Can Soursop Help Fight Cancer?

Soursop, also know as graviola fruit, is native to Central and South America and has gained strong interest due to its potential medicinal benefits. While some studies have shown that soursop may have anticancer benefits for cancers like prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not support these claims.

Although there are many options for alternative treatments to different illnesses—including cancer—it is imperative to follow the advice of a healthcare professional. 

Soursop
Lorenzo Vecchia / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

What Is Soursop?

Soursop is a fruit that is green with an outer texture that is prickly and an inside texture that is soft and creamy. The taste is commonly compared to a strawberry or pineapple.

The fruit is mainly found in the rainforest of Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. The scientific name is Annona muricata. Other names include custard apple, cherimoya, guanabana, and Brazilian pawpaw. In America, the fruit is most widely known as soursop.

The fruit can be consumed as a fresh fruit, capsule, and tea. It can also be consumed in the form of jelly, ice-cream, and juice.

Soursop has many nutritional benefits such as protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, iron, folate, riboflavin, niacin, high antioxidant properties and more.  Other soursop benefits include managing diabetes, treating fevers, hypertension, insomnia, inflammatory conditions, and more. In the Caribbean, soursop is a popular herbal remedy used for patients who have prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer. Overall, more studies need to be conducted to determine if soursop is an effective and safe option to help fight cancer. 

How to Eat Soursop

Soursop is typically eaten raw by cutting the fruit in half and scooping out the flesh. You can also incorporate soursop into syrups, smoothies, and other desserts such as ice creams, candies, and sweet beverages. The leaves can also be used to make a tea.

Cancer Fighting Properties

Soursop has a variety of over 212 phytochemicals, which are compounds that are known to have anticancer effects. Research also shows that soursop has natural cytotoxicity effects.  For cancer patients, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are cytotoxic therapies. A cytotoxic drug is an agent that has destructive actions on cells that are targeted for destruction. Studies show that the fruit also has an ability to reduce the cell growth on a number of cancer cell lines. This includes breast, lung, pancreatic, prostate, ovarian, and colorectal. While this may seem promising, it is important to remember that there is not enough human data to support these claims. Experts from Cancer Treatment Centers of America warn against using soursop as a cancer fighter, and they note that soursop is associated with numerous unsubstantiated claims. Drugs developed from compounds in the soursop plant are more likely to be effective than simply consuming the fruit or tea made from its leaves.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is known as the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

In a study that was done on mice, researchers found that the leaves from soursop showed an anticancer effect on breast cancer cell lines. Studies also showed that extracts from soursop can aid in destroying cells that are resistant to specific chemotherapy drugs. Although there were promising results, researchers concluded that more studies should be conducted.  

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death. . A recent study showed that soursop has an effect on prostate cancer cells in mice. Further studies need to be conducted to show whether or not this is effective in humans.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. The leaf extract of soursop has showed anticancer properties against a cell line, restricting of migration, and cytotoxicity against certain cells. Again, more research is needed to validate these claims.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer related deaths. Studies show that pancreatic tumors are resistant to conventional chemotherapies and radiotherapies. Many diagnoses are already in the advanced stages because the disease is often presented with “no specific early clinical symptoms.”

Statistics predict a possible 55% increase in the expected number of new pancreatic cancer cases by 2030. Studies reported soursop extract has promising characteristics for pancreatic cancer therapeutics due to its anti-tumorigenic characteristics showing that soursop extract resulted in pancreatic cancer cell death and necrosis. The studies also suggest that using alternative medicine should be considered as a supplement and not a replacement for standard therapies.

Overall, although soursop has agents that can help protect against certain cancer cells, more research needs to be conducted to get a clearer answer as to whether it can work as a cancer treatment on its own in humans. 

Other Benefits

Soursop has many properties including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial agents that can help certain ailments. Depending on the area in the world, the fruit is used for different ailments such as lice, fever, edema, coughs, blood cleansing, arthritis, depression, parasites, asthma, and inflammation. In many countries, it is used as a traditional remedy.

Risks

Although soursop is considered a natural remedy for many ailments, there are some risks. Taking soursop long term could lead to toxicity within the liver and kidneys. If a patient is on blood pressure medication, soursop is known to lower the pressure. Other warnings are considered for individuals who are on diabetic medications, as the plant can have blood sugar-lowering effects .

Do Not Consume Soursop If:

You are a diabetic, on blood pressure medication, have kidney or liver problems, pregnant, and/or breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

Soursop is a fruit that has many known health benefits. There are a variety of ways that the plant can be consumed. Whether it is eaten, consumed as a tea, or in a capsule, many people have used it to help with health ailments. If you are considering using soursop, it is imperative that you contact your medical professional so they can give you proper instructions on how to add it to your diet. Although research has shown that soursop is known to treat many illnesses, it is important to follow proper guidelines from the FDA and your medical professional.

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