Guanabana fruit and its health benefits

Know in one minute about Guanabana

  • Effective to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and indigestion.
  • It also boosts the immune system, protect against cancer, and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
  • Alleviate pain, inflammation, stress, depression, and high blood pressure problems.
  • Prevent infection from viruses, bacteria, and mosquitoes.
  • It helps to treat ulcer, wound, memory loss, iron deficiency or anemia, liver and kidney damage.
  • Guanabana herbal tea helps to reduce weight, cholesterol, uric acid level, and is able to become relaxed.
  • Treat diabetes, increase testosterone and estradiol hormone level, and improve sperm quantity as well as quality.

Introduction

Guanabana (Annona muricata L.) is an evergreen and fruit-bearing plant, belonging to the family of Annonaceae. It is traditionally used to treat different diseases such as fever, pain, respiratory illness, infection, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. Guanabana is sold in the form of fresh fruit, leaf (fresh or dried), pulp or leaves extract, capsules (leaf and stem powder), and tea.

Botanical description

Guanabana tree is about 5-10 m upright and a low branching tree. It is cold-intolerant and usually grown from seeds. It has dark green, soft, silky and glossy evergreen leaves. The flowers are long, woody, and appear anywhere on the trunk or any branch. This tree produces dark green, juicy, whitish, aromatic fruits which are oval or heart-shaped and can weigh more than 4 kg. The fruit contains oval, hard black seeds that are as few as 5 or up to 200 or more in quantity.  

Fruits

The flesh and pulp of the fruit are juicy and have carbohydrates, vitamins, and salts. Guanabana synthesizes a strong compound during ripening giving its a custard flavor and similar aroma. The ripe fruits are highly delicate, as they become soft and are easily bruised. The fruits are eaten raw or used to prepare syrups, candies, beverages, ice creams, jellies, jams, yogurts, and nectars for juice. It has a unique pleasant, subacid, and aromatic flavor which is more acid and less sweet than cherimoya.

Guanabana fruit and fruit juice are often consumed to treat worm infections, fever, and increase mother’s milk after childbirth.  It is also used to treat gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, dysentery, and parasite infection.

The bark, leaves, seeds, and roots show anticancer, antidiarrheal activity, neurotoxic, antileishmanial, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory activity.  These parts also help to manage hypertension, insomnia, cystitis, parasitic infections, and cancer (1).

Geographical distribution

Guanabana is native to the hottest tropical areas of North and South America. It is widely distributed in Venezuela, Central America, Peru, Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, and India 

Common names

Guanabana is known by various names like Soursop in English and Guanábana in Spanish and Laxmanphal in India. It is also known as Custard apple, Cherimoya, Graviola, Brazilian paw paw, Guyabano, and Sirsak.

Main constituents of guanabana fruit

Phytochemicals such as phenols, flavonoids, carotenes, alkaloids, saponins, tannins, terpenoids, anthraquinone, and cardiac glycoside also present in the fruit. It contains a unique active ingredient known as annonaceous acetogenins (fatty acid derivatives) (2).

Nutritional value of guanabana fruit

According to the USDA, guanabana fruit contains very good amounts of water, carbohydrates, low content of lipids, and proteins. It also contains a good percentage of dietary fiber and very low in calories, other components per 100 gm as follows (3).

CompoundAmounts per 100 g.
Water 81.16 g
Energy 66 Kcal
Protein 1 g
Total lipid (fat) 0.3 g
Carbohydrate16.84 g
Fiber, total dietary 3.3 g
Sugar13.54 g
Calcium14 mg
Iron, Fe 0.6 mg
Magnesium 21 mg
Phosphorus 27 mg
Potassium 278 mg
Sodium  14 mg
Zinc 0.1 mg
Copper 0.08 mg
Vitamin C20.6 mg
Thiamin 0.07 mg
Riboflavin0.05 mg
Niacin0.9 mg
Pantothenic acid0.253 mg
Vitamin B-60.059 mg
Folate14 µg
Vitamin A, RAE0 µg
Vitamin A, IU2 IU
Vitamin E0.08 mg
Vitamin K0.4 µg
Fatty acids, total saturated 0.051 g
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated 0.09 g
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated 0.069 g

Health benefits of guanabana 

1. The presence of antioxidants

Guanabana fruit, stem‐bark, and leaf is an excellent source of phenolic compounds and flavonoids which show powerful antioxidant activity. Besides this, it has tannins, saponins, glycoside, and acetogenins which protect the body from various diseases (4).

2. Treat ulcer

Mucositis causes swelling and ulceration of the digestive tract lining. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy may cause mucositis.  Ingestion of guanabana fruit and leaves increase the antioxidant level and reduce inflammation, thus protecting the digestive tract. However, more research is needed to determine the effect of guanabana on chemotherapy-induced injury in humans (5).

3. Treat diarrhea

Guanabana fruit contains a high amount of flavonoids which is beneficial to slow down the movement of the gut. Therefore, the intake of this fruit makes the stool less watery, promotes digestion, and treats diarrhea (6).

4. Reduce blood pressure

Intake of guanabana leaf and fruit juice (100 g twice/ day for 3 months) effective to lower blood pressure. It also reduces serum uric acid level, thus treats hypertension and improves kidney function (7).

5. Treat pain and inflammation

Guanabana fruit helps to decrease swelling and pain, however, more studies are needed to confirm its anti-inflammatory properties in humans (8).

6. Antiviral properties

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a viral infection that affects the skin (warts) and sometimes causes cervical cancer. Herpes simplex is one type of viral infection that typically affects the mouth, genitals, or anal area (9).

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system of the body and causes AIDS. However, Guanabana contains polyphenol compounds that are effective to fight against all these infections by interfering with virus entry into the host cell (10).

7. Treat memory loss and related disorders

Guanabana fruit contains antioxidants that help to improve memory and boost brain activity thus effective to treat amnesia.  Although evidence is lacking to support the use of guanabana to treat brain injury in humans (11).

8. Treat the liver injury

Paracetamol overdose may cause liver injury, however, guanabana fruit ingestion helps to reduce liver damage by enhancing the defense system. However, further study is needed to determine if this fruit is safe for humans (12).

9. Manage diabetes

Phenolic compounds such as cinnamic acid, p-coumaric acids, and other compounds are found in guanabana fruit.  These compounds are beneficial to inhibit the enzyme that causes type-2 diabetes mellitus (13).

10. Improve the reproductive system

A high amount of vitamin C and other antioxidant compounds in the guanabana fruits improves sperm motility, sperm count, and sperm head abnormality. It also improves testis weight although more studies are needed (14).

11. Enhance hemoglobin platelet levels

Guanabana fruit and leaves are a rich source of alkaloids, flavonoids, and phenols. These bioactive compounds help to increase white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin concentration lymphocytes, and platelet levels (15). Thus can boost immunity and heal the wound, but human studies are needed to test this effect (16).

12. Treat diabetic induce complications

Oxidative stress can cause stress, depression, and other behavioral changes and testicular injuries in a diabetic person. However, the consumption of this fruit and leaves reduce all these symptoms. It also increases hormones like testosterone and estradiol levels as well as antioxidant activity (17).

13. Improves oral health

Guanabana leaf helps to fight against different oral pathogens such as Streptococcus mutansStreptococcus mitisPorphyromonas gingivalis, and Candida albicans  (18).

14. Antimalarial and anti-dengue properties

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by Plasmodium species and transmitted by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. The main problem in handling malaria is to increase the resistance of Plasmodium to malaria drugs.  However, guanabana seeds, flowers, leaves, stem bark, and roots can kill the larva.  Guanabana can show antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium berghei. This may be due to the presence of alkaloids, anonaine, ACG’s, and gallic acid in them (19).

Furthermore, guanabana leaf also shows antiviral activity against the dengue virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (20).

Effect of Guanabana on cancer

Guanabana fruits, leaves, seeds, stem, and roots are also known as “natural cancer killer”.  This plant is an excellent source of annonaceous acetogenins and vitamin C. These compounds act as an alternative agent, besides chemotherapy and radiotherapy to kill cancer cells, not normal cells (21).

This plant can arrest the cell cycle, inhibit metastasis, and induce apoptosis thus decrease the growth of cancer. Guanabana can kill various types of cancer cells, such as Breast, Liver, Prostate, Pancreatic, Lung, and Colon cancer. It also helps to treat Leukemia, Cervical, head, and neck skin cancer, but there is no evidence of its safety or efficacy (22). There is a very little clinical trial available that validates the treatment of any type of cancer in humans. Therefore more study is needed because it is difficult to conclude whether guanabana is effective as an anticancer agent for human consumption (23).

Guanabana tea

Guanabana tea is an herbal tea with reddish yellow color and prepared from the leaves of the guanabana fruit tree. This herbal tea is cholesterol-free, sugar-free, and contains very low calories as well as high health benefits. Guanabana tea is very popular because it has significant powers to prevent or treat cancer. Moreover, a research study supported that guanabana tea contains total phenolic, flavonoid, and condensed tannin content higher than dried and fresh leaves. 

Health benefits of Guanabana tea 

  • Intake of guanabana leaf tea helps to lose weight by reduction of accumulation of body fat. 
  • Guanabana tea is beneficial to lower LDL-cholesterol, VLDL-cholesterol, triglycerides levels thus preventing cardiovascular risks  (24).
  • Ingestion of guanabana tea is effective to decrease uric acid content in the body, thus preventing inflammation, particularly on joints. Therefore, this tea is effective to treat various degenerative diseases such as arthritis, kidney disease, and heart disease  (25)

Guanabana tea recipe 

Guanabana tea can be made by boiling both fresh and dried leaves in water. To enhance the taste you can add lemon, honey, or pudina leaves.  This herbal tea can be consumed daily and often mixed with other herbal decoctions.

Side effect of Guanabana 

Various research papers supported the use of guanabana for the treatment of cancer. However, according to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this fruit is not generally recognized as safe and effective for the treatment of cancer. FDA approved guanabana as dietary supplements or as foods, not as medications due to the lack of human clinical data (26).

Overconsumption of guanabana fruit, tea, and products made from it can cause atypical Parkinson’s disease. This is due to the presence of acetogenins which easily cross into the brain from the bloodstream. It may cause brain or nerve injury, hallucinations, and movement disorders (27).

It may lower blood sugar and blood pressure. If you are under medication or have diabetes or high blood pressure should avoid guanabana because it may damage the kidney and liver. Therefore, long-term or in large amounts use of guanabana supplements can be dangerous (28).

Q&A

What is guanabana good for?

It is effective to treat malaria, dengue, inflammation, pain, diabetes, ulcer, wound, diarrhea, and blood pressure problems. It also treats anxiety, depression, boosts immunity, fights against a virus, bacteria as well as cancer but clinical studies in humans are lacking.

What does guanabana taste like?

Guanabana is creamy like coconut or banana with a combination of strawberry and pineapple taste as well as lemons like acid and citrus notes. 

Is guanabana safe to eat?

Guanabana is safe to eat in a lower amount but its regular or large amount of consumption can be dangerous. Because no one knows how its acts and long term effect on the human body.  Moreover, there is no recommended dosage or guidance is available to assess the efficacy of this fruit on various cancers. 

Is guanabana tea safe?

Guanabana tea is toxic when it is consumed more than 211 mg/kg per day. The average person consumes one cup of tea three times per day. Therefore, for a human to reach the lethal dose of consumption of guanabana tea more than 71 cups a day.

Although it has various advantages, this tea is not well accepted due to the specific aroma and taste of the leaves.  Moreover, greater than 5 g/kg of aqueous extract might cause kidney damage and no one knows its long-term effect on a person’s health (29).

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