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Guanabana (Annona muricata) is a fruit tree and member of the custard apple family (Annonaceae). The guanabana leaf has been studied extensively for its anti-cancer properties, but traditional medicine has used all parts of the tree for pain, inflammation, malaria, diabetes, and parasites. Read on to learn about the benefits and side effects of guanabana.

Introduction

Guanabana, also known as soursop or graviola, is native to tropical areas of Central and South America and the Caribbean. It is part of the custard apple family and is now widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide, including Africa and Southeast Asia [R, R].

The guanabana is most known for its creamy, tangy fruit pulp. But, traditional practices have used all portions of the guanabana plant to treat conditions from fever to malaria [R].

More than 200 phytochemicals in guanabana have been studied for their ability to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases [R].

Components

Guanabana has many valuable nutrients, including [R, R, R]:

The guanabana seed and leaf contain large amounts of vitamins C and E, responsible in part for its potent antioxidant effects [R].

More than 200 chemical compounds have been identified and isolated from the guanabana plant, the most notable being alkaloids, phenols, and acetogenins [R].

The primary active phytochemicals in the leaf, seed, stem, and pulp of the guanabana are acetogenins. These chemicals act against cancerous tumors parasites, inflammation, microbes, and insects [R, R, R, R, R].

Mechanism of Action

Guanabana pulp and skin extracts reduced inflammation in cells and mice by decreasing mediators of inflammation (COX, nitric oxide, TNF-α, and IL-1β) [R, R].

Guanabana leaf extracts protected against diabetes in rats by reducing blood sugar levels and increasing insulin. This was explained by increased antioxidant levels in the liver, reduced fat oxidation, and protection of pancreatic β-cells [R, R, R].

Cell models suggest that the extracts of guanabana leaves exert their antioxidant activity by scavenging free radicals. Reducing free radicals helps prevent damage to cells, proteins, and DNA [R, R].

Extracts from guanabana leaves can reduce the number of cancer tumor cells by:

  • Blocking energy (ATP) production in cancer cells [R]
  • Selectively increasing programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells [R, R]

Guanabana extracts increase apoptosis in cancer cells by:

  • Activating a mitochondrial-mediated pathway with NF-kB and Bcl-Xl [R, R]
  • Changing the cancer cell’s structure [R]
  • Disrupting the cancer cell’s membrane mitochondrial potential [R, R]
  • Preventing cell division of cancer’s cell cycle [R, R]
  • Creating reactive oxygen species [R, R]

Health Benefits of Guanabana

1) Guanabana Has Anti-Cancer Effects

Acetogenins in the guanabana are the most promising molecules to protect against and kill cancer cells. These phytochemicals are produced in the guanabana fruit, leaves, stems, bark, and seeds [R, R].

Acetogenins are selectively toxic to cancer cells and don’t harm healthy cells [R, R].

The compounding effects of multiple phytochemicals in guanabana extracts, including acetogenins, may be the underlying reason for their potency in cancer treatment [R].

Guanabana Combats Colon Cancer

In a DB-RCT study of 28 patients with colorectal cancer, blood samples from patients treated with guanabana leaf extracts were toxic to colon cells [R].

Guanabana leaf extracts reduced cancerous tissue in the colon of rats by inducing apoptosis in cancer cells [R].

Mice injected with acetogenins from guanabana leaves had 50% fewer pre-cancerous colon cells [R].

Acetogenins extracted from guanabana seeds were selectively toxic to colon cancer cells and were 10,000 times more potent than chemotherapy medication [R].

Guanabana leaf extract increased programmed cell death (apoptosis) in colon cancer cells of 3 different cell lines [R, R].

Guanabana Combats Breast Cancer

Almost daily use of guanabana tea for 5 years stabilized breast cancer in a 66-year-old woman following chemotherapy treatment [R].

The acetogenin and annonacin increased apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer cells and reduced breast tumors in mice through estrogen-related pathways [R].

Guanabana fruit extract reduced breast tumor growth in rats by 32% after 5 weeks [R].

Guanabana leaf extracts were toxic to breast cancer cells and reduced breast tumor size and weight in mice. This occurred by inducing apoptosis of cancer cells [R, R, R].

Acetogenins extracted from guanabana leaf decreased breast cancer cell growth by 98% [R].

Guanabana Combats Prostate Cancer

In rats, guanabana leaf extract reduced prostate size, possibly through apoptosis [R].

Guanabana leaf extracts reduced prostate tumor growth in mice but fractions containing only acetogenins killed mice due to toxicity [R].

According to several studies, guanabana leaf extracts can suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells [R, R, R, R].

Guanabana Combats Lung Cancer

According to numerous studies, acetogenins extracted from guanabana leaves and whole leaf extracts killed lung cancer cells, possibly through increased apoptosis in cancer cells [R, R, R, R].

Guanabana Combats Skin Cancer

Topical application of guanabana leaf extract completely stopped skin tumor development in mice, likely due to guanabana’s high antioxidant content [R, R].

Guanabana leaf extract can be toxic to skin cancer cells [R, R].

Guanabana Combats Liver Cancer

According to several studies, guanabana leaf extracts killed liver cancer cells. The mechanisms may be by stimulating the cell stress pathway and apoptosis [R, R, R, R].

Guanabana Combats Pancreatic Cancer

Guanabana stem and leaf extracts reduced pancreatic tumor tissue by 20 to 50% when compared to control mice. These extracts reduced cancer cell and tumor growth [R, R].

Guanabana Combats Cervical Cancer

Guanabana leaf extracts reduced the growth of cervical cancer cells by 80% [R].

Annonacin, an acetogenin extracted from the seeds of guanabana, increased apoptosis in endometrial cancer cells by 65%. The mechanism was linked to DNA damage of the cancer cells [R].

Guanabana Combats Leukemia

Leaves, twigs, roots, and seeds of the guanabana induced apoptosis in leukemia cancer cells by decreasing the ability of cancerous cells to survive and function, disrupting the membrane of the mitochondria [R].

2) Guanabana Has Antioxidant Effects

Antioxidants derived from plants can have protective effects against free radicals involved in the development of diseases such as cancer.

According to several studies, the high antioxidant concentrations of guanabana leaves, fruit, and peel prevented oxidative damage in cells by scavenging free radicals and reducing reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species production can result in DNA damage and cell death [R, R, R, R, R, R].

Guanabana flower extracts also exhibited high antioxidant activities and could have used as a food oil preservative to prevent spoiling [R].

Antioxidant activity in guanabana is correlated with polyphenol, carotenoid, tannin, and anthocyanin content [R, R].

3) Guanabana Combats Pathogens

Guanabana peel, leaf, and seed extracts show antimicrobial activity against various microorganisms including parasites, viruses, gram-positive, and gram-negative bacterial strains.

Guanabana Combats Parasites

In the lab, the guanabana peel was more effective in the treatment of leishmaniasis disease than the chemical commonly used for its treatment [R].

Acetogenins from the guanabana leaf and seed were toxic to four species of Leishmania and a worm [R, R, R].

Extracts of guanabana leaf exhibited anti-parasitic activity against the eggs, larvae, and adults of Haemonchus contortus, a gut parasite in sheep [R].

Guanabana extracts inhibited the growth of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria in humans [R, R].

Guanabana Combats Bacteria

According to several lab studies, extracts from guanabana seeds, roots, leaves, and/or bark had antibacterial activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus albus, Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Bacillus subtilis, Proteus vulgaris, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterobacter aerogenes, and Providencia stuartii bacteria [R, R, R, R, R, R, R].

Guanabana leaf extracts showed antimicrobial properties by inhibiting the growth of oral pathogens (Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus mitis, Porphyromonas gingivalis) with 20 to 85% effectiveness when compared to prescription antibiotics [R].

Guanabana Combats Viruses

Guanabana stem extracts suppressed herpes simplex virus 1 in the kidney cells of monkeys [R].

Guanabana extracts reduced the replication of herpes simplex virus 2 in human throat cells [R].

Guanabana Combats Fungus

Guanabana leaf extracts inhibited the growth of Candida albicans [R].

4) Guanabana May Help Prevent Mosquito-Transmitted Diseases

Guanabana leaf extracts reduced antimalarial activity, showed no toxicity, and prolonged survival time in mice [R, R].

Extracts from guanabana leaf and seed were highly toxic to larvae of 3 species of mosquitoes that are common carriers of tropical diseases like malaria and dengue fever [R, R, R, R].

Isolated acetogenins from guanabana were toxic to mosquito larvae by inhibiting mitochondrial electron transport, which halts energy production in the cells of the larvae [R].

5) Guanabana Reduces Inflammation

The pulp and skin of the guanabana reduced inflammation in mice by reducing chemical mediators of inflammation (COX and nitric oxide) [R].

Guanabana leaf extracts and tea reduced short-term and chronic inflammation in mouse cells by decreasing inflammatory mediators (nitric oxide, TNF-α and IL-1β) [R, R, R].

6) Guanabana May Benefit Diabetes

Treatment of diabetic rats with guanabana leaf extracts decreased blood glucose and/or increased insulin. These antidiabetic effects occurred by guanabana extracts increasing antioxidant levels in the liver, reducing fat oxidation and protecting pancreatic β-cells [R, R, R, R].

Guanabana leaf extracts regenerated pancreatic β-cells in diabetic mice [R].

In the lab, phenols in guanabana extracts (fruit, skin, and leaf) and guanabana tea suppressed key enzymes relevant to type 2 diabetes (α-amylase and α-glucosidase) [R, R, R].

7) Guanabana May Be Toxic to Insects

Extract of the guanabana leaves killed snail adults and egg masses, demonstrating its potential as a pesticide [R, R, R].

Acetogenins from guanabana were toxic to agricultural pests including the potato beetle, green peach aphid, and African cotton leafworm [R].

8) Guanabana May Improve Liver Health

Guanabana leaf extracts reduced liver bilirubin and liver damage in rats [R, R].

Stem bark from guanabana was protective for the liver and increased bile flow in male rats with liver damage [R, R].

9) Guanabana May Alleviate Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Guanabana fruit and leaf extracts reduced stress and showed anti-depressive effects in rats. Phytochemicals in the guanabana fruit and stem influenced the brain by binding to serotonin receptors [R, R].

Pretreatment with guanabana stem bark extracts protected rats against cold-induced stress as measured by changes in brain neurotransmitters [R].

Guanabana leaf extracts had sedative and antidepressant-like effects in rats by decreasing anxiety-related behavior such as environment exploration and increased mobility, respectively [R].

10) Guanabana May Help Heal Wounds

Extracts of the stem and bark of guanabana increased wound healing in rats over 12 days [R].

Topical application of guanabana leaf extracts to rat wounds increased wound healing, antioxidant activity, and heat shock proteins (HSP 70), suggesting an anti-inflammatory effect [R].

11) Guanabana Fruit May Reduce Blood Pressure

Leaf extracts from guanabana reduced blood pressure in rats by blocking calcium channels [R].

Guanabana fruit extracts reduced a key enzyme (angiotensin-I converting enzyme) involved in increasing blood pressure [R].

12) Guanabana Leaf May Prevent Stomach Ulcers

Ulcer lesions were reduced in rats pre-treated with guanabana leaf extracts. This action was likely due to the extract’s high antioxidant content, which reduced oxidative damage and protected the stomach wall [R, R].

13) Guanabana Leaves May Improve Immune Function

Guanabana leaf extracts enhanced the immune activity in macrophage cells by activating the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway [R].

14) Guanabana Fruit May Reduce Pain

Guanabana fruit extract reduced chemical and thermal pain in mice, likely by interacting with the opioid pathway [R].

15) Guanabana Leaf May Decrease Arsenic Toxicity

Extracts from guanabana leaves decreased arsenic toxicity in human liver and red blood cells [R].

16) Guanabana Fruit May Boost Male Fertility

Doses of 80, 400, and 2,000 mg/kg of guanabana juice per day for 60 days in rats increased sperm count and movement [R].

17) Guanabana May Protect the Heart

Guanabana extracts improved heart muscle contractions in guinea pigs following oxygen deprivation [R].

18) Guanabana May Help Reduce Symptoms of Allergies

Guanabana leaf extracts reduced symptoms of skin allergies in rabbits [R].

Side Effects

Despite their remarkable anti-cancer potential, guanabana’s acetogenins can be toxic to nerve cells and cross the blood-brain barrier [R].

Studies on populations in the West Indies suggest a potential relationship between high consumption rates of guanabana fruit and tea, and a higher incidence of movement disorders like atypical parkinsonism [R, R, R].

After 12 months, guanabana juice consumption in mice increased the production of reactive nitrogen species, molecules that can damage cells [R].

Dietary supplements, including guanabana and other Annonaceae plant species, increased cell death in human brain cells [R].

Guanabana juice and leaf extracts may intensify the effects of the venomous pit viper snake [R].

Limitations and Caveats

Most of the benefits of guanabana were only studied in animals and cells. While the findings are significant, these benefits may or may not apply to humans, and these extracts need to be further evaluated for effects, optimal dosage, long-term safety, and potential side effects.

Drug Interactions

No drug interactions have been documented.

Natural Sources/Forms of Supplementation

Guanabana fruit is typically eaten raw and ripened and can be incorporated into drinks, smoothies, and desserts. The fruit may also be jarred as a puree or as a juice. Seeds should be avoided due to their toxic nature. Guanabana can also be roasted or fried like a vegetable.

Guanabana tea made from the leaves is readily available from suppliers but should be enjoyed in moderation due to potential neurotoxicity [R, R, R].

Guanabana supplements are available through suppliers but have not been evaluated for potency, effectiveness, or toxicity in humans.

Dosage

Recommended dosing of guanabana fruit, leaves, stems, or bark has not been established due to the lack of human trials.

Doses of up to 2 g/kg of guanabana juice per day for 60 days were not toxic to rats based on vital organ weight and blood parameters [R].

Assuming consumption of tea 3 times a day, a person would need to consume more than 71 cups of guanabana tea per day to reach a lethal dose of consumption [R, R].

User Experiences

Several users found that guanabana supplements helped boost their immune system.

Another reviewer found the supplement improved skin boils, digestive health, and energy.

A woman going through menopause found guanabana supplements to be highly effective in regulating mood, stress, hormones, and blood pressure.

One user reported that guanabana tea and supplements caused severe headaches, tinnitus, and tremors.

Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick

At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.

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2 COMMENTS

  • Solomon M. Lymas

    How should the leaves, roots and barks of guanabana be prepared for consumption or eating?

  • Fred Lander

    The most illustrative comments by scientists are quite scary and disturbing. I will include a few excerpts and then links. Some of these harmful compounds are also found in the paw paw fruit, common in the area I live and often eaten by local children.
    ” ‘I was somewhat shocked given what I knew of its neurotoxicity’​

    He added: “What worries me is the appearance of the fruit in products of late given that it contains isoquinoline alkaloids that have been linked to the development of atypical Parkinson’s.”​

    The recent interest in graviola appeared to be on the back of research suggesting it has anti-cancer properties, he said.

    “I received inquiries on these ​[anti-cancer] claims… I was somewhat shocked given what I knew of its neurotoxicity when one caller mentioned that they were considering bringing it out as a juice.”​

    Why is this not better known in the supplements trade?​

    He added: “I spoke at a recent international symposium on the safety of natural products and mentioned soursop. Quite a number of scientists in the audience came from tropical/sub-tropical countries and recognized the fruit immediately when shown on a slide, but did not know about the associated neurotoxic compounds it contains. ​

    “During lunch, one of the attendees did a PubMed search and confirmed my comments earlier that morning and asked why this was not better known.”​ ”

    ” Fruit and​ leaves represent potential risk​

    Conerns have been raised about the leaf as well as the fruit, he added, citing papers by Champy et al (click here​ , here​ and here​). A phenomenologic study of parkinsonism by Caparros-Lefebvre in The Lancet​ also raises concerns about herbal teas, he added. Click here​.

    NutraIngredients-USA has contacted several firms selling graviola supplements for comment including Raintree Nutrition, Swanson​ and Vitabase​ but has not had any feedback to date.

    However, NOW Foods technical director Dr Michael Lelah said: “NOW Foods is aware of the potential safety concerns about graviola. We use a leaf extract which contains annonacin levels many times lower than the safe level. ​

    “Additionally, no adverse events have been reported for our product. On the other hand, high concentrations of annonacin are found in the fruits or seeds, which are consumed by Caribbean populations.” ​ ”

    “Epidemiological evidence​

    The significance of these findings relates to the abnormally high rate of atypical parkinsonism found on islands such as Guam in the Northern Mariana islands, New Caledonia, western New Guinea, the Kii peninsula of Japan, and the French West Indian island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, where epidemiological evidence “suggests a close association of the disease with regular consumption of soursop fruit, infusions, and decoctions”, ​they observe.

    “What is interesting is the virtual disappearance over the years of the disproportionate incidence of atypical parkinsonism previously reported in Guam and New Guinea. ​

    “It has been suggested that the significant reduction in incidences may be due to changes in diet in New Guinea and in Guam, in particular owing to the adoption of Western diets and the abandonment of native foods, such as soursop.”​”
    ( https://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Article/2012/05/10/Toxicology-expert-raises-alarm-over-potential-neurotoxins-in-graviola-soursop )

    You may have missed this one, which has scary headlines we need to pay attention to if we are concerned about our brain health, IMO! Joe I think this one needs some kind of special alert or caution. You know how all of use are concerned about our brain performance!
    ( https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26744196_Natural_lipophilic_inhibitors_of_mitochondrial_complex_I_are_candidate_toxins_for_sporadic_tau_pathologies )

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