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Soursop, or Guanabana, is a popular tropical fruit of the Annonaceae family called Annona muricata, a broadleaf, flowering evergreen tree. The leaves of the tree are often used in herbal medicine, while the fruit is often used in cooking and confectionaries. This article will review five of the top, research supported Soursop health benefits as well as the possible side effects of Soursop toxicity or overconsumption.
Soursop (Graviola) Overview
Guanabana is a fruit that grows in the American tropics and has been traditionally used for its anti-cancer properties. Learn more about the history, benefits, and how you can consume this sweet, creamy fruit in the articles linked here:
Top 5 Soursop Health Benefits
High in Antioxidants & Annonaceous Acetogenins
Antioxidants are substances that can help slow down damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals that aren’t removed from the body efficiently can lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to many inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and immune deficiency. Antioxidants help to neutralize these free radicals, and this can boost overall health and wellbeing.
One study found the molecular mechanism of Soursop extract’s antioxidant action can prevent damage caused by cellular oxidants.
Another study measured the antioxidants and plant compounds that act like them and found Soursop extracts were highly rich in various phytochemicals including luteolin, homoorientin, tangeretin, quercetin, daidzein, epicatechin gallate, emodin and coumaric acid.
In an article published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, it is noted that annonaceous acetogenins are the major constituents of Annona muricata. Annonaceous acetogenins are promising new antitumor and pesticidal agents found only in the plant family Annonaceae. These polyketide-derived fatty acid derivatives exhibit a broad range of potent biological activities including cytotoxicity, antitumor, antimalarial, antimicrobial, immunosuppressant, antifeedant, and pesticidal effects. More than 100 of these powerful annonaceous acetogenins have been isolated from leaves, bark, seeds, roots, and fruits.
Inflammation is the body’s reaction to an injury or infection. This can cause pain, redness, and swelling and can sometimes become chronic. Prolonged inflammation is linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Research on Soursop’s anti-inflammatory effects are currently limited to animal studies. While we need to see human studies added to the field, the information revealed through animal research is promising.
One study found Soursop extract decreased swelling and alleviated inflammation in rats.
A second study discovered similar findings in mice where soursop extract reduced welling by up to 37%.
When it comes to cancer, it’s crucial to understand that no dietary supplement can fully treat, cure, or prevent cancer. However, there are some supplements that can potentially aid in prevention or assist in recovery.
Soursop is most commonly used for its potential effects against cancer. While it is not considered an approved treatment or cure at this time, new research continues to surface that support its anti-cancer properties.
One study conducted on breast cancer cell lines found Annonna muricata reduced tumor size and weight, showed anti-metastatic features, and induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. The study concluded that Annona muricata crude extract is a promising candidate for cancer treatment especially in breast cancer and deserves further research as an alternative to conventional drugs.
A comprehensive mechanistic review of the anticancer properties of Graviola brought all of the cancer-related research up to 2018 into one place. Extracts of the different parts of Annona muriate were shown to induce cytotoxicity, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and necrosis while also inhibiting cancer cell motility, migration, metastasis, and proliferation. Cancers studied in this review include breast, bladder, prostate, colorectal, lung, leukemia, renal, pancreatic, hepatic, oral, stomach, melanoma, skin, cervical, gastric, ovarian, and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Can Reduce Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a condition where the force of blood against artery walls is high enough for long enough that it poses a greater risk for heart disease and other health problems.
In a randomized controlled trial involving 143 human subjects, the effect of Soursop supplementation on blood pressure was investigated. The results of the study indicated the mean of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure of the treatment group was significantly lower compared with the control group after 12 weeks of treatment. The study concluded that soursop supplementation can lower blood pressure.
The findings of this trial are promising, however, more research is needed to further understand safety and effectiveness of Soursop as a therapeutic treatment for hypertension.
Other Potential Health Benefits
In addition to its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antihypertensive effects, Graviola offers a wide variety of other potential health benefits. A comprehensive guide to Soursop and its pharmacological activities reviews relative studies and research conducted on Graviola and different health ailments that afflict mankind.
Additional benefits of Soursop supported by research cited in this article include, but are not limited to antiulcer, antidiarrhea, antidiabetic, antiprotozoal, antibacterial, antiviral, and wound healing properties.
Safety & Toxicity
The research continues to become more clear regarding the benefits of Soursop; there are a lot of potential benefits, and science is supporting them. However, these benefits come with potential risks as the safety and toxicity levels of the plant are not entirely clear. The level of toxicity depends on the part of the plant as well as the solvent. The seeds, for example, should never be consumed as they are toxic.
Most research concerning toxicity are limited to animal studies. One study conducted in mice showed annonacin has the potential to cause neurodegenerative disorders. In murine model tests, annonacin was able to penetrate the blood brain barrier, decrease ATP levels in brain cells, and damage the basal ganglia.
These findings sound scary, but it is important to note that the doses producing negative effects such as those mentioned above were equivalent to consuming one fruit ever day for a year. Research on the neurotoxicity of annonacin showed neurodegenerative conditions caused by these compounds arise from continuous exposure or prolonged consumption. To avoid the occurrence of neurodegenerative conditions, continuous excessive consumption should be avoided.
The soursop plant, its fruit, leaves, seeds, and bark come with a multitude of potential benefits and its own set of risks. While more human studies are needed, animal research supports many of its purported health benefits including anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-hypertensive, and antioxidant effects.
The toxicity of the plant varies by part and is difficult to determine depending on the solvent used during testing. One of the highest occurring compounds in the plant, annonacin, can pose the risk of neurotoxicity when consumed in excess amounts or with long-term use. Always follow the recommended dosage for any supplement you are consuming. Do your research so you are aware of the benefits and the risks, and always consult with a licensed medical professional before beginning a new health supplement to make sure it is safe for you and your unique health profile.
Please speak with your doctor or other licensed healthcare professional before beginning any new supplement including Soursop. None of the content on this site is or should be considered medical advice. The purpose of this article is simply to highlight relevant research for those curious about the potential benefits of consuming Soursop.