Commonly called soursop in Africa after the British, it is also known as guanabana in Spanish-speaking countries. The name granola is from Brazil.
Graviola is an upright, evergreen tree with dark green, glossy leaves that grows to an average height of six metres. It bears a large heart-shaped fruit that has a green coloured covering with short spiky protrusions all over. The inside of the fruit is a white fleshy, acid tasting pulp which can either be eaten off the hand or used to prepare juices or smoothies. Graviola is native to the warm rainforest of the Amazon in South America and parts of North America and the Caribbean. It is also found in the forest of Africa. Commonly called soursop in Africa after the British, it is also known as guanabana in Spanish-speaking countries. The name granola is from Brazil.
Traditionally, different parts of the graviola tree, the leaves, bark, roots, fruit and the seeds have been used as herbal remedies for conditions such as fever, worm infestation, liver problems, heart diseases, diarrhea and dysentery, asthma, arthritis, skin diseases, hypertension, intestinal parasites, bacterial, viral and fungal infections by native Indians in North America and other traditional healers in Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Malaysia. In the USA, graviola has been used for the treatment of depression and cancer, while in the West Indies; it has commonly been used as an aid to lactation.
Researchers from different countries have so far confirmed that the different parts of graviola are together effective against one disease or the other.
According to Taylor Leslie, the author of ‘The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs,’ graviola has anticancer, anti-tumour, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic and hypotensive properties. Graviola has therefore been found to be effective against all kinds of cancer and as a broad-spectrum internal and external antimicrobial agent for the treatment of bacterial and fungal infections. Other contemporary uses of graviola include the treatment of internal parasites and worms, hypertension, depression, stress and nervous disorders.
The active ingredients in graviola are a group of chemicals called Annonaceous Acetogenins found in the leaves, bark, stem and seeds of the tree. Different researchers have confirmed that these chemicals have anti tumour properties and are selective in their toxicity against cancer cells; they do no harm to the normal cells of the body. In fact, scientists have found out that Annonaceous Acetogenins are 10,000 times more potent than a particular commonly used chemotherapy drug. The mode of action of these acetogenins is by inhibiting certain enzymatic reactions on the cell membranes of cancer cells.
Researchers in Purdue University in West Lafayette, have confirmed that the Acetogenins have a great affinity for malignant cancer cells and tumour cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy and other drugs. Such cells develop multi drug resistance (MDR). They do this by developing intercellular pumps that push out the anticancer agents from inside the cell before they can cause any damage. Usually, only about two per cent of the tumour cells become resistant, but these are the ones that will multiply to form MDR tumours.
These intercellular pumps depend on ATP as their energy source for their activities and when this source of energy is cut off the cancer cells die off.
The acetogenins function by inhibiting and blocking ATP from reaching the cells. The cells need a lot of ATP for cell division and growth and for powering the pumps. If ATP is cut off the cells eventually die as a result of lack of sufficient energy. Normal, healthy cells do not operate these pumps and do not need as much energy as the tumour cells. This is the basis of the selectivity of the Acetogenins. Acetogenins are found mostly in the leaves, stem, bark and seeds.
For treatment of those conditions mentioned above, these parts of the plant should be used more than the fruit. Usually, the leaves are boiled and left to cool over night before drinking it all day. Graviola leaves can also be dried and brewed as tea at home or the graviola tea can be purchàsed from health food shops.