Graviola (soursop) is used to treat infections caused by bacteria and parasites including leishmaniasis, a disease caused by parasites transmitted through the bite of sand fleas; herpes; coughs; and cancer, according to WebMD. It is also used to cause vomiting and to empty the bowels. Some people use graviola to help them relax.
The leaves of the graviola tree have powerful anti-cancer properties coming from phytochemicals in the plant. The journal “Cancer Letters” published a study looking at the impact of graviola on pancreatic cancer. Supplementing with graviola stopped cancerous pancreatic tumor cells from replicating and caused them to die. Researchers suggest this natural medicine may prevent and treat cancer. The leaves may also be useful for treating skin cancer when applied topically.
Treating Viral Infections
Traditional medicines use graviola leaves as treatment for viral infections. An article published in “The Journal of Ethnopharmacology” in May of 1998 found that extracts from the leaves suppressed the herpes simplex virus. The herpes virus is spread through bodily fluids and often transmitted while kissing or through sexual contact.
According the University of Maryland Medical Center, up to 90 percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to one form of the virus and there is no cure. Some anti-viral medications can reduce the number of outbreaks or lessen symptoms. More research is needed to determine what role graviola can play in the treatment or prevention of herpes.
Supplementing with graviola leaves may reduce swelling and pain, according to a study published in May of 2010 in the “International Journal of Molecular Sciences.” Researchers gave mice with burned paws extracts of graviola leaf and observed their behaviors. Those given the supplement had less swelling and demonstrated fewer indications of pain. However, more research is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of this use in humans.
The appropriate dose of graviola depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for graviola.
Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Possible Side Effects
DO NOT EAT THE FRUIT: Eating the fruit could lead to movement disorders similar to Parkinson’s disease, according to a case-control study in the French West Indies.
No established human dosage for graviola leaf exists yet. Long-term or high-dose supplementation may cause damage to the myelin sheath, disrupting normal nerve function. Movement disorders may also occur because of compounds called alkaloids present in the plant. Symptoms of these conditions are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease.
Talk with a doctor prior to taking a graviola leaf supplement or making/drinking soursop tea.
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