There has been increasing interest in the use of Soursop for cancer treatment and its ability to kill cancer cells naturally.
Soursop goes by a number of names, including graviola, guanabana, and corrosol; in Malaysia we call it durian belanda.
It is the fruit of a broad-leafed evergreen tree known scientifically as Ammona Muricata, which grows in areas of high humidity such as the rainforests of South East Asia, Africa, and the tropical regions of Central and South America. The fruit has a yellowy green appearance with a knobby spiky skin and a fleshy whitish interior. The soursop fruit contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals which in themselves have overall health benefits.
While conventional medical practitioners claim that there is no scientific basis to support the use of soursop as a cure for cancer, indigenous people believe the fruit, leaves, seeds, and even the roots have many health and curative benefits. More recently, initial in vitro research (lab study) suggests that the properties of soursop are potentially 10,000 times stronger than the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin and is purported to be particularly effective against breast, colon, lung, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
Soursop Nutrition and Health Benefits
Soursop extracts are purported to have anti-cancer, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, and anti-viral properties. As mentioned earlier, the fruit contains a number of essential vitamins and minerals, namely vitamins B1, B2, and vitamin C. There are considerable amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium with traces of copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. It is high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre. To consume raw, the fruit should be ripe, the skin should be a yellowish-green; if it is dark green then set it aside the same way you would an avocado.
Upon removing the inedible green skin, the creamy edible white pulp is revealed containing some 30 to 200 seeds in each fruit. The seeds themselves are generally considered inedible and have been found to contain neurotoxins.
In its ripened state, the flesh can be eaten raw, made into juice, shakes, or even ice-cream. If you can’t find fresh soursop, there are a number of suppliers that provide the canned pulp/puree. Its taste is slightly acidic somewhat akin to a mix of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. The locals will simply cut the fruit lengthways and scoop the flesh out with a spoon.
In Indonesia, the unripened fruit is sometimes used in soup or as a vegetable and during my research, I came across mention of the unripened soursop being fried or roasted in some parts of Brazil.
The leaves of the Soursop tree can be used in a number of ways. They can be mashed and used as a poultice for healing wounds, inflammation of the joints, treatment of eczema, herpes, and other skin ailments.
Boiling the leaves as a tea can improve respiratory problems, boost the immune system, reduce stress and hypertension, lower bad cholesterol, treat diabetes, and cleanse the gastrointestinal system. A leaf decoction can be used to remove head lice, treat fever, urinary tract infections, and reduce blood pressure.
It is important to note that the seeds are toxic and in the indigenous tribes in some countries actually use the seeds as a pesticide to kill off insects.
Soursop as a Cancer Treatment
There is increasing evidence that components of the Soursop, namely annonaceous acetogins have the power to arrest the growth of tumours and can protect the body from developing cancer cells. Soursop extracts have also been found to seek out and destroy multi drug resistant strains of cancer.
On a daily basis, billions of cells breakdown and die in our bodies and are replaced with new healthy cells; this is a process known as apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This is part of the normal bodily function to maintain the health and proper operation of our organs.
In the case of cancer cells this process has been corrupted; instead of the cells dying off to make way for new ones, they continue to grow and divide, and eventually become malignant. To compound this anomaly, the cancer cells modify their metabolism so that they grow at a much quicker rate than normal cells. To fuel this growth, as with normal cells, glucose is taken from the blood stream and converted into energy for the cell, this energy is known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Cancer cells can require some 10-17 times as much ATP as normal cells to enable their growth. This is where the active compounds of the Soursop show their potential benefits in curing cancer.
The acetogins are long-chained fatty acids that essentially ‘kill’ cancer cells by depriving them of the energy required to survive and multiply. This is achieved by the acetogin blocking the process of releasing the ATP chemical bond that generates cell activity. Research has also shown that the soursop extract reduces the glucose uptake of the cancer cells and thus starving the cancer cells to death.
The major advantage of Soursop is that it does not ‘poison’ the cancer cells (as is the case with chemotherapy) but rather it ‘starves’ the cells. In addition, the acetogins do not harm normal cells.
Side Effects of Soursop
There are reports of side effects being caused by the over-consumption of Soursop, but it could be argued that none are as serious or compromising to the body as the side effects caused by conventional cancer treatments. Consumption of Soursop attacks only the cancer cells, generally leaving healthy cells unaffected. Soursop does not cause hair loss, weight loss, or an impaired immune system; in fact recent research has shown that Soursop can actually alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy.
Possible side effects to be aware of are as follows:
- If consumed on an empty stomach, the patient may suffer gastric discomfort, nausea, or vomiting; but the same can be said for many over-the-counter painkillers.
- Patients may experience lower energy levels for a while due to the effect of reduced ATP activity. For this reason also, consumption should be avoided if a person is taking CoQ10, (CoQ10 is used to increase ATP production and so would counteract the effects of the acetogin.)
- People with low blood pressure should avoid prolonged use of Soursop since one of its benefits is to treat hypertension.
- Expectant mothers should refrain from consuming soursop since it may inhibit growth of the fetus and could stimulate contractions.
- People with Parkinson’s disease should also avoid using Soursop until more conclusive research has been conducted on the potential impact of high concentrations of annonacina as a neurotoxin.
So What is the Correct Dosage?
Since Soursop is not a formally recognised medical treatment and doctors do not typically learn about its use as a medicine, there is no hard and fast rule for recommended dosage. What is clear though, excessive consumption can be toxic and so be cautious.
The amount to be taken depends on the type of cancer, the size of the person, the method of consumption, be it the fruit itself, juice, or the leaves as a tea. There are commercially available pulp, juices, and even capsules, available as supplements, but to what extent the manufacturing process has affected the properties of the fruit or leaves in terms of fighting cancer needs to be investigated further.
If consuming the flesh directly or as a juice, the general consensus appears to be that no more than a half to one cup, 2-3 times a week.
If drinking a tea made from the leaves, it is suggested that you start with one cup per day and see how it makes you feel, if there are no obvious negative reactions, then you may increase the quantity, but no more than three cups per day. Be aware that it may have sedative effect and that prolonged use may interfere with the production of good bacteria in the digestive tract.
If you should experience loss of balance, shaking, feeling stiff or movement problems, you should cease consumption immediately and wait for at least a few days before once again eating or drinking Soursop or Soursop tea.