some reactions in the body. 
  • It is advised that one should never use any herb to self-medicate, especially without the advice of a physician. 

Also Read: Zinc Rich Fruits: A Comprehensive Nutritional Guide

Interactions With Other Drugs: 

There is not enough scientific information about the interaction between ice apple and other drugs. However, one should not assume that there are no interactions at all.  

Thus, it is better to take the advice of an Ayurvedic doctor who will prescribe the best way to have the ice apple.   

Also Read: Green Apple: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects and More!

Frequently Asked Questions: 

How to reduce the bitter taste of ice apple fruit? 

People often avoid eating ice apples because separating the pulp from the fibre is tricky and also due to its bitter taste. Traditionally the debittering of ice apple was done by heating the ice apple fruit over hot coals or using heat-stable enzymes that were scientifically proven to reduce the bitterness. In this way, ice apple can be debittered.1 

What are the vernacular names of ice apples?  

The different vernacular names of ice apple are Nungu in Tamil, Tad, Tariya, Tari in Hindi and Thati munjalu in Telugu, Targula in Konkani and Talah, Taladrumah, Tala in Sanskrit, etc.4 

Does ice apple benefit in pregnancy?  

There is insufficient documented data to support the benefits of ice apple in pregnancy. Therefore due to no scientific evidence about having ice apples during pregnancy, it is better to avoid their consumption during pregnancy, or it is best to consult a doctor. 

Does ice apple benefit diabetes?

Ice apple contains specific phytochemicals which might contribute to the blood sugar-lowering effect.4 However, due to insufficient studies on humans, the beneficial properties of ice apple for diabetes cannot be confirmed. Therefore, it is better to take advice from your doctor to use ice apples for diabetes.

What are the benefits of ice apples for weight loss? 

Ice apples contain an excellent source of dietary phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it may be considered a healthier choice for people on a diet or trying to lose weight.2 Even so, due to insufficient scientific information, the benefits of ice apples for weight loss in humans need more research.

References: 

1. Saranya P, Vijayakumar T. Preliminary phytochemical screening of raw and thermally processed palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer linn.) fruit pulp. J of Inno in Pharma and Bio Sci. 2016;3(1):186–193. Available from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Preliminary-phytochemical-screening-of-raw-and-palm-Saranya-Vijayakumar/523882a9d2020497ef6073b96ceae855f2d7a412 

2. Jerry A. A Comprehensive Review on the Medicinal Properties of Borassus flabellifer. J of Aca and Ind Res. 2018;7(7):93–97. Available from: http://www.jairjp.com/DECEMBER%202018/02%20JERRY%20REVIEW-JAIR%20DECEMBER%20ISSUE.pdf 

3. Krishnaveni S, Arunachalam R, Chandrakumar M, Parthasarathi G, Nisha R. Potential Review on Palmyra (Borassus flabellifer L.). Advan in Res. 2020;21(9):29–40. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343526441_Potential_Review_on_Palmyra_Borassus_flabellifer_L 

4. Lim TK. (2012) Borassus flabellifer. In: Edible Med and Non-Med Plants. 1st ed. Dordrecht: Springer;2011.p. 293–300. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-8661-7_44 

  Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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