Synonyms: Annona macrocarpa, A. bonplandiana, A. cearensis, Guanabanus muricatus
names: Graviola, soursop, guanábana, guanábano, guanavana,
guanaba, corossol épineux, huanaba, toge-banreisi, durian benggala,
nangka blanda, cachiman épineux
Used: Leaves, fruit, seeds, bark, roots
& Actions: Antibacterial, anthelmintic,
anticancerous, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, antifungal, antimicrobial,
antineoplastic, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, antitumorous,
antiviral, astringent, cardiodepressant, cytostatic, cytotoxic,
febrifuge, hypotensive, insecticide, nervine, pectoral, piscicide,
sedative, stomachic, vasodilator, vermifuge
acetogenins: annocatalin, annohexocin, annomonicin, annomontacin,
annomuricatin A & B, annomuricin A thru E, annomutacin, annonacin, (multiple iso,
cis, one, etc.), annonacinone, annopentocin A thru C, cis-annonacin,
cis-corossolone, cohibin A thru D, corepoxylone, coronin, corossolin,
corossolone, donhexocin, epomuricenin A &B, gigantetrocin, gigantetrocin
A & B, gigantetrocinone, gigantetronenin, goniothalamicin, iso-annonacin,
javoricin, montanacin, montecristin, muracin A thru G, muricapentocin,
muricatalicin, muricatalin, muri-catenol, muricatetrocin A & B muricatin
D, muricatocin A thru C, muricin H, muricin I, muricoreacin, murihexocin
3, murihexocin A thru C, murihexol, murisolin, robustocin, rolliniastatin
1 & 2, saba-delin, solamin, uvariamicin I & IV, xylomaticin
Graviola is a small,
upright evergreen tree, 5-6 m high, with large, glossy, dark green
leaves. It produces a large, heart-shaped, edible fruit that
is 15-23 cm in diameter, is yellow-green in color, and has white
flesh inside. Graviola is indigenous to most of the warmest tropical
areas in South and North America, including the Amazon. The fruit
is sold in local markets in the tropics, where it is called guanábana
in Spanish-speaking countries and graviola in Brazil. The fruit
pulp is excellent for making drinks and sherbets and, though
slightly sour-acid, can be eaten out of hand.
All parts of the
graviola tree are used in natural medicine in the tropics, including
the bark, leaves, roots, fruit, and fruit seeds. Different properties
and uses are attributed to the different parts of the tree. Generally,
the fruit and fruit juice are taken for worms and parasites, to cool
fevers, as a lactagogue (to increase mother's milk after childbirth),
and as an astringent for diarrhea and dysentery. The crushed seeds are
used as a vermifuge and anthelmintic against internal and external parasites,
head lice, and worms. The bark, leaves, and roots are considered sedative,
antispasmodic, hypotensive, and nervine, and a tea is made for various
disorders toward those effects.
Graviola has a long,
rich history of use in herbal medicine as well as lengthy recorded indigenous
use. In the Peruvian Andes, a leaf tea is used for catarrh (inflammation
of mucous membranes) and the crushed seed is used to kill parasites.
In the Peruvian Amazon the bark, roots, and leaves are used for diabetes
and as a sedative and antispasmodic. Indigenous tribes in Guyana use
a leaf and/or bark tea as a sedative and heart tonic. In the Brazilian
Amazon a leaf tea is used for liver problems, and the oil of the leaves
and unripe fruit is mixed with olive oil and used externally for neuralgia,
rheumatism, and arthritis pain. In Jamaica, Haiti, and the West Indies,
the fruit and/or fruit juice is used for fevers, parasites and diarrhea,
and as a lactagogue; the bark or leaf is used as an antispasmodic, sedative,
and nervine for heart conditions, coughs, grippe, difficult childbirth,
asthma, asthenia, hypertension, and parasites.
Many bioactive compounds
and phytochemicals have been found in graviola, as scientists have been
studying its properties since the 1940s. Its many uses in natural medicine
have been validated by scientific research. Several studies by different
researchers demonstrated that the bark as well as the leaves had hypotensive,
antispasmodic, anticonvulsant, vasodilator, smooth-muscle relaxant,
and cardiodepressant activities in animals. Researchers verified graviola
leaf's hypotensive properties in rats again in 1991. Several studies
over the years have demonstrated that leaf, bark, root, stem, and seed
extracts of graviola are antibacterial in vitro against numerous pathogens,
and that the bark has antifungal properties. Graviola seeds demonstrated
active antiparasitic properties in a 1991 study, and a leaf extract
showed to be active against malaria in two other studies (in 1990 and
1993). The leaves, root, and seeds of graviola demonstrated insecticidal
properties, with the seeds demonstrating strong insecticidal activity
in an early 1940 study. In a 1997 clinical study, novel alkaloids found
in graviola fruit exhibited antidepressive effects in animals.
In an 1976 plant
screening program by the National Cancer Institute, graviola leaves
and stem showed active cytotoxicity against cancer cells and researchers
have been following up on these findings since. Much of the cancer research
on graviola focuses on a novel set of phyto-chemicals called Annonaceous
acetogenins. Graviola produces these natural compounds in its leaf and
stem, bark, and fruit seeds. Three separate research groups have isolated
these acetogenin compounds in graviola which have demonstrated significant
antitumorous and anticancerous properties, and selective toxicity against
various types of cancer cells (without harming healthy cells) publishing
eight clinical studies on their findings. Many of the acetogenins have
demonstrated selective toxicity to tumor cells at very low dosages--as
little as 1 part per million. Four studies were published in 1998 which
further specify phytochemicals and acetogenins which are demonstrating
the strongest anticancerous, antitumorous, and antiviral properties.
Thus far, specific acetogenins in graviola have been reported to be
selectively toxic to these types of tumor cells: lung carcinoma cell
lines; human breast solid tumor lines; prostate adenocarcinoma; pancreatic
carcinoma cell lines; colon adenocarcinoma cell lines; liver cancer
cell lines; human lymphoma cell lines; and multi-drug resistant human
are only found in the Annonaceae family (to which graviola belongs).
In general, various Annonaceous acetogenins in the plant family
have been documented with antitumorous, antiparasitic, pesticidal,
antiprotozoal, antifeedant, anthelmintic, and antimicrobial activities.
Mode of action studies in three separate laboratories have recently
determined that these acetogenins are superb inhibitors of enzyme
processes that are only found in the membranes of cancerous tumor
cells. Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, has conducted
a great deal of the research on the acetogenins, much of which
has been funded by The National Cancer Institute and/or the National
Institute of Health (NIH). Thus far, Purdue University and/or
its staff have filed at least nine U.S. and/or international
patents on their work around the antitumorous and insecticidal
properties and uses of these acetogenins. In one of their reviews,
Advances in Annonaceous Acetogenins," they state, "Recently,
we reported that the Annonaceous acetogenins can selectively inhibit
the growth of cancerous cells and also inhibit the growth of adriamycin
resistant tumor cells. As more acetogenins have been isolated and
additional cytotoxicity assays have been conducted, we have noticed
that, although most of acetogenins have high potencies among several
solid human tumor cell lines, some of the derivatives within the
different structural types and some positional isomers showed remarkable
selectivities among certain cell lines; e.g., against prostate
cancer (PC-3). We now understand the primary modes of action for
the acetogenins. They are potent inhibitors of NADH: ubiquinone
oxidoreductase, which is in an essential enzyme in complex I leading
to oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria. A recent report showed
that they act directly at the ubiquinone-catalytic site(s) within
complex I and in microbial glucose dehydrogenase. They also inhibit
the ubiquinone-linked NADH oxidase that is peculiar to the plasma
membranes of cancerous cells."
In 1997, Purdue
University published information with promising news that several
of the Annonaceous acetogenins " . . . not only are effective in killing
tumors that have proven resistant to anticancer agents, but also seem
to have a special affinity for such resistant cells." In several
interviews after this information was publicized, the head pharmacologist
in Purdue's research explained how this worked. As he explains
it, cancer cells that survive chemotherapy can develop resistance
to the agent originally used as well as to other, even unrelated,
drugs. This phenomenon is called multi-drug resistance (MDR). One
of the ways that cancer cells develop resistance to chemotherapy
drugs is by creating an intercellular efflux pump called a P-glycoprotein
mediated pump. These types of pumps are capable of pushing anticancer
agents out of the cell before they can kill it. On average, only
about two percent of the cancer cells in any given person might
develop this pump--but they are the two percent that can eventually
grow and expand to create multi-drug-resistant tumors. Some of
the latest research on acetogenins reported that they were capable
of shutting down these intercellular pumps, thereby killing MDR
tumors. Purdue researchers reported that the acetogenins preferentially
killed multi-drug-resistant cancer cells by blocking the transfer
of ATP--the chief source of cellular energy--into them. A tumor
cell needs energy to grow and reproduce, and a great deal more
to run its pump and expel attacking agents. By inhibiting energy
to the cell, it can no longer run its pump. When acetogenins block
ATP to the tumor cell over time, the cell no longer has enough
energy to operate sustaining processes--and it dies. Normal cells
seldom develop such a pump; therefore, they don't require large
amounts of energy to run a pump and, generally, are not adversely
affected by ATP inhibitors. Purdue researchers reported that 14
different acetogenins tested thus far demonstrate potent ATP blocking
properties (including several found only in graviola). They also
reported that 13 of these 14 acetogenins tested were more potent
against MDR breast cancer cells than all three of the standard
drugs (adriamycin, vincristine, and vinblastine) they used as controls.
An interesting in
vivo study was published in March of 2002 by researchers in Japan,
who were studying various acetogenins found in several species
of plants. They inoculated mice with Lewis lung carcinoma cancer
cells. One third received nothing, one third received the chemotherapy
drug adriamycin, and one third received the main graviola acetogenin,
annonacin (at a dosage of 10 mg/kg). At the end of two weeks,
five of the six in the untreated control group were still alive
and lung tumor sizes were then measured. The adriamycin group
showed a 54.6% reduction of tumor mass over the control group--but
50% of the animals had died from toxicity (three of six). The
mice receiving annonacin were all still alive, and the tumors
were inhibited by 57.9%--slightly better than adriamycin--and
without toxicity. This led the researchers to summarize; "This
suggested that annonacin was less toxic in mice. On considering the
antitumor activity and toxicity, annonacin might be used as a lead to
develop a potential anticancer agent." Its important to note,
however, that annonacin only inhibited the normal growth of the
lung tumors during this two-week period; it did not eradicate the
tumors nor stop their growth altogether.
is ongoing on these important plants and plant chemicals, as several
pharmaceutical companies and universities continue to research, test,
patent, and attempt to synthesize these chemicals into new chemotherapeutic
drugs. In addition, researchers have reported that NADH dehydrogenase
inhibitors can suppress HIV infection. As this is a familiar property
of Annonaceous acetogenins, several acetogenins found in graviola and
other Annona plants have been submitted to the NIH anti-AIDS screening
program by Purdue University; research work is continuing in this area
One researcher summarized
his work eloquently: "At the time of preparation (August 1998)
of this current review, over 350 Annonaceous acetogenins have been isolated
from 37 species. Our preliminary efforts show that about 50%, of over
80 Annonaceous species screened, are significantly bioactive and are
worthy of fractionation; thus, this class of compounds can be expected
to continue to grow at an exponential rate in the future, provided that
financial support for such research efforts can be found. With the demise
of the world's tropical rain forests, such work is compelling before
the great chemical diversity, contained within these endangered species,
is lost." Perhaps--if enough people believe that the possible
cure for cancer or AIDS truly is locked away in a rainforest plant--we
will take the steps needed to protect our remaining rainforests
The therapeutic dosage is reported to be 5-7 grams daily in capsules
or tablets (in 3-4 divided dosages). A standard infusion (one cup 2-3
times daily) or a 4:1 standard tincture (2-4 ml three times daily) can
be substituted if desired. See Traditional Herbal Remedies Preparation
Methods page if necessary for definitions.
Graviola has demonstrated
uterine stimulant activity in an animal study (rats) and should therefore
not be used during pregnancy.
Graviola has demonstrated
hypotensive, vasodilator, and cardiodepressant activities in animal
studies and is contraindicated for people with low blood pressure. People
taking antihypertensive drugs should check with their doctors before
taking graviola and monitor their blood pressure accordingly (as medications
may need adjusting).
Graviola has demonstrated
significant in vitro antimicrobial properties. Chronic, long-term use
of this plant may lead to die-off of friendly bacteria in the digestive
tract due to its antimicrobial properties. Supplementing the diet with
probiotics and digestive enzymes is advisable if this plant is used
for longer than 30 days.
Graviola has demonstrated
emetic properties in one animal study with pigs. Large single dosages
may cause nausea or vomiting. Reduce the usage accordingly if this occurs.
One study with rats
given a stem-bark extract intragastrically (at 100 mg/kg) reported an
increase in dopamine, norepinephrine, and monomine oxidase activity,
as well as a inhibition of serotonin release in stress-induced rats.
As such, the use of this plant is probably contraindicated in combination
with MAO inhibitors and some prescription antidepressants. Check with
your doctor first if you are taking prescription antidepressants or
MAO inhibitor drugs prior to taking graviola.
of graviola leaf showed no toxicity or side effects in mice at 100 mg/kg;
however, at a dosage of 300 mg/kg, a reduction in explorative behavior
and mild abdominal constrictions was observed. If sedation or sleepiness
occurs, reduce the amount used.
Drug Interactions: None have been reported; however, graviola may potentiate antihypertensive
and cardiac depressant drugs. It may potentiate antidepressant drugs
and interfere with MAO-inhibitor drugs. See contraindications above.
analgesic, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, astringent, bronchitis, calmative,
chest problems, cough, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, edema, emetic,
fever, intestinal colic, liver problems, neuralgia, parasites, rheumatism
chill, fever, flu, indigestion, nervousness, palpitation, rash,
sedative, skin disease
gallbladder, nervousness, parturition, sedative, tea, tranquilizer
cataplasm, cicatrizant, cough, diarrhea, emetic, fever, grippe,
heart conditions, lactagogue, nervine, parasites, pediculicide,
pellagra, sedative, soporific, sore, spasm, stomachic
asthenia, asthma, diuretic, fevers, heart conditions, hypertension,
lactagogue, nervine, parasites, sedative, vermifuge
cough, diarrhea, dermatosis, hypertension, rheumatism, styptic
dysentery, fever, liqueur, pectoral, ringworm, scurvy
dyspepsia, kidney, piscicide, ulcer (stomach), vermifuge
catarrh, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, fever, hypertension, indigestion,
insecticide, lice, liver disorders, sedative, tumors (skin),
flu, galactagogue, high blood pressure, hypertension, insomnia,
diarrhea, hypertension, lactagogue, parasites, worms
arthritis, asthma, astringent, bilious, childbirth, cyanogenetic, diarrhea,
dysentery, febrifuge, heart, insecticide, kidney, lactagogue, liver,
malaria, pectoral, pediculicide, piscicide, ringworm, scurvy, sedative,
by Sage Press, Inc. 2002
The above text has
been reprinted with permission of the author. It appears on her web
site and in her book, Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest, 2nd edition,
published and copyrighted by Sage Press, Inc.©
2002 All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or
retrieval system, including websites, without written permission from
Sage Press, Inc. A
complete Technical Data Report is available for this plant from Sage
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