Graviola (botanical name Annona muricata) is an undersized, erect tree growing up to a height of 5 meters to 6 meters. This tree produces large, shiny, deep green hued leaves. The fruit of this tree is also large and heart-shaped measuring anything between 15 cm and 20 cm in diameter. The exterior of this edible fruit is yellowish-green, while its internal flesh is white hued.
Native to nearly all areas in North and South Americas, counting the Amazon, having warm tropical climatic conditions, graviola has now been naturalized in many places that have high humidity and comparatively warm winter months. However, the leaves as well as the small branches of the tree will be damaged if grown in places where the temperatures are under 5°C (41°F). On the other hand, the plant will die if grown in places where the temperature drops below 3°C (37°F). In such conditions, the fruits of graviola dry out and they are no longer fit for preparing concentrates.
While the ripened fruits can be consumed raw directly, the pulp is wonderful for preparing beverages and sherbets. It has a somewhat sour-acid flavour. Many people compare the flavour of graviola fruit to a blend of pineapple and strawberry, having a tinge of sour citrus, which contrasts with the basic creamy savour that reminds one of the flavours of banana or coconut.
In addition to its uses mentioned above, this fruit is extensively promoted in the form of an alternative remedy for cancer. However, there is no medical or scientific evidence that the fruit is useful for this purpose.
Leaves, fruit, seeds, bark, roots.
While the graviola is not an exceptional fruit, but it definitely has a long history of being used in ancient herbal remedies and even in contemporary times, this fruit is considered to be a good herbal medicine.
The flesh of graviola fruit encloses a white pulp, some amount of dietary fiber, edible oil, some black seeds and a core that is hard to digest. It is interesting to note that graviola is the sole member of the genus to which it belongs. This fruit is appropriate for processing as well as preservation.
It is important to note that in the tropical regions the entire graviola tree is employed in natural medicine. In fact, the leaves, bark, roots, fruits and even the seeds of this plant possess therapeutic properties and are used to treat a number of health problems. Usually, the fruit as well as the juice extracted from it are taken internally for treating worms and parasites, for increasing breast milk following childbirth, to cool fevers and also in the form of an astringent to treat dysentery and diarrhea. The seeds are also crushed and used for treating internal and external parasites, worms and head lice. It is believed that the leaves, bark and roots of graviola tree possess sedative, hypotensive, anti-spasmodic and nervine properties. An herbal tea prepared from these parts of the tree is used to cure a variety of health problems that call for these attributes in a remedy.
As discussed earlier, this plant has a long and valuable history of being employed in herbal medicine, in addition to its long documented use for local purposes. People inhabiting the Andes in Peru have been using a tea prepared from the leaves of graviola for treating catarrh (for instance, inflamed mucous membranes) while the crushed seeds are employed to eliminate parasites. In Guyana, the native tribes employ the leaf or bark of graviola to prepare a tea, which is used in the form of a heart tonic and sedative. On the other hand, people inhabiting the Brazilian Amazon use the tea prepared from graviola leaves for treating liver disorders, while the oils extracted from the leaves as well as the raw fruit are blended with olive oil and employed externally for treating arthritis pain, rheumatism, and neuralgia.
People in Haiti, Jamaica and the West Indies use the fruit as well as the juice extracted from the fruits for treating fevers, diarrhea, and parasites. They use the leaf or bark of graviola in the form of a sedative, antispasmodic as well as a nervine for treating heart problems, hypertension, difficult childbirth, coughs, flu, asthma and parasites.
In ancient times, people used the leaves of graviola for preparing an herbal tea that was effective in lessening catarrh or normalize the distended mucous membranes. In addition, this tea was also used to treat liver disorders. The black seeds of the fruit were usually crushed and employed in the form of a vermifuge (a medication used to expel worms). In fact, you may grind all the parts of graviola and use the powder in the form of an anti-convulsant or a sedative. Earlier, people used the graviola fruit to alleviate or lessen joint pains, to cure heart ailments, to encourage labor, lessen symptoms associated with flu, reduce coughing and also in the form of a sedative.
The fruit of graviola tree has a number of culinary uses. As the trees are extensively cultivated and their fruits are very popular in several regions of the Caribbean, Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Pacific, graviola as well as all its derivatives are consumed by people throughout the world. Apart from consuming the fruit and its derivatives directly, people also use them in branded food products as well as beverages that are available in several countries, counting Brazil, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Graviola is a very common fruit in Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico, and Ethiopia and it is frequently used in the form of a desert, either as a sole ingredient or in the form of a beverage called agua fresca. People in Venezuela and Columbia use the fruit to extract its juice and it is consumed blended with milk. Soursop or graviola fruit is also used to make fruit bars and ice creams, which are extremely popular among the people there. Generally, the black seeds of this fruit are removed while preparing these foods and also while consuming the fruit, provided you do not use a blender to process these food items or beverages.
In Indonesia, people boil the pulp of soursop or graviola in water and add sugar to the mixture till it solidifies. This solid mixture is a sweetmeat, locally known as dodol sirsak. In addition, graviola is also quite commonly used for preparing fresh fruit juices that are hawked by street food vendors in Indonesia. People in the Philippines call this fruit guyabano – which has its origin in the Spanish term guanabana. They consume the ripened fruit directly or use it to prepare juices, ice creams and smoothies. Occasionally, Filipinos also use the leaf of Annona muricata to tenderize meat. In southern Vietnam, graviola is known as mãng cầu Xiêm, while people in the northern regions of the country call it mãng cầu. Like the Filipinos, they also consume the fruit ripe or use it to prepare smoothies.
People in Cambodia refer to graviola as tearb barung, denoting “western custard-apple fruit”. In Malaysia, graviola is known as durian belanda in the local dialect, while in the East Malaysia, particularly among the Dusun locals of Sabah, this fruit is called lampun. It is a popular fruit in this part of the globe and consumed raw when ripened. Alternately, they also use this fruit as a constituent of Ais Batu Campur or Ais Kacang.
Generally, graviola is plucked from the trees when it is quite mature and subsequently, left in a dark room to ripen fully. Once the fruits are completely ripe, locals eat them raw. The Annona muricata plants produce white fragrant blossoms, whose aroma is particularly pleasing during the mornings. This fruit is easily available in Brunei Darussalam, where it can be cultivated with ease. People in this region call this fruit “Durian Salat”.
It is believed that originally Annona muricata was carried to the Philippines from Mexico by traders who frequented the Manila-Acapulco Galleon route.
The pulp of graviola is also employed for making drinks based on fruit juices, fruit nectar, sorbets, candies and flavourings for ice creams.
Habitat and cultivation
The fruit of the tree known as Annona muricata is called graviola. This is a flowering, evergreen species that is indigenous to Central America, Cuba, Mexico, the Caribbean and the northern regions of South America, especially Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Peru.
Currently, Annona muricata is being cultivates in various regions of Southeast Asia and in abundance in the Mauritius Islands. Even when grown in places having temperate climatic conditions, graviola will grow well in containers, provided if the plants are shielded from chilly temperatures.
Annona muricata is cultivated as a commercial herb for its green fruits, which are elongated and prickly. Each fruit weighs approximately 15 pounds, making the graviola the second largest annona fruit next to the jungle sop.
Several studies undertaken in laboratories as well as in the field hint that substances obtained from the fruit of graviola may possibly have the potential for a variety of applications in the future, as they have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive, cytotoxic, anti-leishmanial, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic actions in laboratory trials. However, scientists are yet to undertake large-scale researches involving graviola on humans.
For therapeutic purposes the standard dose is taking 2 g tablets or capsules containing the extracts of graviola fruits thrice every day. In addition, you may also take one cup (250 ml) of a standard infusion thrice every day. Alternately, you may take a standard tincture prepared in the ratio of 4:1 ( in dosage of 2 ml to 4 ml) thrice every day.
Side effects and cautions
Scientists are yet to completely comprehend the health benefits offered by graviola health supplements and the adverse affects of using them. Occasionally, the use of graviola may result in sedation, sleepiness, or even relaxation. In Guadeloupe, a very uncharacteristic parkinsonism has been related to consuming the fruit of graviola as well as drinking the infusions or decoctions made from the leaves of this tree. The fruit as well as leaves of graviola are said to enclose compounds called annonaceous acetogenins, which are lipophilic (ability to promote absorption of lipids) inhibitors of complex I originating in mitochondrial respiratory chain. Although people in Guadeloupe consume this fruit habitually, there is a growing concern that eating graviola fruits for several years or decades on a regular basis may possibly result in a problem similar to Parkinson’s syndrome.