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Graviola (soursop)

Graviola is promoted as an alternative cancer treatment. There is not enough reliable evidence that graviola works as a treatment for cancer.

Summary

  • Graviola is the fruit from trees in the rain forests.
  • Claims that graviola can treat cancer are not backed up by research.
  • It can cause nerve damage when taken in large amounts.

What is graviola?

Graviola comes from a tree in the rain forests of Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. It 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 a type of plant compound (phytochemical) called annonaceous acetogenins.

People use graviola pulp in juices, smoothies and ice cream.

Why people with cancer use it

People in Africa and South America use the bark, leaves, root, and fruits of the graviola tree. They 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. These cells are resistant to some chemotherapy drugs. A more recent study showed that graviola pulp extract has an effect on prostate cancer cells in mice. 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 reputable scientific cancer organisations do not support them.

How you have it

Graviola comes in the form of fruit powder, leaf or stem powder, and pulp extract.

Side effects

We don’t know much about how graviola affects the body. But some chemicals in graviola concern scientists. It may cause nerve changes and movement disorders when taken in large amounts.

The nerve changes may cause symptoms like Parkinson's disease. Laboratory research has found that some substances in graviola can cause nerve damage. It crosses into the brain from the bloodstream.

One research study has looked at Caribbeans eating large amounts of graviola. It found that they were more likely to develop certain nerve changes. They were also more likely to have hallucinations.

Studies on animals found that graviola may lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Talk to your doctor first before taking graviola if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Graviola may also cause damage to your kidneys and liver if taken frequently.

It is unlikely that drinks or foods containing graviola could harm you when taken as part of a normal diet.

Talk to your doctor before taking any kind of complementary or alternative therapy.

Research into graviola as a cancer treatment

Websites or magazines often promote graviola. They base their claims on unsupported opinions and anecdotal evidence. There isn’t reliable scientific evidence that graviola works as a cancer treatment.

In 2015 a systematic review was published. This means that a group of experts gather all the evidence about a particular subject and go through it to work out whether there is any evidence to support it. It said that several studies show positive results in using graviola. But that there needs to be more robust and systematic clinical trials to test and confirm its value in cancer treatment, and to see if it is safe. Only then can it be used as a treatment for cancer.

How much it costs

Be cautious about believing information or paying for any alternative cancer therapy on the internet.

A word of caution

It is understandable that you might want to try anything if you think it might help treat or cure your cancer. Only you can decide whether to use an alternative cancer therapy such as graviola.

You could harm your health if you stop your cancer treatment for an unproven treatment.

Many websites promote graviola as a cure for cancer. But no reputable scientific cancer organisations support any of these claims.

Last reviewed: 
22 Oct 2018
  • 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

  • Graviola inhibits hypoxia-induced NADPH oxidase activity in prostate cancer cells reducing their proliferation and clonogenicity.

    G Deep and others

    Scientific Reports. 2016 March 16;6:23135.

  • Anti Hyperglycemic Activities of Annona Muricata (Linn)

    D Olawale Adeyemi and others

    African Journal of Traditional Complementary and Alternative Medicines. 2009; 6(1): 62–69.

  • 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

  • Possible mechanisms of action of the hypotensive effect of Annona muricata (soursop) in normotensive Sprague–Dawley rats

    R Chukwuemeka and others

    Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology, Volume 50, 2012 - Issue 11

  • Graviola: A Systematic Review on Its Anticancer Properties

    P Ioannis and others

    American Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2015, Vol. 3, No. 6, 128-131

  • 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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