Acai Berry

Euterpe oleracea

Herbs gallery - Acai Berries

Common names

  • Acai
  • Cabbage Palm
  • Guasai
  • Hasabis
  • Jicara
  • Manac
  • Naidí
  • Palisade Pine
  • Saké
  • Uassi
  • Wasei
  • Yuyu Chonta

The acai palm is highly decorative as well as attractive having numerous branches that are often able to reach as high as 25 meters or 80 feet. This herb bears fruits in bunches with each bunch containing anytwhere between three to eight fruits. Considering the rigorous extraction of the delectable heart of palm, the propagation of the acai palm trees is really astonishing. While the trees are in blossom all through the year, harvesting is usually undertaken during the period between July and December. People inhabiting the Amazon region greatly appreciate the acai palm fruit for its widespread use in brewing wine as well as consumption as a simple juice. In addition, the acai palm is also an essential as well as favorite dietary complement for these people.

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The juice is taken out from the petite round heart of palm fruits that are purplish in hue. The seeds are then immersed in water to make the outer shell softer. Next, the seeds are compressed and sifted to drain out a thick purple liquid that has an unparalleled taste. This liquid is then served ice cold after adding sugar and tapioca flour. However, there are many who prefer to take the juice without any sugar. Taken simply as a juice, it is nutritious as well as invigorating. In general, the juice is also used in manufacture liquor, ice cream, mousses as well as sweets. The acai palm is indigenous to Brazil and is extensively farmed in the Amazons, States of Pará, Maranhão and Amapá, particularly in the mouth of the Amazon River. The herb thrives well in areas that are flooded periodically as well as by the side of the water bodies.

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The acai palm is found in the Amazon Rainforest of Central and South America. The trees are tall and slender that bears a fruit bearing a resemblance to the blueberry. The seed makes up most part of the acai palm fruit as around 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the berry comprises of its central pit. The residual 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the fruit comprises the acai pulp. Following the extraction of the juice, the acai pulp turns into a puree that forms the base for most of the acai products presently available in the market.

Similar to any other fruit, nature has meant the acai palm fruit for our healthy living and needs to be consumed to stay hale and hearty. These days products prepared with acai palm fruits, especially the acai pulp, are sold in the United States in an assortment of forms - the acai berry liquid, acai berry powder and acai berry capsules. It needs to be mentioned here that the acai berry should not be mistaken for any medication or artificially manufactured drug intended to alleviate different maladies. In effect, the importance and value of the acai berry is in its use as a dietary supplement that has numerous health advantages for the present day unwell or ailing generation. The use of acai berry for weight reduction and burning fat more rapidly is of the  utmost importance as well as the fruits greatest health benefit to man.

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It is interesting to know that the dietary advantages of the acai berry were first established when researchers studied the health conditions of several tribes native to Brazil and who used the fruit as the primary resource of their food. Since then studies have established that the acai berry encloses a number of nutrients and these include amino acids, fiber, iron, omega fatty acids (nourishing fat present in several fishes) and numerous vital vitamins and minerals that help in promoting our cardiovascular health, functions as an anti-inflammatory agents and also aids as an antioxidant.

Several medical researches undertaken regarding the consequences of consuming acai berries have stated that the rich antioxidant content in these fruits (anthocyanins) help in preventing untimely aging as well as in fighting cardiovascular ailments. Over the years, scientists have endorsed the use of antioxidants, which form a vital element of red wine that helps in supporting a healthy diet for the heart. However, the quantity of antioxidants present in acai berries has been found to be around 20 times more than what is usually contained in red wine. In addition, the fatty acids enclosed by acai berries offer a health benefit that is considered to be equal to consumption of other nutrients, such as olive oil - another vital aspect to maintaining a healthy heart.

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People who need to increase the fiber content in their diets are suggested to consume acai berries or dietary supplements prepared with them as they offer huge measures of dietary fiber. The fiber content in acai berries is as high as three grams, which is highly beneficial for our health, especially in promoting natural digestion. In addition, people who work out regularly as well as active movers will also value the increased energy levels offered by acai berries. Amino acid compound as well as the trace minerals present in the acai berry helps in the restoration of the muscles. In fact, the rich content of key elements such as omega fatty acids, fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2 have made people consider the acai berry to be the healthiest fruit that man is familiar with today.

Hence, it may be concluded that the acai berry is an amazing small fruit that is almost complete from the nutritional point of view and offers us an exceedingly powerful amalgamation of antioxidant and anti-aging nourishments that help the body in both ways - while trying to go on a diet or undertake a detoxification. That the nutrient properties of the acai berry are unparalleled is evident from the fact that several tribes in the Amazon region, especially Brazil, survive solely by consuming this wonderful fruit. The antioxidant characteristic of the acai berry assists the body to confine as well as eradicate the harmful free radicals from the toxins, and, this in turn, helps in preventing the development of deadly cancer cells in our body. The phytosterols (plant sterols) present in the acai berry impersonate the natural estrogens in the body and assist in alleviating inflammation. In fact, the acai berry has the capability to assist in the cleansing process in our body and also supply the vital nutrients required by the body to function efficiently. In addition, this fruit also strengthens the immune system and, at the same time, restores energy in our body.

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It is important to note that like any other fruits or berries, the acai palm fruit too decays very soon. Owing to its watery characteristics, the acai berry is inclined to exhaust the major part of its nourishments soon after it is harvested. To be precise, the acai berry loses nearly all of its dietary value within 24 hours of being harvested. Hence, it is always advisable to purchase acai berry powder as it is a dehydrated product. As mentioned earlier, presently there are numerous acai berry products available in the market. These include acai berry juice (liquid form of the fruit), acai berry powder, or acai berry capsules. However, it must be borne in mind that not all acai products are prepared in a similar manner and, hence, are equally effective. In fact, some of the acai products available in the market today are an apology for acai berry and nothing, but counterfeits. Hence, be careful while buying your desired acai product.

Parts used

Fruit, root, seeds.

Uses

People inhabiting the Amazon region extensively consume the acai palm heart as a vegetable, while a popular drink is prepared from the fruit. In addition, the extract from the fruit is also used as a dye or natural ink, while the wood from the acai palm tree is utilized in constructing houses having thatched roofs with palm leaves. In fact, in the Amazon region falling in Brazil, members of the Indian tribes virtually bring all parts of the acai palm tree into use in various ways. After felling the acai palm tree, these tribes consume the palm heart as a vegetable, prepare a popular drink with the fruit and utilize the mature bracts of the tree to thatch the roofs of their dwellings. Interestingly enough, next, they urinate on the remaining part of the chopped downed tree to draw a species of Rhynchophorus palm beetle to lay eggs within the felled acai palm tree. A number of weeks later on, members of these tribes come back to the residual felled tree to collect around three to four pounds of edible beetle larvae that are a vital resource of protein and fat in their food. Even the drink prepared from the juice extracted from acai berries is a hot favorite among all the communities and native tribes inhabiting the entire Amazon region. The usefulness of the acai palm, especially the utility of all parts of the tree, has encouraged people in this region to plant this wonderful tree virtually every where - in their gardens, in the periphery of their villages as well as in their backyards. Tribal families dwelling along the Amazon River as well as those inhabiting the forests often transport the acai berry and the palm hearts through the river to the nearby towns and cities, where they are sold as cash crops.

Herbal medical practitioners in Brazil use the oil extracted from the acai palm fruit to cure diarrhea, while an infusion prepared with the roots of the tree is used to treat jaundice as well as foster blood creation in the body. A concoction prepared with the shredded acai palm fruit is widely used as a particular ablution for curing ulcers of the skin, while seeds of the fruit are pounded to prepare an infusion to alleviate fevers. In the Amazon region falling under Peru, herbal medical practitioners use roasted crushed seeds of the acai fruit to prepare an infusion to cure fever, while a decoction (brew) prepared with the roots of the acai tree is used to treat numerous ailments, including malaria, hepatitis, diabetes, hair loss, jaundice, hemorrhages, liver and kidney ailments. In addition, the Peruvian herbalists use the decoction to alleviate menstrual as well as muscle pains. Again people in Colombia, where the acai trees are raised by the side of the Pacific coast and are known as naidi, prepare a familiar and favorite drink with the juice extracted from the acai fruit.

All said and done, there is little doubt that the local inhabitants of the Amazon region primarily use the acai palm to prepare a dense and deep purple juice collected by mashing the ripe fruits. In a number of regions in the Amazon, there are people who drink as much as two liters of the juice every day! In fact, the drink is frequently called a 'poor man's juice'. The juice extracted from the acai fruit is such a favorite among the locals in the entire Amazon region that you will often find small set ups called 'acailandia' in almost all villages and towns along the flow of the Amazon River where people prepare and sell the acai juice in little plastic pouches. Basically, the juice prepared from the acai fruit is still a part of the poor people's diet in the Amazon region, over the years it has become a favorite of people belonging to different social and economic categories all over the region and beyond. The juice has a metallic nutty taste with a smooth texture and appears oily.

The process to make the popular dark purple drink with the acai fruits is not very cumbersome. Preparation of the liquid involves soaking the ripened acai fruits in water so that the thin outer covering of the fruits becomes soft. Next, the fruits are compressed and the outsized seeds are pulled out to harvest a dark purple liquid that has a unique or unparalleled taste. Many people inhabiting the Amazon region often add a starchy root vegetable called 'manioc' that has been dehydrated and pounded into a flour form with the liquid extracted from the acai pulp and consume the substance as a purple porridge. Alternately, people add sugar or sugar cane to sweeten the juice and drink it as a beverage.

Simply speaking, the acai fruit forms the main diet for numerous poor families inhabiting the lower Amazon region. In fact, the porridge prepared with the juice extracted from the acai pulp and manioc flour does not possess a high nutritional value, but is certainly filling as it contains hefty amounts of starch and sugar. It is interesting to note that in a major port city called Belém, which is also considered to be the doorway to the Amazon region in Brazil, there exists a vast acai fruit market called Feira do Acai. This unique acai fruit market offers accommodation to approximately 70 to 120 wholesalers who sell more than 200,000 kg of acai fruit every day and that too during the lean season! Even the juice extracted from the acai fruit is extensively gulped as a staple food.

Presently, a lot of research and development is being conducted in the Amazon region to promote and sustain the cultivation of the valuable acai palm trees. The activity is more in the Amazon region in Brazil, especially in the provinces like the Pará and Amapá. Different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and universities in these states are encouraging the continued yield management of lesser inundated forests, usually seasonal, having a prevalence of acai palm trees. As there is a long-term profitable market for the acai fruit as well as the acai palm heat, it is now worth to observe if the natural rain forest lands are precisely earmarked for the profits to be made in the mass plantation form of acai farming. It may be noted that presently there is a proposal in Brazil that insists on planting as many as five million acai trees in the country's Amazon region during the subsequent 10 years. Consequently, it is also interesting to note if the demand for acai palm products is able to maintain a balance between rain forest preservation and the expansion of prospects to make money or business opportunities.

Presently, a variety of acai products are being extensively marketed as well as available in the United States. These products are basically available in the natural products market and they range from acai liquid fruit drinks to acai freeze-dried or powdered juice extracts in the form of tablets and capsules. Even natural energy bars and specific snacks contain acai fruit extracts.

Constituents

The liquid extracted from the acai fruit, which is simply known as acai or vinho de acai, is neither an alcoholic nor a fermented drink. Chemical analysis of the fruit liquid has shown that it contains one to four per cent protein, seven to 11 per cent fats, 25 per cent sugar, 0.05 per cent calcium, a mere 0.033 per cent of phosphorous and insignificant proportion of iron (0.0009 per cent). In addition to these, the acai fruit liquid also encloses trivial sulfur content and a dash of vitamin A, vitamin B1 and vitamin E. Depending on the method by which the acai fruit drink is prepared, it offers around 88 to 265 calories every 100 grams.

It may be noted here that the acai fruit gets its dark purple color from the polyphenolic compounds present in it. Among the different chemical amalgams present in the acai fruit, a compound known as anthocyanin has drawn the attention of the scientific community. In fact, anthocyanins are a cluster of flavonoids extensively disseminated in plants and they provide various colors ranging from red to purple to different fruits, such as blackberries, grapes and raspberries. Foods and fruits rich in anthocyanin possess antioxidant features and are, hence, sold as products that are able to prevent cancerous growth as well as retard the aging process. Several studies have established that anthocyanin is also a new resource of natural food colorings and dyes. However, the anthocyanin present in the acai fruits is extremely volatile or unstable and disintegrates rapidly when exposed to heat, humidity and also owing to the enzyme actions of other chemicals in the fruit. This explains the reason why the acai fruits are exceedingly perishable and decay almost within 24 hours of being harvested. It is interesting to note that not only the color of the acai fruits transforms voluntarily, but even the flavor and anthocyanin content changes within a very short span even after being stored in refrigerators. It has been often found that the acai fruit perishes even within 12 hours of refrigeration.

We have already discussed about the common vitamins and minerals enclosed in most of the acai fruits. In addition to those, the main acai herb also contains several chemicals traces of which may also be found in the fruits. The chemicals usually found in the main acai herb and sometimes also in the fruits comprise gallic acid, epicatechin, protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxy-benzoic acid, (+)-catechin, p-coumaric acid, ellagic acid, vanillic acid, ferulic acid, cyaniding and pelaronidin 3-glucoside.

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