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Graviola

Benefits, Uses, Side Effects and More

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Updated April 25, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Graviola
Janet Johnson Collection/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Graviola is a natural substance sold in dietary supplement form. Sourced from the Annona muricata plant (a tree found in rainforests throughout Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia), it's sometimes referred to as "soursop." Long used in herbal medicine, graviola is said to offer a variety of health benefits.

Although preliminary studies show that graviola may possess a number of health-enhancing properties (including anti-inflammatory effects), there's also some evidence that certain compounds found in graviola may be harmful to the human nervous system.

Benefits of Graviola

To date, few studies have tested the health effects of graviola. However, some preliminary research suggests that it may offer some health benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies on graviola:

1)  Cancer

A number of preliminary studies indicate that graviola may have anti-cancer benefits. In a study published in Cancer Letters in 2012, for instance, researchers found that certain compounds in graviola may inhibit the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer cells.

Additionally, a study published in Nutrition and Cancer in 2011 found that graviola may inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

2)  Diabetes

Graviola shows promise in the treatment of diabetes, suggests a study published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines in 2008. In tests on diabetic rats, the study's authors determined that graviola may help control diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels.

3)  Cold Sores

Graviola may help fight herpes simplex virus-1 (the virus that causes cold sores), according to a laboratory study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 1998.

Uses for Graviola

Graviola is touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

cold sores

depression 

diabetes

• fever

• genital herpes

high blood pressure 

In addition, graviola is said to protect against cancer, promote relaxation, stimulate digestion, and fight off infection.

When applied to the skin, graviola is thought to aid in the treatment of arthritis.

Is Graviola Safe?

Studies show that alkaloids found in graviola may have harmful effects on the nervous system. A class of naturally occurring chemicals, alkaloids are mostly made up of nitrogen atoms.

In a report published in the journal Movement Disorders in 2002, for instance, scientists determined that alkaloids extracted from graviola may alter the function and survival of nerve cells and - in turn - possibly contribute to the development of movement disorders similar to Parkinson's disease.

Given the potentially harmful effects of consuming graviola, it's crucial to consult your physician prior to using supplements containing this herb. 

Learn more about using dietary supplements safely.

Alternatives to Graviola

Studies show that a number of natural substances may help protect against cancer. For example, maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D, drinking green tea regularly, and increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may strengthen your cancer defense.

For help in fighting cold sores naturally, there's some evidence that lysine, lemon balm, reishi, and resveratrol may be beneficial.

Where to Find Graviola

Widely available for purchase online, graviola is sold in some natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

 

Sources

Adeyemi DO, Komolafe OA, Adewole OS, Obuotor EM, Adenowo TK. "Anti hyperglycemic activities of Annona muricata (Linn)." Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2008 Oct 25;6(1):62-9.

Dai Y, Hogan S, Schmelz EM, Ju YH, Canning C, Zhou K. "Selective growth inhibition of human breast cancer cells by graviola fruit extract in vitro and in vivo involving downregulation of EGFR expression." Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(5):795-801.

Jayadeepa RM, Gnanam R. "Anti Cancer Activity On Graviola, An Exciting Medicinal Plant Extract Vs Various Cancer Cell Lines And A Detailed Computational Study On Its Potent Anti-Cancerous Leads." Curr Top Med Chem. 2013 Jul 24.

Lannuzel A, Michel PP, Caparros-Lefebvre D, Abaul J, Hocquemiller R, Ruberg M. "Toxicity of Annonaceae for dopaminergic neurons: potential role in atypical parkinsonism in Guadeloupe." Mov Disord. 2002 Jan;17(1):84-90.

Padma P, Pramod NP, Thyagarajan SP, Khosa RL. "Effect of the extract of Annona muricata and Petunia nyctaginiflora on Herpes simplex virus." J Ethnopharmacol. 1998 May;61(1):81-3.

Torres MP, Rachagani S, Purohit V, Pandey P, Joshi S, Moore ED, Johansson SL, Singh PK, Ganti AK, Batra SK. "Graviola: a novel promising natural-derived drug that inhibits tumorigenicity and metastasis of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo through altering cell metabolism." Cancer Lett. 2012 Oct 1;323(1):29-40.

 

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