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Graviola (soursop)

There is no evidence to show that graviola works as a cure for cancer.

Graviola comes from a tree in the rain forests of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia and is a common food there.

Its scientific name is Annona muricata. It is also known as custard apple, cherimoya, guanabana, soursop and brazilian paw paw. The active ingredient is thought to be a type of plant compound (phytochemical) called annonaceous acetogenins.

Graviola and cancer

People in African and South American countries have used the bark, leaves, root, and fruits of the graviola tree to treat infections with viruses or parasites, rheumatism, arthritis, depression, and sickness. We know from research that some graviola extracts can help to treat these conditions.

In laboratory studies, graviola extracts can kill some types of liver and breast cancer cells that are resistant to particular chemotherapy drugs. But there have not been any studies in humans. So we don't know whether it can work as a cancer treatment or not. 

Many sites on the internet advertise and promote graviola capsules as a cancer cure but none of them are supported by any reputable scientific cancer organisations.

We do not support the use of graviola to treat cancer. Our advice is to be very cautious about believing information or paying for any type of alternative cancer therapy on the internet.

Possible side effects of graviola

We don’t know much about how graviola affects the body. But some researchers are concerned that particular chemicals present in graviola may cause nerve changes and movement disorders when taken in large amounts.

The nerve changes may cause symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease. Laboratory research has found that some substances in graviola cause nerve damage and that these substances can cross into the brain from the bloodstream.

One research study has shown that people in the Caribbean who had large amounts of graviola in their diet were more likely to develop particular nerve changes and were also more likely to have hallucinations. It is unlikely that drinks or foods containing graviola could harm you when taken as part of a normal diet.

Always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of complementary or alternative therapy.
Last reviewed: 
20 Jul 2015
  • Anti cancer activity on Graviola, an exciting medicinal plant extract vs various cancer cell lines and a detailed computational study on its potent anti-cancerous leads.
    J Paul and others, 2013
    Current topics in medicinal chemistry, Volume 13, Issue 14

  • Is atypical parkinsonism in the Caribbean caused by the consumption of Annonacae?
    A Lannuzel  and others, 2006
    Journal of neural transmission (Supplement)

  • Atypical parkinsonism in Guadeloupe: a common risk factor for two closely related phenotypes?
    A Lannuzel  and others, 2007
    Brain

  • Tryptamine-derived alkaloids from Annonaceae exerting neurotrophin-like properties on primary dopaminergic neurons.
    F Schmidt and others, 2010
    Bioorganic and medicinal chemistry Volume 18, Issue 14

  • How Stuff Works: Health
    Graviola: What you need to know?
    Website accessed Feb 2013

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in.

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