The Soursop tree (Annona Muricata), indigenous to the rainforest regions, is a broadleaf, evergreen tree that produces flowers and fruit. The trees grow in areas with high humidity and warm temperate winters, including Cuba, Mexico, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The Graviola belongs to the muricata species of trees which is classified in the Annona subdivision of the Annonaceae tree family.
Common names associated with Graviola include:
- Brazilian paw paw
The Soursop designation is actually the name of the fruit produced by the Soursop tree. The fruit appears in large, heart-shaped forms with a yellow-green, spiky skin and white fleshy interior. Much like the name implies the fruit is fairly acidic with a taste that resembles a mix of strawberry and pineapple. Not unlike other types of fruit, Soursop contains essential vitamins and minerals which make for a healthy addition to anyone’s diet.
Soursop fruit contains a high level of carbohydrates and fructose, which is a natural sugar. Significant levels of vitamins B1, B2 and C are also found in Soursop. In areas native to the Soursop, the fruit, leaves and seeds serve a variety of medicinal purposes for the people in these regions.
Pulverized Soursop seeds are used as skin astringents, to kill off bedbugs and head lice and to reduce muscle spasms. Concoctions made from Soursop leaves are used for a range of treatment remedies, some of which include:
- Alleviating arthritis pain
- Reducing joint inflammation
- Reducing inflammation in nasal passages and the respiratory tract as a whole
- As a tranquilizer or sedative
- To treat skin conditions like eczema
The juice from the Soursop is often used as a diuretic. People who reside within the South America, Central America and Mexico regions also use the juice for other conditions, such as scurvy and dysentery. The bark, leaves and root portions of the tree can be used as a sedative/tranquilizer and are also used to treat symptoms related to diabetes.
Cancer Treatment Potential
Laboratory research studies conducted on mice show promise for Soursop leaf, seed and fruit extracts as potential treatments to reduce or eliminate the spread of cancer cells in the body. The active ingredients contained inside these portions of the plant are known as Annonaceous acetogenins and only exist within the Annonaceae plant family. Ongoing studies conducted by Purdue University and the National Institute of Health have examined the antitumor properties of Annonaceous acetogenins and uncovered some conclusive findings on the cancer treatment potential of Soursop.
Acetogenins are active compounds capable of preventing abnormal or cancer-type cells from producing the energy they need to grow and reproduce. They do this by interfering with the enzyme processes involved in producing ATP, the energy molecules that fuel cell activity. Without these molecules, cells are unable to carry out the basic functions that keep them alive and allow them to reproduce. These compounds also inhibit blood flow to abnormal cell bodies which work to cut off their nutrient supplies. Studies conducted by the National Cancer Institute also show these effects of Soursop extracts on several forms of cancer, some of which include:
- Breast cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Lung cancer
- Liver cancer
- Prostate cancer
How to Prepare
When considering herbal or plant remedies, the type of condition being treated often determines the type of treatment preparation needed. Herbal treatment preparations come in capsule, tea or tincture forms. Each method is designed to draw out certain medicinal properties of the plant. Tea preparations draw out the anti-inflammatory properties of the plant while tincture preparations enhance the plant’s antibacterial properties.
Standard dosages for Soursop based on type of preparation are:
- Capsules/tablets – 2 grams, three times a day
- Tinctures – 2 to 4 milliliters, three times a day
- Teas – 1 cup, three times a day
The effects of Soursop in capsule form depend on what properties of the plant exist as active ingredients in the capsule. As Soursop contains several different types of acetogenins, identifying the type of acetogenin needed to treat a condition will determine which active ingredients to look for on the label.