How Graviola Works

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					How Graviola Works
by Andrew Aguecheek

Browse the article How Graviola Works
Introduction to Graviola

                                                   iStockphoto/Hien Nguyen
  No matter what you call it -- guanábana, custard apple, cherimoya or Brazilian paw paw (our favorite) --
                                    this plant has a long history of medicinal use.
Graviola is the Portuguese name for a plant that is widely grown and consumed in Latin America. In Spanish-
speaking countries, the fruit is called guanábana. Common names for it are soursop, custard apple, cherimoya,
and Brazilian paw paw. By whatever name, this tropical evergreen tree produces a fruit with white flesh, many
large seeds and an extremely sweet, slightly acidic flavor. Because it is difficult to eat, its pulp is commonly made
into juice. In fact, your local grocery store probably sells the popular guanábana nectar.

Not only the fruit but also other parts of this plant -- the leaves, stem, bark, roots, and seeds -- have a long history
of medicinal use in the Americas. Graviola is used as a natural remedy for infections, fever, digestive problems
and high blood pressure [source: Cassileth]. Researchers have documented many other traditional uses among
the indigenous people of the Andes, the Amazon and the Caribbean [source: Taylor].

Recently, scientists have begun to explore the potential of the bioactive chemicals in graviola leaves, stems and
seeds, called annonaceous acetogenins. These acetogenins appear to have powerful anti-tumor and anti-cancer
qualities. Some test-tube studies have concluded that graviola compounds may be able to target and kill cancer
cells, even drug-resistant ones, without interfering with healthy cells. These results, circulated through alternative
medicine networks and on the Internet, have created considerable excitement and a measure of hype. Natural
health guru Andrew Weil is among those who are skeptical of the claims made for graviola and recommends
against its use [source: Weil]. It may take years before clinical trials are conducted to legitimate or disprove the
claims made by graviola proponents. In the meantime, the plant has hit the herbal market and many cancer
patients are taking it.

This article will attempt to cut through the controversy regarding this form of alternative medicine, its known uses
and current research.

Graviola Benefits

 Soursop for Sour Moods
 Results of a neurological study, published in 1998, found that graviola has the capability to stimulate the
 brain's receptors for serotonin and may have an antidepressant effect [source:Cassileth]. Traditional
 usage supports this conclusion. To treat anxiety, one herbal manufacturer markets a tincture of graviola
 combined with the bark of mulungu, another rainforest tree [source: Amazon Botanicals].

Graviola is a rainforest plant that has been part of the natural and traditional medicine of Central and South
America and the Caribbean for centuries. It has an extremely wide range of medicinal properties, which are
distributed through the different parts of the plant. The fruit or juice is taken to reduce fever, counteract diarrhea
and dysentery, and kill worms and other parasites. The seeds are also a potent antiparasitic and are used
traditionally as a remedy for lice. The bark, leaves and roots can be made into a soothing medicinal tea, taken as
a sedative or an antispasmodic. Research also bears out the traditional use of graviola tea as a hypotensive --
that is, a remedy for high blood pressure [source: Taylor]. The bark can also be used to treat fever, and the
leaves are used topically to speed the healing of wounds. The unripe fruit is especially prized as a digestive aid
[source: Weil].

Additional utilization of graviola has been documented within specific native healing traditions. In the Andean
mountain ranges of Peru, graviola leaves are brewed to discharge mucus and soothe inflamed mucous
membranes. To the east, in the Amazon region, the bark, leaves and roots are used by diabetics to stabilize
blood sugar. The leaf tea is taken as a heart tonic in Guyana, a liver remedy in Brazil, and a treatment for
asthma, coughs and flu in the West Indies. It is also used for arthritis and rheumatism, and some mothers eat
and drink the graviola fruit to increase lactation [source: Taylor].

New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center affirms a number of the plant's beneficial properties,
including antiviral, antiparasitic, antirheumatic and emetic effects on its Web site [source: Memorial Sloan-
Kettering]. In view of this extensive list of benefits, the claims for graviola's cytotoxic effects on tumors and cancer
cells have acquired a certain credibility for many people, despite the absence of scientific evidence on human

Like any potent medicine, albeit natural in origin, graviola has certain contra-indications and side effects.
Continue reading to discover what they are.

Graviola Side Effects

 Take with Probiotic?
 If taken for a prolonged period, graviola's antimicrobial effect may lead to depletion of the friendly bacteria required
 for healthy digestion. Those individuals committed to long-term use may wish to add a probiotic supplement or
 digestive enzymes to their diet [source: Wright].

Some side effects follow from graviola's areas of bioactivity. Studies on animal subjects have demonstrated that
the plant can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure, so those whose blood pressure is already low, or
are already on medication to reduce hypertension, should consult their physician before taking graviola
[source: Wright]. Also, a large dose taken at one time can cause nausea and vomiting [source: Taylor].

Graviola's purported anti-cancer potency comes largely from its ability to reduce the supply of adenosine
triphosphate (ATP) to cancer cells. ATP often provides metabolic energy to healthy cells as well, and some
nutritional supplements, notably Coenzyme Q10, are known for increasing ATP. For this reason, CoQ10 may
neutralize the effect of graviola and they should not be taken together [source: Taylor].

Researchers exploring the mechanisms that graviola uses claim that the acetogenins in the plant can distinguish
cancerous cells from healthy cells because cancer cells have a consistently higher level of cellular activity. The
acetogenins recognize and selectively inhibit the cancer cells. Pregnant women are advised to avoid graviola
because the high energy in the cells of the developing fetus may trigger the botanical's toxic activity
[source: Wright]. The plant was also found to stimulate the uterus in an animal study [source: Taylor].

The most detrimental effect attributed to graviola is that it "may cause neural dysfunction and degeneration
leading to symptoms reminiscent of Parkinson's Disease" [source:Memorial Sloan-Kettering]. The first study to
make this assertion was conducted by French researchers in Guadeloupe, who found an abnormally high
presence of atypical Parkinson's amongst a poor population that used graviola for both food and medicine.
However, the outbreak of neurological disorders was relatively confined, whereas the popularity of graviola is
widespread in the region [source: Wright]. In her book "The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs," botanist Leslie
Taylor acknowledges that graviola seeds and roots contain alkaloids that have shown neurotoxic effects in tests.
For this reason, she recommends using the leaves instead [source: Taylor].

Graviola and Cancer

 Waiting on a Synthetic
 Pharmaceutical companies have succeeded in reproducing several annonaceous acetogenins in the laboratory. They are presently
 tinkering with chemical structures, with the goal of creating a synthetic acetogenin unique enough to patent and effective enough to
 market. They cannot patent the natural phytochemical, and therefore cannot assure a profit from it. This may explain the conundrum
 of why no clinical studies have been done on such a promising medicinal plant [source: Taylor].
The National Cancer Institute first noted the anticancer activity of graviola leaves in 1976, in an internal study not
publicly released. Much of the subsequent research has been conducted at Purdue University in Indiana

The studies concentrate on the antitumor properties and selective toxicity of annonaceous acetogenins. In 1997,
the Purdue team announced that these phytochemicals, in studies, appeared especially effective at destroying
cells that had survived chemotherapy. Such cells can develop resistance to several anti-cancer agents, earning
the name multi-drug resistant (MDR). Typically, less than two percent of cancer cells have MDR properties, but
this small set can quickly multiply after initial chemotherapy, rendering subsequent rounds of chemo useless.
Expelling the anti-cancer agents requires large amounts of cellular energy, which MDR cells acquire from the
chemical ATP. Acetogenins inhibit ATP transfer into these cells, retarding their function in a process that
eventually leads to cell death. This process bypasses the healthy cells, which do not require infusions of ATP
[source: Taylor].

These research findings have generated tremendous excitement, as well as an effort to market graviola
supplements. Skeptical analysts point out that test-tube experiments are only a preliminary stage in cancer
research, and it is therefore premature to ascribe a potent anticancer effect to graviola. Nevertheless, one study
claimed that graviola was 10,000 times more effective against cancer than the well-known chemotherapy drug
Adriamycin, and this dubious assertion has found its way to numerous promotional sites [source:].
Ralph Moss, a respected cancer writer who has been critical of mainstream oncology, comments that
"astounding claims concerning cancer cures spread like a virus from Web site to Web site." However, Moss
admits that graviola is "of potential importance to the future of medicine" [source: Moss]. Its increasing popularity
indicates that some individuals are not content to wait for the blessing of the scientific establishment.

To learn more about graviola, visit the sites on the following page.

Lots More Information

        •         Amazon Botanicals. "Anti-Anxiety Herbs." (Accessed March 8, 2009)
        •         Bluestein, Chuck. "Cancer Cure: The Story About Graviola and Cancer."
        (Accessed March 7, 2009)
        •         Cassileth, Barrie. "Integrative Oncology: Complementary Therapies, Herbs, and
        Other OTC Agents." Oncology, September 2008. (Accessed March 8, 2009)
        • "The Graviola Information Site." (Accessed March 8, 2009)
        •         Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "About Herbs: Graviola." (Accessed
        March 7, 2009)
        •         Moss, Ralph W. "The War on Cancer: A Friendly Skeptic Looks at Graviola."
        (Accessed March 7, 2009)
        •         Taylor, Leslie. "Graviola." From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs (Square
        One Publishers, 2005). (Accessed March 7, 2009)
        •         Weil, Andrew. "Graviola: A Worthwhile Botanical Against Cancer?" (Accessed
        March 7, 2009)
        •         Wright, Kathryn Mays. "Groundbreaking Plant From the Amazon Takes on
        Cancer, Skeptics, and Controversy." Health Sciences Institute newsletter, October 2005.
        (Accessed March 8, 2009)

Tags: cancer
Description: Cancer research. Cercetare terapii anti cancer.