Graviola, or soursop, is the common name of a tropical fruit tree known botanically as Annona muricata. The 30-foot-tall bushy plant has had many traditional uses. The seeds have been used to kill head lice and the fruit juice to treat leprosy. The tree parts also contain chemical compounds known as alkaloids that affect people physiologically. Before taking graviola supplements, consult a doctor.
A study published in January 2002 in the journal “Movement Disorders” suggests that the high incidence of West Indians with Parkinson’s-type motor problems is related to high consumption of graviola fruit. Researchers used neurons in culture, not human subjects, to conduct the investigation. However, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center cautions that more human research is necessary for the medical community to inform the public on graviola’s risks as well as its benefits.
The alkaloids reticuline and coreximine seem to be behind the movement disorders associated with graviola consumption. The fruit is rich in carbohydrates and vitamins B-1, B-2 and C. Calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorous are also present. The plant has substances derived from fatty acids called annonaceous acetogenins, which are being extensively studied for their effects, according to 2009 information from Drugs.com. The ripe seeds contain a protein type called glycoprotein that binds to sugars.
Graviola has been used traditionally to calm the nerves, treat stomach problems and relieve fever, although clinical trials are lacking to support these uses, notes Drugs.com. Purdue University also cites that the fruit juice has been used for blood in the urine, inflammation of the urethra, leprosy and liver problems. A decoction of the unripe graviola is given to dysentery patients and the fruit pulp serves as a poultice to remove chiggers. In the laboratory, the graviola substances called annonaceous acetogenins inhibited the growth or multi-drug resistant-cancer cells, as reported in the June 1997 issue of the “Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.” The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center cites the other laboratory research indicates the potential of graviola extract to kill viruses, stop inflammation, lower blood sugar and induce vomiting in cases of poisoning, among other possible benefits. Human studies are necessary to confirm these uses.
How to Take
The best way to take graviola supplements is under your physician’s care. Although research is lacking, you may want to avoid the product if you have Parkinson’s disease or another disorder that affects your movements. Be equally cautious if you are pregnant or nursing. Scientists haven’t issued a standard dose for graviola. One manufacturer recommends, somewhat vaguely, one 500 mg capsule “a few times a week” with dinner.
- Purdue University; Soursop--Annona muricata; Julia F. Morton; 1987
- “Movement Disorders”; Toxicity of Annonaceae for Dopaminergic Neurons: Potential Role in Atypical Parkinsonism in Guadeloupe; A. Lannuzel et al.; January 2002
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Graviola; Apr. 5, 2011
- Drugs.com; Soursop; 2009
- “Journal of Medicinal Chemistry”; Structure-activity relationships of diverse Annonaceous acetogenins against multidrug resistant human mammary adenocarcinoma (MCF-7/Adr) cells; N.H. Oberlies et al.; June 1997