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Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation

White Zapote*


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.
White Zapote

Scientific Name:

Rutaceae

Other Common Name:

Mexican apple, abché, ajaché, ajachel, cacchique, chapote, coaxmuttza, cochizapote, cochitzapotl, cochil sapota, hyuy, iztactzapotl, tzápotl, uruata-uruápite (Argueta, 2012; White, 2000; Berdonces, 2009; Morton, 1987).

Common names in Spanish:

Zapote blanco, zapote dormilón, zapote dulce, zapote somnífero, mango tarango, matasán, pera mexicana, matasano, sapote blanco (White, 2000; Schoenhals, 1988; Roig y Mesa, 1991).
*Another closely related species (Casimiroa pubescens), commonly known in Mexico as “zapote de rata” (rat zapote) possesses very similar medicinal properties (Martínez, 1989).

Where is it found?

This tree is native to tropical America, from southern Mexico to Central America (Mabberley, 2008; Morton, 1988).

Parts of the plant used:

The leaves, bark, fruit, and seeds (Berdonces, 2009).

How is it used?

The fruit is edible, tasty, and nutritious (rich in beta carotene and vitamin C). The seeds are used to make liquid extracts or teas that are taken orally. The powder obtained from the ground seeds is applied topically. The leaves are used to make teas or are applied topically, depending on the ailment.

What is it used for?

The fruit is eaten to lessen rheumatic pain. The decoction of the leaves and seeds is taken as tea to treat hypertension, anxiety, insomnia, and cramps. The leaves, bark, and seeds have a sedative and mildly narcotic (hypnotic) action. Additionally, they possess anti-spastic and anticonvulsive actions. The leaves have an anti-inflammatory action and are used to make a tea against diarrhea. Externally, the leaves are applied to contusions and wounds, due to their anti-inflammatory activity. Additionally, the decoction made with the leafy stems of the plant is used as a genital wash for women who have just birthed a baby. The external application of the powder obtained from the ground seeds is used to treat skin ulcers and infections. The plant also has the following actions: uterine stimulant, antipyretic (lowers fever), and respiratory suppressant (in high doses). The tea made from the seeds is taken for insomnia, but only in moderation, due to its potential toxicity. A decoction made from the leaves is taken to treat diabetes. The leaves are applied externally as a poultice on the abdominal region for gall bladder problems (Argueta, 2012; Quattrocchi, 2012; Jiménez, 2012; Berdonces, 2009; Martínez, 1989; Morton, 1987; Duke, 1986).

A study by Bertin et al. (2014) using laboratory rats, evaluated and compared the vascular activity of coumarinic and flavonoid compounds isolated from the seeds of three extracts obtained from the botanically related species: Casimiroa spp., C. edulis (white sapote), and C. pubescens, respectively. The phenolic compounds isolated from these species included herniarin, imperatorin, 8-geranyloxypsoralen, and 5,6,2',3',4'-pentamethoxyflavone, all of which induced vaso-relaxation on rat arterial tissues, albeit with different efficacy. Additionally, these plant compounds showed free radical scavenging activity that highlighted a synergistic effect between vasodilatation and the compounds’ antioxidant activity, which may be very beneficial for the treatment and management of cardiovascular diseases. Of all the compounds assessed, imperatorin showed a significant vaso-relaxant activity. The results of this study showed that these plants could have a potential role in the treatment of hypertension and other diseases of the blood vascular afflictions, although more studies are need to confirm this.

Since white zapote is commonly used in Mexican traditional medicine as an antihypertensive agent for elderly people, Bertin et al. (2011) assessed the vascular effect induced by extracts obtained from the leaves and seeds white sapote and a similar plant, C. pubescens (rat zapote) on arterial tissues in young and old rats (aged 4 and 20 months, respectively). Previous studies had showed that the plants’ extracts are capable of inducing the relaxation of rat aortic and caudal arteries. The results of the study showed that the vaso-relaxation induced by the leaf extracts decreased with the aging of the vascular tissue, as the effects were higher in young compared to older rat arterial tissues. However, the methanolic seed extracts of both plant species possessed a marked vaso-relaxation effect on older arterial tissues (Bertin et al., 2011).

Using 3T3-L1 adipocytes (fat cells), Nagai et al. (2014), evaluated the functions of glucose and lipid metabolism activity of four plant compounds (two furocoumarins and two polymethoxyflavones) isolated from leaves of white sapote. The results of the study showed that the addition of the furocoumarins increased glucose uptake and lipid accumulation in the 3T3-L1 fat cells. The results suggested that furocoumarin compounds could be used as functional food-derived compounds to regulate the functions of fat cells, which could be of benefit for the management of metabolic syndrome, which is related to dysfunctions of glucose and lipid metabolism, that are seen in type 2 diabetes, for example.

Awaad et al. (2012) undertook a phytochemical investigation of white zapote and identified four coumarin compounds: umbelliferone, esculetin, imperatorin, and xanthotoxol. Additionally, the researchers analyzed the plant’s essential oil, which led to the identification of 60 compounds, principally sesquiterpene hydrocarbons. The microbiological screenings for the oil and other plant fractions showed important activity against various microorganisms that are comparable to the commonly prescribed antibiotics such as chloramphenicol and kanamycin, for example. An ethanol extract obtained from the plant, as well as the isolated coumarins mentioned above, showed anticoagulant activity. Analyses were undertaken in laboratory animals to determine the activity of the plant extracts on liver and kidney function, but no detrimental effects were noted.

Safety / Precautions

  • The fruit is nutritious and edible, but should be consumed in moderation (Argueta, 2012).
  • The seeds can be toxic, avoid ingesting them in any quantity.
  • Avoid ingesting preparations made from the leaves, bark or seeds during pregnancy and lactation.
  • People who are currently taking anti-hypertensive or anticoagulant (blood thinners) medications should first consult with a healthcare provider before taking any products made from this plant.

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!

References:

Argueta, A. (Editor). Plantas Medicinales de Uso Tradicional en la Ciudad de México.
México, D.F.: UNAM; 2014; pp. 130-132.

Awaad AS, et al. New biological activities of Casimiroa edulis leaf extract and isolated compounds. Phytother Res. 2012; 26(3):452-7.

Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; p. 1192.

Bertin R, Chen Z, Martínez-Vázquez M, García-Argaéz A, Froldi G. Vasodilation and radical-scavenging activity of imperatorin and selected coumarinic and flavonoid compounds from genus Casimiroa. Phytomedicine. 2014; 21(5):586-94.

Bertin R, Garcia-Argaéz A, Martìnez-Vàzquez M, Froldi G. Age-dependent vasorelaxation of Casimiroa edulis and Casimiroa pubescens extracts in rat caudal artery in vitro.
Ethnopharmacol. 2011; 137(1):934-6.

Duke J. Isthmian Ethnobotanical Dictionary 3rd ed.
Jodhpur, India: Scientific Publishers; 1986; p. 41.

Jiménez A. Herbolaria mexicana 2a ed.
Madrid: Mundi-Prensa; 2012; p. 458 .

Mabberley D. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 157.

Martínez M. Plantas Medicinales de México.
México, D.F.: Editorial Botas; 1989; pp. 349-355.

Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México.
Chapingo, Estado de México: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo; 2011; pp. 874-875.

Morton J F. Fruits of Warm Climates.
Miami, FL: Florida Flair Books; 1987; pp. 191-195.

Nagai H, Tanaka T, Goto T, Kusudo T, Takahashi N, Kawada T. Phenolic compounds from leaves of Casimiroa edulis showed adipogenesis activity.
Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2014; 78(2):296-300.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol. 2.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; p. 139.

Roig y Mesa J T. Plantas Medicinales Aromáticas o Venenosas de Cuba 2a edición Vol. 2
La Habana, Cuba: INRA; 1991; p. 867.

Schoenhals L. A Spanish-English Glossary of Mexican Flora and Fauna.
Mexico City: Summer Institute of Linguistics: 1988; p. 137.

White R. Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Names of North America Including Mexico.
Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2003; p. 41.