“Let me look at some of these…” I reached out and put the soursop fruit right up to the lens of my video camera.
I said to my friend Westi, “I love soursop. I wish I could grow it in Florida. But the tree dies if the temperature gets below about 40 degrees.”
Westi and his wife Lelir were taking me on a tour of their garden deep in the mountains of Bali near the little town of Ubud.
I’ve written to you before about his endless turmeric plants and hundreds of aloe, basil, and other healing plants growing there.
But I was jealous of their soursop trees. I do grow the sweetsop at home, but I prefer the soursop because it has a lot more medicinal uses.
Its white pulp is sweet and makes the most delicious juice. It tastes like a combination of candy and cream, and is full of calcium, vitamin C, and the essential amino acid lysine.
Usually in America we think of “medicine” as tasting bitter and awful. But in Indonesia, they drink the sweet soursop juice medicinally, to help the liver and digestion.
|This soursop fruit was almost ripe enough for me to pick and eat right off my friend Westi’s tree in Bali.|
Here, we also tend to think of medicine as something you buy in a store. But in Bali, they’ve used traditional medicines all their lives. For them, it’s natural to get what you need right from your own backyard.
For instance, you can put soursop pulp on a wound and heal it right up in just a couple of days. Or you can spread a few leaves onto your pillow, or make an infusion, for a good night’s sleep.
Soursop leaves are also a hangover remedy. The locals taught British visitors to break up a few leaves in some water, squeeze in the juice of a lime, and rub the mixture on a drunken man’s head to make him “sober as a judge,” as the saying goes.
Modern medicine became interested in the soursop tree years ago because the leaves and stems are anti-cancer.
The National Cancer Institute first talked about the soursop tree’s anti-cancer power years ago in their own internal documents, but never officially published their findings.
What they discovered was that extracts from the leaves and stem of the soursop tree actively killed 12 different kinds of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.
The tree has plant nutrients called annonaceous acetogenins. These compounds pull the plug on the cancer cells’ energy source so they can’t reproduce and can’t fight back.1
Drug companies tried for seven years to make a synthetic version, but couldn’t duplicate the power of the real thing.
One acetogenin found in the soursop tree was so poisonous to colon cancer cells that it killed them at 10,000 times the potency of the ant-cancer drug adriamycin.2
The leaves also have other important uses to the Balinese. They mash up the leaves and use them to treat eczema and other skin rashes. And they use the root bark as an antidote for poisoning.
If you want to try soursop yourself, places with a large Caribbean or Puerto Rican community will usually have soursop available in their locally owned markets.
If you go to one, remember that soursop fruit is covered with little “spines,” and you can tell the fruit is ripe when the spikes break off easily.
The global trading website alibaba.com has sellers who trade the fruit, if you don’t have a market near you. You can also try tropilab.com, or two other resources: tropical-gardener.com and 21food.com.
You can get the packaged fruit pulp at many natural foods grocers, but avoid any with added ingredients or that are processed.
To get the leaves and stems is a little tougher. Unless you live someplace warmer than South Florida, you won’t be able to grow a tree outside. But you can still get the leaves and stems online, both powdered and fresh. Try websites like bonanza.com and thummimfarms.com.
To make tea from fresh soursop, first boil one cup of water. Then tear two or three soursop leaves into three pieces each. Put the leaves into your tea cup or glass and pour the boiling water on it. Cover for 30 minutes (called drawing the tea). Add honey to sweeten.
You can also buy the extract of soursop leaf and stem (the tree is also called graviola) in a capsule form. They will usually contain from 500mg up to 1.8 grams each. Take from one to 2 grams per day.
1 Oberlies, N, Croy, V, Harrison, M, McLaughlin, J. “The Annonaceous acetogenin bullatacin is cytotoxic against multidrug-resistant human mammary adenocarcinoma cells.” Cancer Letters 115 (1997) 73-79.
2 Zeng L, Wu F, Oberlies N, McLaughlin J, Sastrodihadjo S. “Five new monotetrahydrofuran ring acetogenins from the leaves of Annona muricata.” J Nat Prod. 1996 Nov;59(11):1035-42.