The Health Benefits of Graviola

A Tropical Fruit Said to Fight Inflammation, Diabetes, and Cancer

Graviola (botanical name Annona muricata) is a tropical evergreen fruit tree native to the rain forests in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. The prickly, green fruit produced by the tree has an aroma similar to that of pineapple.

Graviola or soursop

photograph by dorisj / Moment / Getty Images

Graviola can be eaten by cutting it in half and scooping out the fruit's flesh, which has a thick, creamy texture. Graviola tastes like a combination of strawberries and apples with citrus flavor notes. Many people use the fruit to make juices, sorbets, and candies.

It is thought to offer health benefits, including fighting inflammation and lowering blood sugar. Some also claim it can prevent, fight, or cure cancer.

Also Known As

Other names for graviola are:

  • Brazilian paw-paw
  • Custard apple
  • Guanabana
  • Guyabano
  • Soursop

Health Benefits

Graviola offers many nutritional benefits. According to the USDA, the following is the breakdown of nutrients in 1 cup (225 grams) of soursop pulp:

  • Calories: 148
  • Fat: 0.7 g
  • Sodium: 31. 5 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 37.9 g
  • Fiber: 7.4 g
  • Sugars: 30.5 g
  • Protein: 2.3 g
  • Vitamin C: 46.4 mg
  • Potassium: 626 mg

In addition to its nutritional benefits, many people consume graviola for its purported health benefits. Naturopaths and alternative practitioners believe graviola offers specific health benefits in fighting diseases such as diabetes and cancer, as well as bacterial infections.

Bacterial Infections

Some believe graviola can treat bacterial infections ranging from Staphylococcus aureus and Candida to cholera and food poisoning. One study found that soursop extract effectively eliminates Candida (yeast) species, with all concentrations of the extract exhibiting bactericidal and fungicidal properties.

Some communities throughout the world have long used the leaves of graviola as an alternative treatment of bacterial diseases. An in-vitro research study showed that methanol extract of soursop leaves at a concentration of 150 mg/ml could inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus.

However, another study found that while it may be an effective remedy to stop diarrhea and may be a potential source for developing a new antidiarrheal drug, graviola did not exhibit any antibacterial activity.

Diabetes

Graviola is sometimes promoted for its hypoglycemic properties, suggesting that it may help in the treatment or prevention of diabetes. In some animal studies, graviola has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.

For example, a 2014 study showed that diabetic rats given soursop extract had blood sugar levels reduced by up to 75%. These animal studies used concentrated amounts of soursop extract that exceeds what you would consume through your diet.

When paired with a healthy lifestyle and diet, graviola may be beneficial for those living with diabetes. However, there are not enough studies to prove its effectiveness at regulating blood sugar levels in humans.

Cancer

Botanical and nutritional compounds have been used for the treatment of cancer for thousands of years. Many believe these compounds may also be useful in preventing cancer, and studies show a reduced risk of cancer is associated with eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Graviola is a fruit known to be rich in antioxidants (e.g., anthraquinones, flavonoids, phytosterols, saponins, and tannins) that prevent free radicals from damaging cells at the DNA level. Some believe this means these antioxidants may be effective at treating and preventing cancer when consumed orally.

In laboratory studies, graviola extracts can kill some types of liver and breast cancer cells resistant to some chemotherapy drugs. However, there has yet to be any credible evidence that graviola works as a cancer treatment or cure. More clinical trials and studies are required to establish effectiveness or safety in cancer treatment.

Possible Side Effects

Graviola is generally regarded as safe when consumed as food, but the safety of graviola concentrates, tinctures, and extracts have yet to be established. According to a toxicological analysis published in 2013, graviola extracts may cause potentially serious complications, including:

  • Liver toxicity: Related to a fatty acid in graviola called bullatacin
  • Kidney toxicity: Also related to bullatacin
  • Neurotoxicity: Potentially accelerating neurodegenerative disorders or causing Parkinson-like symptoms
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelets): Leading to easy bruising, nosebleeds

Who Should Avoid Graviola

People with liver disease, kidney disease, seizure disorders, Parkinson’s disease, neurodegenerative disorders, bleeding disorders, and peptic ulcers, as well as children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid the use of graviola.

Due to its purported blood sugar-lowering effects, graviola remedies should not be used in people on diabetes medication as this could lead to hypoglycemia.

The same applies to people on anticoagulants like warfarin or clopidogrel or those who regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or naproxen. Doing so may promote bleeding and, in the case of NSAIDs, peptic ulcers.

Selection and Preparation

Fresh graviola, more commonly sold as soursop, is increasingly available from specialty grocers and online retailers. You can buy soursop at some local grocery stores and fruit markets, or buy the pulp in cans or plastic packages. The fruit is often used to make smoothies, juices, ice cream, sorbets, and candy.

Graviola is also sold as a dietary supplement, available in liquid extract or capsule forms. The FDA does not strictly regulate dietary supplements, so it is important to be diligent and check labels when shopping for graviola supplements.

Choose brands independently certified by ConsumerLab, United States Pharmacopeia (USP), or NSF International.

Common Questions

Is graviola safe to take? 

Eating graviola fruit is generally safe, but avoid eating the seeds, as they contain alkaloids that have been shown to cause neurotoxicity in in-vitro studies. The safety and effectiveness of graviola supplements have not been thoroughly tested in humans.

What dosage of graviola supplement should I take? 

Graviola dietary supplements are available in capsule and liquid extract forms. Supplement manufacturers recommend taking between 500-1,500 mg/day or 1-4 mL of liquid extract daily.

These dosages have not been approved by the FDA, as the FDA does not strictly regulate supplements. Speak with your doctor before taking graviola, and follow all instructions on product labels when using.

A Word From Verywell

Though it is popular among those in the alternative medicine community, there is no evidence that graviola can treat any health condition. Speak with your doctor if you are thinking about trying graviola so that potential side effects, complications, and interactions with other medications and herbs can be avoided.

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