Is A Little Bit Of Guanabana A Day, A Cancer Cure?
Anyone who had the pleasure of growing up in a Latin or Caribbean country, has tasted the sweet/sour juice of Guanabana. It is known all over the world, but called by varying names in our community, however. In most Spanish-speaking countries it is known as guanabana, but in El Salvador, as guanaba; in Guatemala, as huanaba; in Mexico, often as zopote deviejas, or cabeza de negro; in Venezuela, as catoche or catuche; in Argentina, as anona de puntitas or anona de broquel; in Bolivia, sinini; in Brazil, araticum do grande, graviola, or jaca do Para.
Whatever you call the fruit, which comes from the graviola tree, it’s become a darling of holistic practitioners who hail its unripened fruit for relief of diarrhea, its leaves for eliminating worms when taken internally and for healing wounds and inflammation when applied topically, and its roots/leaves for reducing fever. A poultice of mashed leaves and sap of young leaves can be used for eczema and skin eruptions. For wholistic doctors, no part of this fruit is discarded.
Then there is the nutritional component. The fruit is loaded with vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavine, niacin, tryptophan, methionine and lysine. Guanabana also has fiber, calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium contents. The seeds, which are poisonous to eat, can be used when pulverized and mixed with soap and water, as an effective spray against caterpillars, army worms and leaf hoppers on plants. The petroleum ether and chloroform extracts of guanabana are toxic to black carpet beetle larvae, and the seed oil reportedly kills head lice.
Not bad for a fruit we turn into a sweet drink or ice cream. So why has this fruit come under scrutiny? In recent years, the idea that guanabana is an effective cancer fighter has been touted all over chain emails, the Internet and Facebook. But no scientific evidence has been published to prove these claims true or false. I say published because there are plenty reports of research being conducted internally, but never seeing the light of day.
According to one claim, the U.S. National Cancer Institute reportedly performed the first scientific research on graviola in 1976. The results showed that the plant’s “leaves and stems were found effective in attacking and destroying malignant cells.” Although the results were supposedly published in an internal report, it was never released to the public.
But guanabana (scientific name: Anona muricata) has been identified by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) as one of the fruits that deserves attention. The book “Underexploited Tropical Plants with Promising Economic Value” by the National Research Council ($34.95, amazon.com), described it as “a tropical fruit with potential for development as a processed industrial commodity.”
Research carried out in the Caribbean has suggested a connection between consumption of guanbana and atypical forms of Parkinson’s disease due to the very high concentration of annonacin found in the fruit. On the other hand, the seeds contain 45% of yellow non-drying oil which is an irritant poison, causing severe eye inflammation. So it must always be removed and done so carefully. “Guanabana seeds are toxic, and care must be taken to assure that all are removed before the pulp is processed,”says the NAS.
So what can you lose by taking it? While no one would ever say to toss medical remedies out the window, based on the nutritional value alone, it certainly can’t hurt to have some guanabana daily, as an ounce of prevention. Combined with foods like green and black teas, who knows, maybe a little bit of guanabana a day, can help keep the doctor away.