Annona muricata, commonly called soursop, is a fruit high in nutrients such as calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin C, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2. Consuming the pulp is said to cure a range of maladies from pain and inflammation, hypertension, constipation, anaemia, migraines, diabetes to urinary tract infections. People consuming soursop claim, to feel rejuvenated, and to sleep well, because of the tryptophan present in the fruit. The body uses tryptophan to help make serotonin, which is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood. The fruit looks very much like a custard apple. The active ingredients in soursop are chemicals called acetogenins, which have shown an impressive variety of medicinal properties in laboratory testing.
Botanical name – Annona muricata
Hindi Name- Lakshmana phala
Common Name – Soursop
Tamil Name- Mulluchitta
Malayalam – Mullatha
Health Benefits of Soursop
Soursop is a tree that inhabits the rain forests of Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, and has been and is a traditional medicine for various ailments. It is called guanábano in Spanish and graviola in portuguese. In South America and Africa, soursop is used to treat parasitical infections, rheumatism, arthritis and depression. The leaves have numerous health benefits. They are used to alleviate arthritis pain and joint inflammation. They also help to reduce inflammation in the nasal pasage and respiratory tract. Soursop leaves are said to be an effective natural remedy to treat eczema. The juice from the fruit is used as a diuretic.
Soursop has been traditionally used to treat bacterial and parasitical infections. There are in-vitro studies to show soursop’s effectiveness against microbial and parasitic elements. It is also said to be effective against the Herpes simplex virus. The seeds, though considered neurotoxic and inedible, are used externally as skin astringents, to get rid of bedbugs and kill head lice. When crushed soursop seeds are applied externally, it also helps reduce muscle spasms.
The leaves have great health benefits. It has analgesic properties. In some cultures, children consume soursop leaves tea, to bring down fever. The leaves are also used to treat wounds. The fruit helps to eliminate intestinal parasites. The fruit juice is also said to increase lactation and maintain healthy glucose levels.
Soursop is also known for its sedative properties. The plant possesses serotonin uptake inhibitor, which is said to be responsible for mood elevation. Scientists have found certain alkaloids in the fruit which are thought to be effective anti-depressants, but they discourage people from eating too much of this fruit, as the fruit may cause side-effects with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. The black seeds in the fruit are found to be indigestible and toxic, and as such are believed to be the cause of atypical type of Parkinson’s disease. According to naturopath, Leslie Taylor, the alkaloids are highest in the seeds and hence neurotoxic. She advocates using leaves and pulp of fruit to treat ailments, as they have a high concentration of acetogenins.
Soursop Health Benefit for Cancer
Even though there is not enough medical evidence, and there have not been any large scale studies on humans, soursop has been widely promoted as an alternative cancer treatment. According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, soursop or graviola extract proved to be effective against breast cancers cells. In laboratory studies, soursop extracts have been known to kill some types of liver and breast cancer cells that are resistant to particular chemotherapy drugs. A study also showed that graviola may inhibit tumororigenicity and metasis of pancreatic cancer cells.
A series of experiments conducted by the Purdue University College of Pharmacy, shows the anti-cancer potential of soursop. It was found that the acetogenins present in the fruit successfully inhibited malignant cells that could turn cancerous. Research also indicates that soursop is effective against multi-drug resistant (MDR) cells that are born in the process of cancer. Consuming the fruit helped people cope with the side effects of chemotherapy. It has been established that the leaves more than the fruit of the soursop plant is full of cancer preventing chemicals. Naturopath Leslie Taylor, author of “The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs,” notes that studies show that the graviola or soursop, has an inhibitory effect on enzyme processes in some cancer cell membranes. It only affected cancer cells membranes and not those of healthy cells. She also reports that researchers in Taiwan, found that ‘the main graviola acetogenin, annonacin was highly toxic to ovarian, cervical, breast, bladder and skin cancer cell lines at very low dosages’.
Soursop or graviola has become known because of its cytotoxic properties (ability to kill cells). It is believed that given the role of the immune system in eliminating dysfunctional cells, one can conclude that soursop can support the functions of the immune system in an exceptional manner. According to canceractive.com ‘research has indicated, albeit in vitro, that several of the active ingredients (Annonaceous acetogenins) kill malignant cells of 12 different types of cancer including breast, ovarian, colon, prostate, liver, lung, pancreatic and lymphoma.’