Soursop, also known as graviola, is a large, spiny, green tropical fruit with a sweet flesh that is the basis for several beverages, desserts, smoothies, and candy. Beyond its usefulness as a food, soursop also contains natural compounds with medicinal properties, making it potentially beneficial for your health.
The graviola tree, with the scientific name, Annona muricata, produces the sweet soursop fruit, also called custard apple, or in many Spanish-speaking countries, guanabana. The exact origin is unknown; it is native to the tropical regions of the Americas and is widely propagated.
Although its rind is quite bitter, the fruit's flesh is soft, smooth and sweet. The taste of the soursop fruit is a delicious combination of strawberry and pineapple, with other sweet and citrus notes that make it very popular in Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. It is also cultivated in Africa, and occasionally in Southeast Asia. The tree reaches a height of 25 to 30 feet and produces large fruit that may reach a length of 12 inches.
Soursop provides carbohydrate as its major nutrient. It also contains abundant vitamin C and several B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, along with calcium, sodium, protein, potassium, pectin, phosphorus, dietary fibre and a small amount of iron, which are essential for promoting good health.
Practitioners of herbal medicine recommend the fruit and leaves of the graviola tree to relieve stomach distress, fever, pain and respiratory problems such as cough and asthma, and for many other medical problems. You can also use the leaves and pulverized seeds to brew a powerful tea, which also has a number of impressive effects on the human body.
Health Benefits Of Soursop
Possesses Anti-inflammatory Properties
If you are suffering from joint pain or inflammation, particularly from conditions like gout or arthritis, then rubbing a decoction of soursop on the affected area can be a wonderful way to find some relief. The anti-inflammatory compounds found in soursop can quickly speed healing in affected areas, while also soothing pain and improving flexibility.
Relieves Respiratory Distress
If you are struggling with a cough, cold or other forms of the respiratory ailment, soursop’s anti-inflammatory properties can help to clear out your airways, relieve congestion, and soothe irritation. Acting partially as an expectorant, soursop is a reliable way to eliminate phlegm and mucus, where many pathogens can live.
Helps Relieve Stress
Soursop tea has been used as a stress relieving strategy for centuries. There are certain anti-inflammatory and soothing properties of soursop that make it very effective if you are suffering from excessive stress and anxiety. Stress hormones in the body can be detrimental and can affect natural metabolic cycles, as well as one’s sleep schedule. If you’re suffering from insomnia or restless sleep, soursop tea is a wise choice.
Improves Skin Health
You can pulverize the seeds of the soursop fruit into a powder, which can then be formulated into a skin astringent, helping you to reduce lines and wrinkles, and improve the appearance of age spots and blemishes. Topically apply this paste to the affected areas regularly and enjoy a healthier skin, while also protecting yourself from bacterial and microbial infections.
May Help Prevent Cancer
The most interesting benefits of soursop are related to its antioxidant activity, which comes from acetogenins, as well as quinolones and alkaloids. These have been directly linked to cancer prevention and the reduction in the size of tumours. Extensive research has been done on the unique organic compounds of soursop and it has been widely studied as an alternative cancer treatment. These acetogenins are actually unique to the Annonaceae plant family, which is what makes them so fascinating. They can apparently cut off blood flow to foreign or non-normal cellular growths.
Though there haven’t been any direct studies on humans, soursop extracts were found to kill certain types of breast and liver cancer cells.
Protecting the immune system is one of the most important components of a healthy diet and fitness regimen. Adding a bit of soursop fruit to your diet, either through refreshing beverages or desserts, can positively impact your overall health. Rich in vitamin C, this fruit stimulates the production of white blood cells, while the concentration of antioxidants helps to neutralize free radicals and prevent chronic disease.
Improves Gastrointestinal Health
Being rich in vitamin C, soursop was used for many years as a natural remedy for scurvy and dysentery. The juice of the soursop fruit can also be a very effective diuretic, to cleanse the gastrointestinal tract and remove excess toxins and salts from the body. The anti-inflammatory components, including the alkaloids and quinolones, can reduce parasites in the gut and alleviate any pain or irritation in the stomach/colon.
Helps Treat Infections
Soursop can treat infections caused by bacteria and parasites, one of those being leishmaniasis, a disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through the bites of sand fleas.
The leaves of the soursop tree are also used to treat a wide range of infections. By brewing a tea from the leaves of the fruit, you can cleanse your gut and ensure that your gastrointestinal system is running smoothly.
Has Analgesic Properties
In terms of pain relief, soursop has been topically applied to wounds and injuries for generations but also works internally to relieve pain and speed healing. The sedative and anti-inflammatory aspects of this impressive tropical fruit make it an ideal solution for all types of body pain, both inside and out.
Improves Eye Health
Antioxidants in soursop, especially vitamins C and E, zinc, and beta-carotene, have been found to decrease the risk of eye disease. The antioxidants also reduce oxidative stress, which can otherwise cause cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Aids Diabetes Treatment
According to a Nigerian study, soursop possesses anti-diabetic properties. The two groups of rats tested in the study had a significant difference in their blood glucose concentrations, with the group treated by soursop having lower concentrations than the other.
The soursop leaf aqueous extract was found to inhibit (and even prevent) the hepatic oxidative damage caused in diabetes patients.
Boosts Kidney and Liver Health
As per one Malaysian study, soursop extract was found to be safe in rats that were being treated for kidney and liver ailments. Similar observations could be observed in humans as well.
According to another Indian study, the acetogenins in soursop can kill the malignant cells of 12 types of cancer, with liver cancer being one of them.
The soursop fruit has been traditionally used to treat fever. In Africa, a decoction of soursop leaves is used to control feverish symptoms and convulsive seizures. In fact, the larvae of the Aedes aegypti mosquito (which transmit dengue fever), showed great vulnerability towards soursop extract.
As per an Indian study, the soursop fruit and its juice can not only treat fever, but also act as an astringent for diarrhoea. The fruit can help treat fever in children as well; soursop is widely used for this purpose in Africa.
Maintains Healthy Heart Soursop contains vitamin B1 and B2 that are essential for facilitating blood circulation thereby contributing to the maintenance of a healthy heart.
Boosts Energy Level The presence of fructose in soursop makes this fruit an excellent source of energy. Fructose is a monosaccharide (simple sugar) that acts as a building block of complex carbohydrates.
Promote Hair Health
The extract of soursop leaves can help to nourish the hair and prevent problems such as hair loss, dandruff, split ends and pre-mature graying. Plus, they are able to inhibit the development of parasites as the other medicinal properties. So, using a soursop leaf decoction for your hair not only keeps your hair healthy but also can get rid of head lice.
While soursop offers many powerful health benefits, it is important to discuss any new additions to your health regiment with a trained medical professional. Particularly in terms of its cancer-fighting potential, it is wise to seek out multiple opinions before developing your treatment profile. And as always, everything in moderation!
Selecting and Storing Soursop
Choose fruits with dark green skin. They also must have numerous fleshy spines on the surface. Avoid fruits with bruises or blemishes on the skin.
Store the unripe fruit at room temperature. Once the fruit is ripe, store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
And eating the fruit is quite fun! All you have to do is cut the fruit in half using a kitchen knife. Scoop the insides with a spoon, and eat as you enjoy.
While some experts claim that soursop can have negative effects on the body, further studies are needed. Don’t take graviola supplements if pregnant or breast-feeding or on medications, as it may have an adverse effect.
Regardless, take caution when consuming graviola, and avoid it if there are any concerns.