Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
Other Common Name:
Graviola, Custard apple, Paw paw, Corossolier
Common names in Spanish:
Guanábana, Guanábano, Anón
Where is it found?
Soursop is a fruit tree native to tropical America (probably the West Indies) but is also cultivated in other tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including India (Galtier and Exbrayat, 2009; Ayensu, 1994; Morton, 1979). In the United States, the tree is grown and its fruit marketed in Florida and other regions
The fruit (in spite of the common name “soursop”) is sweet, soft, and smooth. It provides various nutrients including vitamins C and B (including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin) as well as minerals: calcium, phosphorus, and iron (González-Stuart, 2014; Small, 2012; Duke, 1986; Morton, 1979).
Parts of the plant used:
Fruit, leaves, bark and root.
How is it used?
The fruit is consumed fresh or made into juices and smoothies. The leaves are taken as a tea. The seeds are crushed to make a poultice against head lice (see precautions below).
What is it used for?
In traditional herbal medicine, the fruit and leaves of the tree are used to relieve digestive ailments (including diarrhea), pain, hypertension, inflammation, fever, coughs, and asthma, among many other medical afflictions (Quattrocchi, 2012; Roth and Lindorf, 2002; Roig, 1991; Duke, 1993, 1986; Morton, 1981, 1979).
A tea made from the leaves has been reported to have a soothing and calming action, especially for insomnia and nervous disorders (Liogier, 1990; Morton, 1981), but should not be used in small children.
The seeds are toxic and are used to make a liquid hair wash to kill lice, but caution should be taken, as the liquid is very irritating to the eyes (Quattrocchi, 2012; Galtier and Exbrayat, 2009; Morton, 1981).
Soursop leaves and fruits contain natural compounds called acetogenins, which may be beneficial in the treatment of prostate as well as other cancers (Sun et al., 2014), although more controlled research is needed. Other diverse phytochemicals are also found in the plant including, annopentocins, annonacin, quinolones, coreximine and reticuline. These may have beneficial action acting in concert (Waizel-Bucay, 2012).
Many studies have shown that they possess antioxidant, anticancer, anticonvulsant, anti-arthritic, antiparasitic, antimalarial, liver protective and blood glucose lowering (antidiabetic) effects. These studies showed that annonaceous acetogenins are the major constituents of A. muricata, and more than 100 of these compounds have been isolated from the fruit, leaves, bark, seeds, and roots. Some of these compounds may have chemo-preventive (anticancer) potential (Moghadamtousi et al., 2015; González-Stuart, 2011).
Yang et al. (2015) showed that synergy (the combined actions of all the active ingredients or phytochemicals) contained in the leaves of soursop (flavonoids, isoquinoline alkaloids and annonaceous acetogenins, among others) were both superior as well as safer in in vitro experiments with prostate cancer xenografts.
Soursop extracts have a promising potential against gastric ulcers, which could be explained due to their free radical quenching effects against damage caused by oxidative stress, as well as their protective effect toward gastric wall mucus (Moghadamtousi et al., 2015).
A study showed that an ethanolic (alcohol-based) extract of soursop possessed antiviral activity in vitro against the Herpes simplex virus (Padma et al., 1998).
Another study showed that the extract made from the pericarp (rind) of the fruit showed antimicrobial activity against the protozoan parasite that causes the neglected tropical disease known as leishmaniasis (Jaramillo et al., 2000).
Safety / Precautions
- The delicious fruit is safe to eat and nutritious, but the seeds are toxic and should not be consumed
- Tea made from the leaves should be avoided during pregnancy
- Do not take tea for long periods of time and avoid use in small children
- Due to its blood glucose lowering effects, supplements containing soursop or graviola should be taken with caution by patients taking anti-diabetic medications.
- Due to its blood pressure lowering effects, supplements containing soursop or graviola should be taken with caution by patients taking antihypertensive medications.
Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!
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