Guava

Guava is packed with nutrients, and in addition to its practical uses, it has many traditional medicinal applications.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Guava, common guava, guayabo
  • Scientific namePsidium guajava
  • Plant typeTree
  • Main producer(s)Brazil
  • Main Economic UseFood industry, Culinary
Guava

Guava is native to Central America, specifically Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. It has been spread around by humans, birds, and animals over the years. Today, it is common in warm areas of the tropical Americas, like the Bahamas, Bermuda, and southern Florida, where it was reportedly introduced in 1847. Soon after, early Spanish and Portuguese settlers brought guava from the New World to the East Indies and Guam. Guava is now cultivated in places as diverse as India and Hawaii, with Hawaii being one of the world's leading producers. Guava is believed to have been used since the 1500s for alimentary and medicinal purposes. Traditionally, guava leaves have been used to help treat gastrointestinal disorders like diarrhea, as well as fever, cough, mouth sores, and wounds. Today, the guava fruit is widely consumed and offers copious vitamins and nutrients.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntibacterial, Antioxidant, Hypoglycemic
  • Key constituentsGuava leaf polyphenol, tannins
  • Ways to useCapsules, Food, Juiced
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Guava

Guava has been used traditionally to treat diarrhea and alleviate toothaches; it has also been applied to stop wound bleeding, though it is no longer recommended for this purpose. Guava leaves have antimicrobial, antihyperglycemic, and antihypercholesterolemic properties that give them potential medicinal uses, such as:

  • Preventing and managing type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing LDL cholesterol levels
  • Treating certain bacterial infections
  • Relieving diarrhea caused by Staph or Salmonella

How It Works

Guava fruit is rich in nutrients, while its leaves exhibit most of its medicinal properties. The fruit contains antioxidants, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and fiber. Guava leaves contains a unique phytonutrient called guava leaf polyphenol, which is made up of ellagic acid, cyanidin, and other phenols. The leaves are also rich in tannins, which are the main active compounds responsible for some of its therapeutic properties. Tannins, which can bind to proline-rich protein and block bacterial protein production, are effective against certain Gram-positive bacteria.

Guavas contain almost five times more vitamin C than oranges.

Guava leaf polyphenol is thought to be the main compound behind the plant's hypoglycemic properties. It works by inhibiting some alpha-glucosidase enzymes, thereby controlling blood sugar levels. Guava leaf has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, though the mechanism is not well-defined.

How to Consume Guava

Main preparations: Raw, frozen, capsule

Since guava is so readily available, it is easy to incorporate it into one's diet. Creative ways to consume guava include in smoothies, soups, salads, and as a dessert. Eating more guava is a tasty and simple way to get more daily fiber and vitamins.

Culinary Information

The most common way of consuming guava is to eat the raw fruit, which is packed with vitamin C and fiber, making it a tasty and healthy snack. In some regions - mainly the Caribbean and Southeast Asia - it is widely consumed uncooked as a small refreshing meal, but it's also boiled or made into desserts and confections. In many parts of South America, it's common to eat it as a jam or paste (known in Brazil as goaiabada).

Many people know guava for its sweet and sour taste and popular use in desserts, but it can also be used medicinally due to high nutrient content and therapeutic qualities.

Other Uses

The fruit's scent is a common additive in the beauty industry, in particular for face and body creams. Guava tree bark is widely used for carpentry and other items. The wood is fairly strong, so it is used to make things like handles for furniture, combs, and toys. It is also used for fuel wood and charcoal for barbecues.

Buying

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

Raw guava can be found at most grocery stores in the produce section year round. Guava is also commonly processed into jellies, juices, syrups, pies, and ice cream. These are also typically available at most grocery stores. Guava supplements are available online and at some nutrition shops in the form of powder.

Guava is believed to have been used since the 1500s for alimentary and medicinal purposes.

Plant Biology

Classification

Guava, or Psidium guajava, is a tropical evergreen that belongs to the Myrtaceae family and the Psidium genus, which encompasses around 100 species. Guava trees may grow up to 20 feet (6 m) tall and are characterized by their large leaves and small, white flowers with numerous stamens. Guava fruit is pear-shaped, with yellow skin and pink flesh with lots of seeds. The tree bark is easy to peel off and is characteristically smooth and pale in color.

Varieties and Subspecies of Guava

Thanks to its widespread adaptation and large market, many cultivars of guava have been developed, numbering more than 50. Among the most important are 'Sardar', 'Chittidar', and 'Habshi'.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsLeaves, Fruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic), 6.6 – 7.3 (Neutral), 7.4 – 7.8 (Slightly alkaline)
  • Growing habitatSubtropical regions, Tropical rainforests
  • Plant spacing average3 m (9.84 ft)
  • Propagation techniquesCuttings

Guava trees grow in almost any type of soil, but require a tropical climate, hot and humid (59 - 90° F or 15 - 32° C), with plenty of water and direct sunlight. Although guava trees cannot survive at any temperature below 38° F (3° C), they can withstand a wide range of soil pH, from 4.5 - 8.2, although best yields are achieved if the soil is neutral or only slightly acidic.

It is recommended to leave ample space between trees when planting, of approximately 13 feet (4 m), and to use a generous amount of fertilizer shortly after planting. They can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, or grafts with similar ease, although the latter will better ensure the fruit resembles that of the parent tree. Pruning should be constant to promote sprout development.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesCosmetics, Fiber, Furniture/carpentry

Economic Data

Guava fruit is widely consumed all over the globe, and consequently, is a major commercial industry. Brazil leads the global guava production – with 4,737 metric tons exported to the U.S. in 2011 – and Hawaii comes second in production. Guava is popularly consumed raw, but is also processed into jellies, juices, syrups, ice cream, and pies.

Bibliography

  • USDA Plants Database, Guavas: 2011 Production Up 46 Percent
  • Medicinal Plants of the World, p. 258
  • FAOSTAT, Leaflet No. 4 – Guava
  • Phytotherapy Research, Guava leaf extract and topical haemostasis, 2000
  • Nutrition & Metabolism, Anti-hyperglycemic and anti-hyperlipidemic effects of guava leaf extract, 2010
  • University of Hawaii, Guava: General Crop Information
  • International Journal of Microbiology, Antimicrobial Activities of Leaf Extracts of Guava (Psidium guajava L.) on Two Gram-Negative and Gram-Positive Bacteria, 2013
  • Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de Sao Paulo, Antibacterial activity of GUAVA, Psidium guajava Linnaeus, leaf extracts on diarrhea-causing enteric bacteria isolated from Seabob shrimp, Xiphopenaeus kroyeri (Heller), 2008
  • Fruits of Warm Climates, Guava