In case you had watched Dwayne Johnson starrer movie, The Rundown (Welcome to the Jungle), we would recall about fruit “Konlobas” which caused hallucinations and temporary paralysis. Though such fruit isn’t real, however fruits of 60 species of genus Annona have powerful chemicals which can affect nervous system. A fruit appearing very much similar to Konlabas is Graviola. Soursop or Graviola or Annona muricata belongs to family of custard apple tree native to Caribbean and Central America. Other common names of Graviola are western custard apple, cherimoya, guanabana, brazilian paw paw, prickly custard apple or Soursapi
Graviola fruit is not only safe for normal eating but also nutritious and tasty. Graviola fruit is the largest in Annona family. The flavor is combination of citrus flavours of pineapple and strawberry and creamy texture very much like banana. The oval fruit is dark green and prickly from outside while juicy and soft segments inside. The fruits can grow up to 12 inches long and 5-7 kg in weight. The fruit has large number of seeds and contains high amount of fatty acids. The core and seeds of the fruit are not edible.
Graviola fruit and other parts have been traditionally used for treating diseases. The root, bark, leaves and seeds of Graviola tree are also known for various health benefits in folk medicines.
Culinary uses of Graviola Fruit
Soursop Fruit flesh can be eaten raw or pieces can be added to salad. Graviola fruit pulp is used in making graviola smoothies, graviola juice, soft drinks, candies, jelly and ice cream. Canned seeded soursops are available in American markets. Champola in Brazil and Carato in Puerto Rico are some popular Graviola drinks. It is used very much similar to pineapple or custard apples.
Nutritional Value of Graviola
100 gram of fruit contain mainly 10 gram of seeds. It offers around 70 calories of energy. The fruit is rich in Vitamin C, dietary fibers, Vitamin B – Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate and minerals like Potassium, Magnesium, Copper and Iron. The nutritional profile is not very different from other fruits, but what makes Graviola different is presence of strong phyto-chemicals. Annonaceous acetogenins is derivatives of fatty acids found in various parts of garviola tree, which has medicinal properties. Current research is centered on potential benefit of these substances over cancer. Graviola also contains other alkaloids and essential oil which has potential medicinal properties.
Health benefits of Graviola or Soursop
Graviola fruit, leaves, root and barks have been long used for medicinal purposes. It has been used in treating bacterial and viral infections and body parasites. It has been considered helpful to relieve pain, inflammation, swelling and healing wounds. It has been used as home remedy in gastro-intestinal ailments. Some more health benefits of Graviola are discussed here.
Can Graviola really cure Cancer?
Often a small benefit is good enough for marketers to promote their products. Same seem to be the case with Graviola. Graviola products and Graviola supplements have been promoted as prevention and cure for cancer. Here is what Cancer Reasearch UK quotes about Graviola on cancer treatment – “We do not support the use of graviola to treat cancer. Our advice is to be very cautious about believing information or paying for any type of alternative cancer therapy on the internet”
Yes, it is true that laboratory studies have found that graviola extracts killed tough resistant cancerous cells, but confirmatory human studies are still required. While graviola extracts have potential to cure cancer, its neurotoxic nature cannot be ignored. But with no doubt, soursop contains necessary ingredients which can help in cancer treatment research.
Graviola is an antioxidant fruit
Oxidation of cells by free radicals is prime reason for various diseases including diabetes, heart stroke, liver or kidney disorders. Graviola fruit has antioxidant property which helps in removal of free radicals from body. Research has confirmed antioxidant property of Graviola fruit and leaves.
Graviola good for Diabetes
In Cameroon, Graviola leaves are used as natural remedy for diabetes. A recent 2013 study, published in Journal of ethnopharmacology, shows that Graviola extract showed anti-diabetic activity in drug induced diabetic rats. Graviola is considered to reduce fats in body, protect insulin producing cells in pancreas from free radicals and modulate sugar digestion in body.
Graviola for removing Intestinal parasites
Roots of Graviola have been long used as vermifuge to expel worms from intestine. Phenolic compounds present in graviola leaf and roots are considered to remove gastrointestinal parasites. Graviola leaf tea has been long used in treating such worms. Another study found antiparasitic activity of Graviola fruit extract on various parasites.
Graviola as natural pesticide
Graviola fruit and seeds are considered to house compounds which have properties as pesticide. A research found that extract of Graviola and Black Pepper killed mosquitoes carrying dengue and malaria virus. Acetogenins are compounds in Graviola which can be attributed for such property. Graviola seed oil or Graviola leaf decoction are used in some regions to get rid of head lice or bed bugs.
Anti Inflammatory and Analgesic properties of Soursop
Graviola leaves have been long used in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. In Africa, children with fever are asked to bathe with graviola leaves. In Ecuador, graviola leaves are used as pain killer and reduce spasms. Graviola is often used in central America to relieve labor pain and aid childbirth. A Graviola decoction can be applied in wet compresses to treat painful and swollen feet. Decoction / Tea made of Graviola leaves can treat backaches, headaches, mouth ulcers, cold and cough. International Journal of Molecular studies has published a study on anti-inflammatory properties of Graviola. Graviola flowers are used traditionally for treating bronchitis and cough.
Graviola for good sleep
In West Indies, Graviola leaves are believed to induce sleep. In Netherlands, Soursop leaves are kept under pillow to treat insomnia. Soursop is believed to contain Tryptophan which relaxes body tissues and induces sleep. It is also helpful in treating depression. Ripe Graviola fruits also has sedative properties as was confirmed in an animal study.
Anti-microbial properties of Graviola
Water extract of Graviola exhibited anti-bacterial properties in labs. Traditionally, graviola leaves have been used for treating wounds. Soursop leaves are chewed, mixed with saliva and applied to wounds for treating them. Such poultice of mashed soursop leaves is believed to treat skin infections, bruises and eruptions as well. It is used as folk medicines by African and Central Amercian people for treating various bacterial and viral infections.
Graivila for treating Urinary Tract infection
While Graviola exhibits anti-microbial property to fight urinary tract infection, it is also good hydrating food and is considered diuretic. More than two third of the fruit is water. It is helpful in reducing edema and inflammation of urethra. It is also considered helpful in treating kidney disorders like hematuria.
Graviola for treating Herpes infection
Herpes is disease resulting infections of mouth, lips, genitals or eyes caused by Herpes simplex virus. Graviola has been used as folk medicine and natural remedy to cure herpes infection.
Graviola for treating Gastro intestinal problems
In West Indies, Graviola Tea made from young shoots or leaves are used for treating gall bladder, diarrhea, dysentery, indigestion or nausea. It is considered to act as coolant. Dietar Fibers in Graviola fruit are helpful in sooth bowel movements. They are also useful in removal of cholesterol and toxins from body.
Soursop reduces blood pressure
Soursop is considered to reduce blood pressure and helpful for patients suffering from hypertension. A research with leaf extract confirmed that Annona muricata is food plant which can reduce blood pressure.
Graviola is considered Chemoprotective in nature
While Graviola is promising food in cancer treatment research, some in vitro studies have pointed out to chemoprotective properties of graviola. Further research is needed to establish such claims.
Graviola as Antidote for poisoning
Traditionally the root and bark are used as an antidote for poisoning. However no scientific studies have been done to establish such claim.
Side effects of Soursop
Limited dietary consumption of Graviola is considered safe. However Sousop fruit, leaves and seeds contains some alkaloids; especially annonacin which can cause dysfunction of brain neurons and excess consumption has potential risk of generating hallucinations and symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. Graviola barks has high concentration of hydrocyanic acid which is harmful. Essential oil in Graviola seeds are poisonous and can cause eye inflammation. Consumption of graviola can be avoided by pregnant women, breast feeding women and small children. While cancer research on graviola is promising, similar research on neurotoxicity of soursop needs to be investigated.
How to make Graviola Tea?
Enjoying Graviola fruit is good way to enjoy health benefits of graviola fruit. Benefits of graviola leaves can be enjoyed by way of Graviola Tea. Just like other herbal tea, Graviola tea is made by boiling 10-15 dry graviola leaves or bark in water. The water is boiled till it reduces to half and then sieved. Mint, Basil leaves, lemon or honey is often added for some flavor.
Other names for Graviola or Soursop
Guanábana (Spanish) Flaschenbaum, Sauersack, Stachelannone (German), corossol epineux, or cachiman epineux (French), Sirsak (Indonesian), Durian Belanda (Malay), Antilles or Zuurzak (Dutch) tu-rian-tet (Thai), mãng cầu Xiêm, mãng cầu gai (Vietnamese), guyabano (Filipino), 刺果番荔枝 (Chinese) shul-ram-fal or Lakshmana Phala (Hindi) Amba Shoukh or Thorny Mango (Harari – Ethopia)Image Credits: Flickr - Burlap