Graviola

Graviola, a fruit from South America, has been growing in popularity around the world and is praised for its sweet taste and wide range of health benefits.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Graviola, soursop, guanabana, Brazilian paw paw, prickly custard apple
  • Scientific nameAnnona muricata
  • Geographic distributionSouth America
  • Plant typeShrub
  • Native regionSouth America
  • Main Economic UseFood industry
Graviola

Graviola (Anona muricata), also known as soursop fruit, is native to South and Central America, where it has been used for its rich flavor and health benefits for centuries. While it is widely popular in its indigenous lands, most people outside of South America remain unaware of the immense nutritional and medicinal value of graviola.

Graviola Medicinal Properties

Quick Facts (Medicinal Properties)
  • Medicinal actionHypoglycemic
  • Key constituentsAnnonacin
  • Ways to useCapsules, Hot infusions/tisanes, Food
  • Medicinal rating(1) Very minor uses
  • Safety rankingUse with caution
Graviola Medicinal Properties

Health Benefits of Graviola

A delicious fruit that's used for flavoring desserts, graviola possesses numerous medicinal properties. However, it has been  most extensively studied and popularly used for:

  • Lowering blood sugar. One of graviola's main medicinal benefits is that it can lower blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial for anyone who suffers from diabetes or high blood sugar level.

  • Improving immunity. Graviola exhibits antioxidant properties. It has the ability to kill the free radicals that attack healthy cells, thus strengthening the immune system and preventing diseases.

The soursop fruit has not been generally recognized as safe or effective for the following traditional uses:

  • Treating arthritis. It is thought that, when applied to the skin, graviola can relieve arthritis pain.

  • Relieving skin inflammation. People sometimes apply graviola to the skin to reduce inflammation and other skin complaints.

Additionally, some studies suggest that graviola may have antiparasitic effects, and the fruit has actually been used for centuries in folk medicine for eliminating worms.

How It Works

The main reasons for graviola's varied medicinal properties are annonacin - an alkaloid that can only be found in fruits of the Annona genus - and its high nutritional value.

Graviola's biological compounds influence the pancreatic beta cells, reducing blood sugar levels in the body, which is beneficial for anyone who suffers from diabetes or other blood sugar level disorders.

Although further studies are necessary to confirm the popular claim of graviola acting as a pain killer, annonacin has shown analgesic and anti-inflammatory potential at the appropriate dosage, helping relieve muscle and joint pain.

In addition, while their exact mechanism of action is yet to be understood, the antiparasitic compounds of graviola seem to contribute to the overall health of the immune system.

The vitamin content of graviola can improve the resistance of the immune system, helping the body fight disease.

Herbs that also possess hypoglycemic properties are cinnamon, lucuma, and yacon.

Graviola Side Effects

Graviola is generally safe for most people. However, when consumed in excess it can affect brain and nerve cells throughout the body, causing paralysis.

Cautions

Due to its high annonacin content, people with Parkinson's disease should not consume graviola, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to consult with a physician before taking this herb in any form.

Graviola Nutrition

Graviola Nutrition

The graviola, or soursop fruit, is a really good source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is necessary for many bodily functions, mainly for boosting the immune system, as well as for improving iron absorption and aiding collagen formation. The fruit of Anona muricata also provides good amounts of copper, a mineral that plays a key role in the production of new red blood cells.

Additionally, graviola offers adequate amounts of potassium, important for the well-functioning of nerves and muscles, and magnesium, which is necessary for energy production and blood pressure regulation. It also contains fair quantities of B complex vitamins, mainly B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid).

The nutritional value of graviola is rounded by small amounts of other vitamins and minerals, such as B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), and iron.

100 grams of graviola provide 66 calories, about 17 grams of carbohydrates, and 13% of the suggested daily value for dietary fiber.

How to Consume Graviola

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesFlavoring, Beverage
  • TasteSweet
Graviola How to Use

In moderation, graviola in its medicinal forms can provide numerous health benefits. However, eating this fruit raw is recommended in order to obtain its nutrients.

Natural Forms

  • Raw. Perhaps the most popular form of medicinal consumption, raw graviola provides great nutritional content, and also contributes to lower blood sugar. 

  • Beverages. Another way of reaping the medicinal and nutritional benefits of graviola is drinking it in juices, shakes, and smoothies.

  • Infusion. Another popular medicinal form, a hot graviola tea can gently contribute to lower blood sugar levels.

  • Powder. Typically added to smoothies or shakes, graviola powder is commonly used as a nutritional supplement and it may also help relieve muscle and joint pain.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Liquid extracts. When used topically, graviola extract it is thought to reduce skin inflammation.

  • Capsules. In this concentrated form, which comes in fixed doses, graviola can help lower blood sugar levels.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets, Specialized health stores, Online herb stores

Natural Forms

Graviola can be found at food markets throughout much of the tropical world. The fruit is most often sold whole, but it is easy to find juices and smoothies made of graviola in many places. Dried graviola can also be found in bulk and teabags in specialized health stores and online retailers.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Graviola remedies and supplements are mainly found in specialized health stores and through online retailers. Each brand may come with different concentrations and natural supplements like graviola are not regulated, so it is important to be cautious.

It is recommended to seek medical advice in case of any preexisting health condition or possible interactions with prescribed medications.

GRAVIOLA TEABAGS ARE POPULAR AND CAN BE PURCHASED THROUGH A NUMBER OF ONLINE RETAILERS.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilMedium (loam)
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatHumid regions
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones10a (From −1.1 °C (30 °F) to +1.7 °C (35 °F)), 10b (From +1.7 °C (35 °F) to +4.4 °C (40 °F)), 11a (From +4.4 °C (40 °F) to +7.2 °C (45 °F)), 11b (From +7.2 °C (45 °F) to +10 °C (50 °F))
  • Plant spacing average7 m (22.97 ft)
  • Potential insect pestsMoths
  • Potential diseasesFungi

Because it is native to tropical climates, graviola thrives best in humid growing regions with damp, loamy soil. Also, because it is a low-growing, bushy tree that can reach heights of 25 - 30 feet (7.5 - 9 m), it is important to plan accordingly when planting it. Follow these additional growing guidelines to successfully cultivate this tree.

Growing Guidelines

  • Growing a graviola plant from seed is recommended, rather than buying a growing tree from a nursery.

  • It is important to scarify seeds and sow them in grounds of two under one inch (2.5 cm) of damp soil that has been mixed with organic matter. Depending on temperature and water drainage, germination can take anywhere between 14 and 30 days.

  • Be sure to give this plant full sun exposure.

  • This tree is highly intolerant of cold weather. Temperatures below 5 °C (41 °F) will cause damage to leaves and small branches, and temperatures below 3 °C (37 °F) can kill it. For this reason, be sure to keep it in a hot climate, whether that is outdoors or in a temperature-controlled greenhouse.

  • Each crop yields 12 to 24 fruits per tree during a harvest.

  • Seeds are typically set out in the beginning of the rainy season, due to its need for moisture and should be spaced at least 12 - 15 feet (4 - 5 m) apart, but can be spaced up to 25 feet (8 m) apart.

  • The tree begins to bear fruit three to five years after it is first planted.

  • Graviola trees are vulnerable to mealybugs and fruit flies.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesAlcohol

Plant Biology

Also known as soursop, graviola has an incredibly distinctive heart-shaped appearance with a spikey exterior. The tree's malodorous, evergreen leaves are smooth, glossy, and dark on the upper surface while they are lighter underneath. The flowers of the tree can appear anywhere on the tree - the branches, twigs, or trunk - and typically have yellow-green outer petals with pale yellow inner petals.

  • Classification

    Graviola (Annona muricata) is a member of the Annonaceae family, also known as the "custard apple tree family," which comprises approximately 130 genera and over 2,300 - 2,500 species, including ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), and cherimoya (Annona cherimola).

    Members of this family are mostly found in the tropics, though some do enjoy more moderate temperatures. For example, the closely related Annona cherimola has proven to have a greater adaptability to temperate and Mediterranean climates, which is proving useful for its related industries.

  • Varieties and Subspecies of Graviola

    Of the different varieties and subspecies of soursops, they are divided into three main classifications: sweet, subacid, and acid; they are then subdivided by shapes, which include round, heart-shaped, oblong, or angular. They are, then, divided by flesh consistency, which varies from soft and juicy to firm and dry.

    All of these different varieties of graviola serve different purposes, depending on the region they are grown in. Some of the most popular varieties have Spanish names, including guanaba azucaron (sweet), which is either consumed raw or used for drinks, and guanaba acida (very sour), which is used only for flavoring drinks. Other popular varieties include guanabana dulce (sweet soursop), and guanabana sin fibra (fiberless).

Historical Information

Graviola was first used by the indigenous people of the Peruvian Andes as a fruit crop and as medicine. Native people of the Peruvian Amazon used the plant as a sedative, whereas those in the Brazilian Amazon used it to treat liver problems and increase women's breast milk production. In pre-colonial Jamaica and Haiti, graviola was also used for its medicinal qualities as a treatment for diarrhea. From there, graviola began spreading throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

The famous American author Mark Twain referred to graviola as "the most delicious fruit known to man," and the fruit was profusely represented in the form of ceramics and textiles by the ancient cultures of South America.

Economic Data

The graviola plant is grown extensively for the commercial value of its fruit. It is still predominately cultivated in its native regions, though commercial production has reached as far north as Florida and has also been adapted in some parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. The plant yields around 4.8 tons of fruit per hectare four years after planting, rising to 11.8 tons after 10 years. The high demand for soursop in many parts of North America is proving useful for introducing the commercialization of Annona cherimola, or cherimoya, a closely-related species with a prized sweet flavor.

Today, many countries grow soursop including China, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cuba, India, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Venezuela, Argentina, West Africa, Mexico and parts of Central America. Few regions produce soursop commercially: on the short list is the Philippines, nations in the Caribbean, and parts of South America.

Other Uses of Graviola

Graviola is brewed into some beverages for additional flavor.

Bibliography

  • USDA Nutrient Database, Basic report 09315: Soursop, raw
  • Germplasm Resources Information, Dr. Duke's phytochemical and ethnobotanical databases
  • African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, Anti hyperglycemic activities of Annona muricata (Linn)
  • International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Phytochemical and pharmacological properties of Annona muricata: a review, 2012
  • National Tropical Botanical Garden, Annona muricata
  • Pharmaceutical Biology, Possible mechanisms of action of the hypotensive effect of Annona muricata (soursop) in normotensive Sprague-Dawley rats, 2010
  • Boston University, Annona muricata
  • Fruits of Warm Climates, pp.75-80
All About Graviola