Soursop is a miracle fruit with wonderful health benefits and medicinal uses. Here in Tamil Nadu, it is very famous for it’s anti cancer properties. All parts of this plant including the leaves, fruits and stem are used for medicinal purposes.
We have this tree in our farm and use the extracts in remedies. Though this plant has many medicinal uses, it is not ideal for consuming for long duration’s of time, I would suggest getting to know this plant in detail before taking it’s extracts.
What Is Soursop?
Soursop also called as graviola is the fruit of Annona muricata tree. It is a small ever green tree that produces large oval shaped fruits that are dark green in color with leathery looking skin and short spines. It is native to South and North America but is now found widely in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. The fruit can weigh more than four kilos and consists of white fibrous juicy segments with black seeds inside them.
The flesh is white in colour and almost resembles custard apple but it is slightly acidic and more fibrous when compared to custard apple. When the fruit reaches maturity, there is a slight paling of the green colour and the fruit will be soft to the touch. But during late ripening stages the colour turns brown.
Malic acid content of the fruit begins to increase during ripening, this is the reason for the acidic flavour of the fruit. Usually glucose and fructose reach maximum concentration after 5 days of harvesting and phenols also start peaking but once the fruit is fully ripe, phenols start decreasing which leads to bland flavour in over ripe fruits. Fermentation also causes loss of flavor in very over ripe fruits. The fruit juice extracted from the pulp is used widely in food industry to flavor jams, jellies, yogurts and ice creams.
100 grams contains around 16 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fibre, .3 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein. The fruit is rich in vitamin b1, vitamin b2, niacin, vitamin B5, vitamin b6, folate, choline and vitamin c. It is rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, iron and potassium!
Soursop Botanical and Common Names:
The botanical name of soursoap is Annona muricata. Soursop is the common English name and it is called Mullu Seetha Pazham in Tamil, Mullatha | Mullu Chakka in Malayalam, Hanuman Phal | Lakshman Phal in Hindi, Guanabana in Spanish and Guyabano in Phillipines. I couldn’t find the Telugu and Kannada name for it, if you know please let me know in the comment section.
Soursop leaves are rich source of annonaceous acetogenins (AGE) and they are the most bio-active compounds of the tree. Till date more than 120 acetogenins, 22 alkaloids, 14 megastigmanes and 34 phenolic compounds have been identified. Along with them it also contains various phytochemicals, vitamins, amides and essential oils.
Soursop Traditional Uses:
The leaf juice is used to treat internal parasites, cystitis, kidney disorders, indigestion, hypertension, diabetics, headaches and sleeplessness. Externally, the leaf paste is applied for treating rheumatic pain and neurologic problems and it is also used for treating abscess.
The leaves are also added to bath water to cure skin diseases. The leaf paste is applied on wounds as a poultice for reducing inflammation and pain. The leaf decoction is also used as a feminine wash in some parts of the world and is also widely used for treating fever.
The flesh of the fruit is used for treating rheumatism, arthritic pain, heart diseases, liver diseases, diarrhoea, malaria, parasites, skin rashes, worms, increasing breast milk and for treating catarrh.
SEEDS, BARK & ROOT
Seeds and roots are used as an anthelmintic for treating both external and internal worms and parasites. The water extract is used to control larvae and aphids. The bark of the tree is used as a tonic and the roots are used as an antispasmodic and for treating parasites. The flowers are used for treating cough. In India, the plant is used in ayurvedic medicine for treating high blood pressure, as a tonic, abortifacient and for treating fever.
Soursop Medicinal Uses & Health Benefits
1. Anti Cancer Properties
The leaf, seed, twigs, stem and fruit have anticancer properties. AGE along with other extracts have been proven to be effective against breast, ovarian, cervical, glioma, skin cancer, stomach, melanoma, hepatic, pancreatic, renal, leukaemia, bladder and prostate cancer cells !
2. Anti Arthritic Properties
Another important medicinal use of soursop leaves is reducing arthritic pain. In a study, ethanolic extract of soursop leaves reduced the pain and inflammation in dose-dependent manner after two weeks. This is due to the powerful anti inflammatory properties present
3. Anticonvulsant Properties
In Africa, soursop leaf extract is used to control fever and convulsive seizures. This traditional use has been proven through research now, 100 to 300 mg of extract per kg has been shown to decrease the occurrence of convulsions.
4. Anti Diabetic Properties
Traditionally soursop leaf extract has been used to bring down high blood sugar levels. In a clinical study done on mice, methanol extract of the leaves for two weeks significantly reduced the blood glucose concentration from 21 to 4 mmol/L. This is due to the antioxidant properties and the protective effects of the extract against pancreatic beta cells.
5. Reduces High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
The water extract of the leaves helps bring down high blood pressure and you can read the study that supports this claim here. The extract also helps decrease serum total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides so it is very good for people suffering from high cholesterol levels.
6. Antioxidant & Wound Healing properties
It is very important that we consume antioxidant foods as it helps reduce oxidative stress which is the major reason for premature ageing. Almost all parts of soursop has significant antioxidant properties. Because of it’s antioxidant properties, the leaf extract also helps with faster wound healing.
7. Anti Parasitic Properties
Almost all parts of the plant have antiparasitic properties. Ethyl acetate extract of the leaves is effective against Leishmania species. Ethyl acetate extract of the pericarp is effective against L. braziliensis and L. panamensis. Methanol extract of the seeds is effective against L. donovani, L. mexicana and L. major. Methanol water extract of the seeds is effective against L. chagasi and water extract of the leaves is effective against H. contortus. Along with anti parasitic properties, they also have molluscicidal and insecticidal properties.
8. Antimalarial Properties
Malaria has affected millions of people worldwide. Malaria spreads rapidly so search for effective antiplasmodial ingredients is continuing and soursop extract is very promising. The leaf and stem extract is effective against many strains of plasmodium falciparum which cause malaria.
9. Liver Protective Properties
In African countries, soursop is used to treat jaundice. A study was done to determine the bilirubin lowering properties of water extract of soursop leaves. In the study, the level of bilirubin reduced almost close to normal levels after soursop leaf extract was given to jaundice induced rats. Hepatoprotective properties also was observed in rats who were given the extract after their liver was damaged with carbon tetra chloride.
10. Gastro Protective Properties
Both leaf extract and the fruit pulp is used to treat various stomach problems traditionally. Now it has been proven through research that leaf extract has anti ulcer properties, it is due to their protective effects against gastric wall mucosal damage. The fruit also has significant antidiarrheal properties and has been used for it for centuries.
Soursop Side Effects:
Though soursop tree has many medicinal uses, AGE (Annonaceous Acetogenins) which is found in excess in soursop is a neurotoxin leading to neurodegenerative disorders when consumed regularly. So when using soursop extracts (including the fresh fruit), try to use it as a remedy for a short time and never for long duration’s of time. This applies to food products that contains soursop extract too.
Where to buy soursop?
We get soursop leaf tea, soursop ayurvedic capsules, soursop juice, powder and preserved fresh fruit in the markets. Try to buy small amounts and use it as a remedy instead of consuming it regularly.
1. Soursop Leaf Tea
Boil a cup of water, add in two to three fresh or dried leaves. Steep for few minutes, strain and consume to treat ulcer, bring down inflammation or to reduce blood pressure.
2. Soursop Juice
Take the pulp of the fruit in mixer jar. Add in a cup of milk, small pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and few drops of vanilla and blend to a smooth paste and consume.
3. Soursop Pudding
Grind the pulp along with 2 cups of milk and 1/4 cup of condensed milk. Now sprinkle a tbsp of gelatin over 3 tablespoons of water and let it bloom. Once it blooms, heat it in a double boiler till it melts and add to the fruit pulp and let it set in the fridge. Once set, serve the pudding cold.