Over the past ten years, graviola, also known as soursop has received a lot of attention. This is in part due to two internet memes which managed to generate an impressive buzz about this interesting plant. The only problem with internet memes is that they can often blow things out of proportion, overemphasizing the good and transforming the bad into the catastrophic.
We have put together this simple list of 8 common assumptions about graviola (soursop), and analyze each assumption one by one. After reading this article you will have a much better understanding of graviola. The terms graviola and soursop are used interchangeably in this article, both referring to the same plant.
1. GRAVIOLA OR SOURSOP IS A MYSTERIOUS AND RARE PLANT OF WHICH WE KNOW LITTLE ABOUT
Soursop has been used by humans for centuries. People around the world value the graviola tree for its delicious fruit, the graviola leaves for their healing properties, and the graviola seeds to kill certain parasites.
Botanists believe that the graviola tree has its origins in Central America, and not in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest, as many people believe. During the European colonial era the fruit was brought to South East Asia and Africa where it was quickly adopted by local populations.
Reports also show that soursop has been cultivated in Florida for over 150 years and is also regularly consumed in Puerto Rico.
The graviola tree has been studied by botanists, biologists, health experts and agriculturalists since the 1940s and a healthy body of documentation exists about this plant. Graviola’s anticancer properties were first reported in a 1976 plant screening program by the National Cancer Institute of the United States.
Research about soursop continues to this day, adding to our already impressive knowledge about this plant.
2. SOURSOP CAN KILL CANCER
TRUE - But not clinically proven on human patients
Soursop does kill some types of cancer cells vitro and in vivo. Research in the United States, Japan and Taiwan have all reported that graviola has some cancer killing properties. However, none of these studies have been carried out on humans, so soursop is therefore not medically considered a form of cancer treatment.
3. GRAVIOLA CAN KILL ALL FORMS OF CANCER
Soursop has been found only to kill certain types of cancer cells. Specific acetogenins in graviola have been reported to be toxic to specific types of tumor cells including: lung, human breast solid tumors, prostate, liver, pancreatic, colon, liver lymphoma, ovarian, cervical, bladder and skin cancer cell lines. However, not all types of cancer cells, or all strains of the before mentioned cancer cells can be killed by soursop.
4. SOURSOP IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO CHEMOTHERAPY FOR CANCER TREATMENT
Graviola is not an alternative to chemotherapy. Although research shows that soursop can kill cancer cells, it is by no means a replacement for standard cancer treatment.
However, many cancer patients and health practitioners are not waiting for additional research or for a chemo-friendly variant of graviola to be patented, and are adding soursop leaf tea as a complementary therapy to their cancer treatment.
5. BIG PHARMA DOES NOT WANT US TO KNOW ABOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GRAVIOLA
Much of the research on the health benefits of soursop has been carried out by institutions independent of much of the pharmaceutical industry. The results of this research is generally made available to the public.
Arguments that Big Pharma do not what us to know about graviola as a potential cancer cure because pharmaceutical companies cannot patent a plant are false. Big Pharma has long used plants as a base for their products and many medicines are derived from plant extracts and chemical properties, for which pharmaceutical companies do have a patent. Some examples of this include penicillin, aspirin and Taxol.
Since interest began to rise about soursop in the late 1990s, research institutions and pharmaceutical companies have actively patented numerous U.S. and international patents on the antitumorous and other properties of graviola.
According to Leslie Taylor’s “The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs”, soursop appears to be taking the same path as the cancer drug Taxol. Taxol is derived from the bark of the pacific yew tree and is regularly used in chemotherapy. It took about 30 years from the time the bark’s anti tumorous properties were discovered to the time the drug was approved by the FDA and sold as cancer treatment. We could easily expect the same from graviola.
6. USING SOURSOP IS DANGEROUS FOR YOUR HEALTH
People around the world have been consuming graviola fruit, soursop leaves and graviola extracts for centuries. In fact, for many people soursop is an essential part of their daily diet.
Food and Drug administrations around the world do not consider graviola to be dangerous. The US Food and Drug Administration allows soursop products to be imported into the United States and to be consumed by the American people.
Cancer Research UK states that "It is unlikely that drinks or foods containing graviola could harm you when taken as part of a normal diet. But always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of complementary or alternative therapy.”
7. GRAVIOLA CONTAINS NEUROTOXINS
Like many fruits and vegetables regularly consumed by human beings, soursop does contain some toxins. Such toxins are in relatively mild quantities in the stems and leaves of the plant, posing no proven risk to humans when consumed as a part of a normal diet.
Much like apple or cherry seeds containing, graviola has been found to contain alkaloids anonaine and anoniine. The alkaloids muricine and muricinine are found in the bark. An unnamed alkaloid occurs in the leaves and seeds. The bark is also high in hydrocyanic acid, but only small amounts are found in the leaves and roots and a trace in the fruit. The seeds contain 45% of a yellow non-drying oil which is an irritant poison, which can cause eye inflammation. You can find the whole report here.
The US Federal Drug Administration has banned the import of certain soursop juices as the suppliers did not properly separate the seeds from the juice while pressing. The same can happen with careless apple juice suppliers.
8. SOURSOP CAUSES PARKINSON’S DISEASE
Two studies done in the French West Indies suggested that there may be a link between symptoms similar to acute Parkinson’s Disease and the consumption of graviola. According to the French Ministry of Health, neither of these studies can be considered conclusive because 1, they focus on small, genetically isolated communities; 2, they only look at communities where Parkinson’s disease is present and do not take into account the islands as a whole, where the consumption of soursop is equally important.
In 2010 the French agency for food safety (Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des aliments) concluded that, based on the available research findings, "it is not possible to confirm that the observed cases of atypical Parkinson syndrome […] are linked to the consumption of Annona muricata,”. French speakers can find the whole report here.
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