Different experimental studies highlighted the anti-cancer benefits of graviola/soursop with a possibility that these can be used as a cure for cancer. But there have not been any studies done in humans so far. Hence, one should not randomly consume graviola/soursop supplements without scientific explanations or guidance of a healthcare professional. However, consuming graviola based foods as part of a normal diet should not harm.
What is Graviola/Soursop?
Graviola or Annona muricata is an evergreen tree found in the tropical regions of North America, South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Annona muricata belongs to the family of Annonaceae and is known by many names in different regions including Soursop, custard apple, guanabana, huanaba, guanabano, durian benggala, nangka blanda, toge-banreisi and cachiman epineux.
The graviola tree produces a large, heart-shaped, green-coloured, edible fruit. The pulp of the fruit is extensively used to make syrups, candies, beverages, ice creams and shakes. The leaves, fruits, seeds, and stem of the tree are used to make medicines.
Key Bio-Active Ingredients of Graviola/Soursop
Graviola has a number of chemicals in it with strong medicinal properties. The key active ingredient in graviola is a type of plant chemical called annonaceous acetogenins. Following are some of the other key bioactive ingredients of Graviola.
- Citric acid
- Folic acid
- Linoleic acid
- Linolenic acid
- Oleic acid
- Palmitic acid
- Vitamin C
Purported Uses/Benefits of Soursop
Soursop is known to have strong antioxidant and anti-microbial properties. Soursop is also considered to have the following properties/benefits based on few experimental and preclinical studies.
- Antibacterial effects
- Antidiabetic effects
- Anti Inflammatory effects
- Antineoplastic effects
- Antioxidant effects
- Antiparasitic effects
- Antiviral effects
- Immunomodulatory effects
- Gastroprotective effects
- Neurologic/CNS effects
Due to these properties, in spite of insufficient evidence in humans, graviola is used orally:
- As Antibiotic
- As Sedative
- As Antiparasitic
- As Cathartic – For cleansing
- As Emetic – Causes vomiting
- For coughs
- For Headaches
- For diabetes
- For cystitis
- For human papillomavirus (HPV)
- For Leishmaniasis : An infection caused by sand fleas
Topical administration of graviola is also used :
- For Arthritis
- As insect repellent
- For Abscesses
Due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, researchers have also been exploring possible benefits of graviola/soursop as a potential treatment option for a range of diseases, including cancer.
However, so far no clinical trials with graviola are done on humans to study its anti-cancer potential, although some experimental studies indicated that graviola may have anticancer properties.
Possible Side Effects of Graviola/Soursop
Random and long-term use of Graviola/Soursop supplements may be associated with various side-effects including:
- Nerve cell damage, nerve changes and neurological problems like Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions with hallucinations
- liver and kidney toxicity
- movement disorders
Graviola may also lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Hence, consult with your doctor before taking Graviola/Soursop along with other medications for these conditions. Also avoid taking graviola supplements if you:
- are pregnant
- have liver or kidney disease
- take medications for diabetes
- take blood pressure medications
- have low blood pressure
Experimental Studies Exploring Anti-Cancer Properties of Graviola/Soursop
Graviola/Soursop has been studied in the lab by researchers to evaluate its potential to cure different cancer types. However, no clinical trials are done to explore its safety and also to confirm whether graviola or soursop can cure cancer. Following are the examples of some of the experimental studies associated with the impact of graviola use in different cancer types.
Impact of Graviola on Breast Cancer
In an experimental study done by the researchers from the Universiti Putra Malaysia, they evlauted the anti-proliferative and anti-cancer effects of Annona muricata crude extract (AMCE) / graviola extract / soursop extract on breast cancer cell lines. Some of the studies were done only with its most potent leaf aqueous extract called B1 AMCE. The study found that Annona muricata crude extract samples exhibited different levels of cytotoxicity towards breast cancer cell lines. The most potent selected B1 AMCE reduced the breast tumor’s size and weight, showed anti-metastatic features (reduce cancer spread), and induced apoptosis (cell death) of the 4 T1 cells (chemotherapy resistant breast cancer cell line) in vitro and in vivo. Additionally, the study found that graviola decreased the levels of nitric oxide in tumor and increased the white blood cell, T-cell, and natural killer cell population and suggested B1 AMCE as a promising candidate for breast cancer treatment. (Syed Umar Faruq Syed Najmuddin et al, BMC Complement Altern Med., 2016)
Impact of Graviola on Pancreatic Cancer
Researchers from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, Department of Pathology and Microbiology, and Department of Environmental, Agricultural & Occupational Health, Omaha, USA evaluated the effects of the extract from Annona Muricata/Graviola on cytotoxicity, cell metabolism, cancer-associated protein/gene expression, tumorigenicity, and metastatic properties of pancreatic cancer cells. The study found that Graviola induced necrosis (cell injury which results in the premature death of cells) of pancreatic cancer cells by inhibiting cellular metabolism and also inhibited multiple signaling pathways that regulate metabolism, cell cycle, survival, and metastatic (cancer spread) properties in pancreatic cancer cells. (María P Torres et al, Cancer Lett., 2012)
Impact of Graviola on Prostate Cancer
A study done by the researchers from the University of Colorado Denver in the US, Tezpur University in India and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro evaluated whether NOX activity (which can lead to cancer progression) in Prostate Cancer cells could be inhibited by Graviola pulp extract (GPE) that contains unique acetogenins with strong anti-cancer effects. The study found that Graviola pulp extract could be useful in the prevention of Prostate Cancer progression via inhibiting NOX activity. (Gagan Deep et al, Sci Rep., 2016)
Impact of Graviola on Lung Cancer
A study done by the researchers from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia evaluated the molecular mechanisms of Annona muricata leaves ethyl acetate extract (AMEAE) against lung cancer A549 cells. The study found that the ethyl acetate extract of Annona muricata inhibited the proliferation of the lung cancer cells, leading to cell cycle arrest and programmed cell death. (Soheil Zorofchian Moghadamtousi et al, BMC Complement Altern Med., 2014)
Impact of Graviola on Colon Cancer
A study done by the researchers from the Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia evaluated the apoptosis-inducing effect of graviola/soursop (Annona muricata) leaf extract on the colorectal cancer cell line COLO-205 through the activities of caspase-3 which is a marker of cell apoptosis. The study suggested that Annona muricata leaf extract had anticancer properties by enhancing caspase-3 activity. (Murdani Abdullah et al, Gastroenterol Res Pract., 2017)
Impact of Graviola on Leukemia
Researchers from the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon evaluated the in vitro anti-proliferative effects and apoptotic events of Annona muricata extracts on leukemia HL-60 cells as well as to quantify its phenols content. The study found that depending on the part of the plant, the amount of phenols, flavonoids and flavonols in the extracts varied. The graviola extracts tested inhibited the proliferation of leukemia HL-60 cells in a concentration dependent manner. (Constant Anatole Pieme et al, BMC Complement Altern Med., 2014)
Impact of Graviola on Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC)
Researchers from the Farooqia Dental College and Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology in India evaluated the cytotoxicity of Graviola/soursop in Human tongue Squamous Cell Carcinoma cells / SCC-25 cell lines. The study found significant dose-dependent inhibition of Human tongue Squamous Cell Carcinoma cell lines by Graviola. (Visveswaraiah Paranjyothi Magadi et al, Contemp Clin Dent., Oct-Dec 2015)
All these experimental – in vitro/in vivo – studies highlighted the anti-cancer benefits of graviola/soursop with a possibility that these can be used for the cure of cancer. However, there have not been any scientific evidence in humans so far. Hence, though graviola/soursop is promoted as an alternative cancer treatment to cure several cancer types, one should not randomly consume these supplements without scientific detailing or guidance of a healthcare professional. However, consuming graviola/soursop through foods in normal quantities may have certain benefits and should not harm you when taken as part of a normal diet.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.