Soursop (annona muricata L.), also known as prickly custard apple, is a very common fruit in South America, especially in Peru and Brazil. Even in English speaking countries it is also known by the Spanish name “graviola”. It has been used for centuries by native tribes to fight and prevent several ailments. For example in the Andes, Peru, an infusion of soursop leaves is used to fight rheum and in the Peruvian Amazon the same infusion is used for diabetes, as a sedative and to treat spasms.
Soursop belongs to the annonaceae family and is sometimes mistaken with cherimoya (annona cherimola Mill.). The main differences between soursop and cherimoya are shape and flavour; nutritionally they are equivalent. Soursop is larger, sometimes reaching 2kg, tarter and covered by spikes. Both are oval-shaped, have green peel and black pips surrounded by a white pulp. About 100 g of soursop provide an average of 60 calories, 25 mg calcium, 28 mg phosphorus and 26 mg vitamin C.
All parts of soursop can be used: flowers, leaves, fruit, pips and root. An infusion of soursop leaves is commonly used as a digestive, as a liver aid and to fight depression, hypertension, insomnia and migraines. Flowers are used to treat rheum and the crushed pips can be used to expel intestinal worms. The fruit is recommended for diabetes, constipation, fever and overweight. As the pulp is a bit tart, it can be added to smoothies, desserts and ice-creams.
Soursoup is certainly not a miracle food, but there is promising research on its possible cancer fighting properties. There are already scientific studies which show some of the fruit's tumor fighting effectiveness; however, some of those studies only took into account isolated soursop substances or used animal testing, facts which make it difficult to affirm with certainty whether the effects on humans may be similar or not.
Eitherway, some of the chemical substances present on soursop's leaves seem to effectively inhibit cancer cells’ activity. For example, the “Muricoreacin and murihexocin C, mono-tetrahydrofuran acetogenins, from the leaves of Annona muricata”  or the “Annonaceous acetogenins: recent progress”  studies conclude just that. One more 2012 study, led by scientists of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Omaha (USA)  also presents good results on the use of soursop extract regarding pancreatic cancer. Experiments demonstrated that pancreatic cancer cells' activity was reduced.
Individuals with low blood pressure should avoid soursop because it can lower blood pressure. Individuals taking medication to treat high blood pressure should consult with their doctor because it may be necessary to adjust the dosage when taking soursop tea ou extract. Pregnant women should also avoid the intake of large amounts of soursop because it can stimulate uterine contractions.
In non-tropical countries, fresh soursop is hard to find because it is a tropical fruit and its tart taste is not very pleasant for people who are not used to it. But if you find the fruit you can plant the pips in a pot and wait for the tree to grow, which is normally easy, as long as it is protected from cold weather. However, the easiest way to get soursop is to buy its dried whole or powdered leaves ready to prepare infusions, or add the powder to juices or smoothies. Two to three cups of graviola infusion a day are enough to appreciate soursop's benefits and pleasant taste, resembling green tea.
Soursop leaves. Recommended for infusions.
Soursop powder. Recommended for more powerful infusions or to mix with other foods: - for example, sprinkle over salads, rice, smoothies, etc.
Insert date: 2013-02-18 Last update: 2013-06-21
Authors > Contributor writers > Cristina Rodrigues
Authors > Translators > Ana Soares