Soursop is an exotic fruit native to the American tropics, whose flavor is so particular that it pleases all palates. It is characterized by having a green appearance with thorns, large in size and a white and soft pulp. Almost all its parts are used from the Annona muricata tree, but few people know about the uses and properties of the soursop leaf.
This leaf is used in many parts of the world to treat a wide range of illnesses. The most recognized are hypertension, headaches, parasites and asthma. However, the question arises if its effects are more anecdotal than scientific.
Here we discuss the nutritional and bioactive components of the soursop leaf and its uses. In addition, you will learn how to prepare it to improve the treatment of some ailments.
What is Soursop?
The scientific name of the soursop tree is Annona muricata L. and it could be said that it is the largest of all the soursops. Unlike the custard apple, the red annona and the atemoya, the soursop is shaped like a kidney, but it is covered with soft spikes.
Its creamy pulp has an acid and astringent flavor, which is why it is usually consumed in ice cream, juices and jams. It is recommended to avoid constipation due to its high fiber content.
Much work has been done with the fruit and other parts of the plant, such as the roots, the seeds and even its leaves. Food, industrial and medicinal products have been prepared from them. For example, with the soursop leaf infusions are prepared.
Nutritional Properties of Soursop Leaf
Soursop leaves are dark green, shiny, large and oval-elliptical in shape. Like other leaves, it has values greater than 60% water. The rest of the solids are made up of proteins, insoluble fiber of the cellulose type, hemicellulose, and minerals, such as magnesium, iron, and copper.
In the Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences they refer to the difference between fresh and dry soursop leaves. While the fresh ones contain 65% water, the dry ones barely reach 10%. This causes its nutrients to concentrate.
The proteins in the dry leaves are almost 15% and in the fresh ones 6%. Drying the leaves increases the proportion of minerals to 7% and fat to 3%.
Bioactive components of the soursop leaf
Beyond its nutritional contribution, some phytochemical compounds that are related to its medicinal benefits stand out. Such is the case of flavonoids, polyphenols, essential oils and acetogenins.
Flavonoids and polyphenols have been found in a good proportion in soursop leaves, which increases their antioxidant properties. On the other hand, acetogenins are the bioactives to which their greatest biological and healing activity is attributed. They derive from some fatty acids and the best known are anonaine, muricatocin, xylopine, bulatacin, asimicin and trilobacin. They represent the most potent phytochemicals in the leaf.
Benefits and Uses of Soursop Leaf
In some trials, soursop leaf has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antiulcer, and anticancer effects, although more information is lacking. Next, we present what has been studied so far.
1. Antidiabetic effect
In a study with rats containing high levels of insulin, it was shown to have the ability to regenerate the beta cells of the pancreas. These cells are responsible for producing insulin to release it into the bloodstream.
Control group rats treated with 200 milligrams of soursop leaf extract demonstrated intense regeneration of these cells. Compared to another control group.
The explanation lies in the active compounds called xylopine, anonain, isolaurelia, muricatocin A and kaenferol 3-O-rutinoside.
2. Antimicrobial power
Acetogenins from plants belonging to the Annonaceae family, such as soursop, have been studied for their antimicrobial effect. Research analyzed its mode of action.
It has been shown to be effective against bacteria such as E. faecalis, S. typhimurium, and S. aureus. All of them decreased their growth and died after confronting them with the soursop leaf extract.
3. Protector of the liver and stomach
In an animal study it was found that it is capable of reducing the impact of jaundice and some toxins capable of damaging the liver, such as paracetamol. In addition, in subsequent researches it was established that the soursop leaf extract has a protective effect at the stomach level.
4. Anti-arthritic properties
In the same study in rats, different doses of soursop leaf extract were administered. After 2 weeks the edema in the joints was reduced. The highest doses inhibited the appearance of cytokines capable of causing inflammation; something that characterizes rheumatoid arthritis.
5. Anti-inflammatory and analgesic
Research in rodents found that soursop extract helps decrease inflammation by blocking chemical mediators of inflammation. Another study also resulted in similar findings, confirming that inflammation in rodents had decreased by 37%. However, there are no human studies.
6. Possible anti-cancer effects
These leaves contain an antioxidant that promotes the reduction of an enzyme with mutagenic potential, which causes cell death. Acetogenins are selectively toxic against various types of cancer cells, without harming healthy cells.
The potential of soursop leaves against skin cancer cells and lung cancer has been studied. Resulting in positive effects in vitro. Therefore, more studies are still needed both in humans and in laboratory animals.
Contraindications of Soursop leaf
Being antimicrobial, the soursop leaf is capable of altering the intestinal flora when consumed in high doses. That is why it should be consumed in moderation from less to more, increasing from a quarter cup to a cup progressively, for a month.
“1 cup is the maximum dose per day”
As it can also be vasodilator and hypertensive, its consumption is not recommended during pregnancy. And it would be prudent to avoid it in lactation.
Preparation of soursop leaf infusion
To prepare this infusion you will need the following:
- 1 lemon
- ½ liter of water
- 7 soursop leaves
- 1 teaspoon of honey
Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Remove at the beginning of the boil and add the soursop leaves for 4 minutes, so that the drink does not become bitter. Let it cool down a bit.
Strain the leaves and add the juice of a lemon and honey. You can drink it hot or cold, at least 3 times a day.
An alternative that needs more confirmations
It is advised to consult with a doctor before starting to use the leaf, as studies are still not entirely conclusive. Soursop leaves represent a natural alternative, but more evidence in humans is required.
If your doctor does not find any contraindication for your case, it is worth preparing your soursop leaf infusion. But test tolerance progressively.