Guanabana Cancer Cure: Real or a Hoax? The Facts
The Guanabana, or soursop, tree is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. It is also found in the Philippines, probably brought there via trade with Mexico, and now can be found elsewhere in Asia as well. Its fruit is large, prickly, yellow green, and heart-shaped, weighing as much as 5 pounds, and is very popular wherever it is found. It’s often used in fruit drinks, sorbets, smoothies and ice cream.
The tree is also prized as a natural medicinal by the indigenous populations, and various parts of the tree and fruit are often credited with antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has been used for centuries for the treatment of infections and fevers, skin disorders and stomach ailments. In recent years there has been a considerable amount of internet buzz regarding its purported cancer fighting properties as well.
The Guanabana Cancer Connection – Looking at The Facts
Much of what can be found on the internet regarding the guanabana and cancer connection is speculation and hype. Most of this is based on in vitro or test tube studies, where certain compounds from the tree and/or its fruit have been found to either halt growth in cancer cells or kill them outright. Fantastic claims have been made about the enormous power of these compounds. It’s often stated authoritatively that guanabana is not only stronger than some chemotherapy drugs (on the order of 10,000 times), but also gentler, sparing the user the nausea and hair loss often characteristic of chemotherapy. Not to mention, you can obtain the purported cure in the form of guanabana fruit, juice, leaves and probably any other part of the tree that a supplement manufacturer has cut up and decided to sell you. Unfortunately, there have been no clinical trials using any extracts from guanabana, and these conclusions are, at the very least, premature. However, it would be premature to begin raving about the guanabana cancer hoax just yet. The fruit may have some real health benefits.
Guanabana And Cancer May Not Play Nice, After All….
There’s good reason to keep hope alive for this as a potential treatment. Several studies have shown promise. One such, printed in the Journal of Natural Products in 2002, reported on the cancer killing power of a group of substances known as annonaceous acetogenins, found in the seeds of the guanabana fruit. In vitro testing of these compounds with human liver cancer cells found them to be highly selective in attacking the cancer cells while leaving the non-cancerous cells undamaged.
More recently, and more significantly, a study published this year in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer, found that an extract from the guanabana fruit significantly inhibited growth in human breast cancer cells both in test tubes (in vitro) and in mice (in vivo), while leaving the healthy cells unharmed. This is a substantial addition to the growing body of research literature, and is indicative of what may well turn out to be a strong addition to the fight against cancer.
There still have not been clinical tests, and we need to proceed cautiously until more is known. It is simply too early to conclude that ingesting large quantities of the fruit or some extract from the tree will be beneficial. You can’t even be certain that the compounds being tested are present in whatever product you are consuming. In addition, there are a number of studies which suggest a connection between annonacin, a compound found in gaunabana, and a form of Parkinson’s disease. Consult with your doctor before beginning any guanabana regimen.
Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(5):795-801. Epub 2011 Jun 22.
Selective growth inhibition of human breast cancer cells by graviola fruit extract in vitro and in vivo involving downregulation of EGFR expression.
Dai Y, Hogan S, Schmelz EM, Ju YH, Canning C, Zhou K.
Department of Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.
J Nat Prod. 2002 Apr;65(4):470-5.
New cytotoxic monotetrahydrofuran annonaceous acetogenins from Annona muricata.
Liaw CC, Chang FR, Lin CY, Chou CJ, Chiu HF, Wu MJ, Wu YC.
Graduate Institute of Natural Products, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung 807, Taiwan, Republic of China.