Guanabana (Annona muricata) is a fruit tree and member of the custard apple family (Annonaceae). The guanabana leaf has been studied for its anti-cancer properties in the lab, but human studies are lacking. People traditionally used all parts of the tree for pain, inflammation, malaria, diabetes, and parasites. Read on to learn if any of guanabana’s purported benefits have scientific ground and why taking this plant can be a dangerous idea.
What is Guanabana?
Guanabana, also known as soursop or graviola, is native to tropical areas of Central and South America and the Caribbean. It is part of the custard apple family and is now widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide, including Africa and Southeast Asia [1, 2].
The guanabana is most known for its creamy, tangy fruit pulp. But, traditional practices have used all portions of the guanabana plant for conditions such as fever and malaria. Evidence is lacking to back up them up .
More than 200 phytochemicals in guanabana have been identified and studied in cells or animals, but human data are lacking .
Guanabana supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.
The guanabana seed and leaf contain large amounts of vitamins C and E, responsible in part for its antioxidant effects .
The most notable compounds in guanabana are considered to be alkaloids, phenols, and acetogenins .
Mechanism of Action
This section covers hypotheses about the possible mechanism of action of compounds in guanabana. These mechanisms remain unproven as human data are lacking.
Guanabana leaf extracts reduced blood sugar levels and increased insulin in rats, which researchers explained by increased antioxidant levels in the liver, reduced fat oxidation, and protection of pancreatic β-cells [13, 14, 15].
Scientists posit that the extracts of guanabana leaves might exert their antioxidant activity by scavenging free radicals. In theory, reducing free radicals helps prevent damage to cells, proteins, and DNA [16, 17].
The effects of guanabana extracts are being investigated in cells. Possible pathways under investigation include:
- A mitochondrial-mediated pathway with NF-kB and Bcl-Xl [18, 19]
- The cell’s membrane mitochondrial potential [20, 21]
- Reactive oxygen species [20, 22]
Remember, however, that many substances have anti-cancer effects in cells, including downright toxic chemicals like bleach. This doesn’t mean that they have any medical value. On the contrary, most substances (natural or synthetic) that are researched in cancer cells fail to pass further animal studies or clinical trials due to a lack of safety or efficacy.
Purported Health Benefits of Guanabana
Insufficient Evidence for:
No clinical evidence supports the use of guanabana for any of the conditions listed in this section.
Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
1) Antioxidant Effects
Antioxidants derived from plants are claimed to have protective effects against free radicals.
However, evidence is lacking to support this alleged benefit. Researchers are investigating antioxidants in guanabana leaves, fruit, and peel against oxidative damage in cells. According to one unproven hypothesis, these compounds might scavenge free radicals and reduce reactive oxygen species [16, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27].
Guanabana flower extracts are being researched as a food oil preservative to prevent spoiling .
Scientists are investigating the effects of guanabana peel, leaf, and seed extracts against various microorganisms including parasites, viruses, gram-positive, and gram-negative bacterial strains.
Guanabana is being researched against the following types of infections in cells or animals:
- Parasites (leishmaniasis, Plasmodium falciparum – the parasite that causes malaria in humans and Haemonchus contortus – a gut parasite in sheep) [30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36]
- Bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus albus, Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Bacillus subtilis, Proteus vulgaris, Enterococcus faecalis, Enterobacter aerogenes, and Providencia stuartii bacteria) [37, 10, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42]
- Viruses (herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 ) [43, 44]
- Fungus (Candida albicans) 
We can’t draw any conclusions from these studies. Human data are lacking.
3) Mosquito-Transmitted Diseases
Evidence is lacking to support the use of guanabana for mosquito-transmitted diseases.
Scientists hypothesize that isolated acetogenins from guanabana might be toxic to mosquito larvae by inhibiting mitochondrial electron transport, which halts energy production in the cells of the larvae .
However, the antimalarial effects of guanabana in humans are completely unknown.
Evidence is lacking to support the use of guanabana for inflammation in humans.
No human evidence supports the use of guanabana for diabetes.
In diabetic rats, guanabana leaf extracts decreased blood glucose and/or increased insulin. The authors suspect these effects may have occurred by increasing antioxidant levels in the liver, reducing fat oxidation and protecting pancreatic β-cells [13, 14, 15, 56, 57].
Other research teams are investigating whether phenols in guanabana extracts (fruit, skin, and leaf) and guanabana tea can suppress enzymes relevant to type 2 diabetes (α–amylase and α-glucosidase) [58, 59, 60].
5) Repelling Insects
Evidence is lacking to support the use of guanabana as an insect repellant in humans.
Acetogenins from guanabana were toxic to agricultural pests including the potato beetle, green peach aphid, and African cotton leafworm .
6) Liver Health
It’s unknown how guanabana affects liver health in humans as clinical data are lacking.
7) Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Evidence is lacking to support the use of guanabana for anxiety, depression, or high stress levels in humans.
Guanabana fruit and leaf extracts reduced stress and showed anti-depressive effects in rats. Phytochemicals in the guanabana fruit and stem influenced the brain by binding to serotonin receptors [69, 70].
Pretreatment with guanabana stem bark extracts protected rats against cold-induced stress as measured by changes in brain neurotransmitters .
No human trials have investigated the effects of guanabana on mental health in humans.
Additional Research/Lacking Evidence
8) Cancer Research
Guanabana has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.
It showed some anti-cancer effects in lab studies, but human data are lacking.
Other phytochemicals in guanabana extracts are also under investigation .
However, many substances have anti-cancer effects in cells, including downright toxic chemicals like bleach. Phytochemicals from guanabana damaged nerve cells in dishes and animals. According to some animal studies, long-term use may increase the risk of neurological diseases.
Overall, guanabana is being researched on the following types of cancer cells in dishes and/or experimental animals:
- Colon cancer [73, 21, 74, 75, 76, 77]
- Breast cancer [78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 27, 83]
- Prostate Cancer [84, 85, 84, 86, 87, 88]
- Lung Cancer [89, 90, 18, 91]
- Skin Cancer [92, 93, 94, 95]
- Liver Cancer [96, 97, 98, 99]
- Pancreatic Cancer [100, 88]
- Cervical Cancer [101, 102]
- Leukemia 
9) Healing Wounds & Heart Health
It’s unknown how guanabana affects wound healing and heart health in humans as clinical data are lacking.
Extracts of the stem and bark of guanabana increased wound healing in rats .
Leaf extracts from guanabana reduced blood pressure in rats by blocking calcium channels .
Guanabana fruit extracts reduced a key enzyme (angiotensin-I converting enzyme) involved in increasing blood pressure .
10) Stomach Ulcers
Ulcer lesions were reduced in rats pre-treated with guanabana leaf extracts. Scientists suspect the extract’s antioxidant content reduced oxidative damage and protected the stomach wall, though this remains to be determined in clinical trials [107, 108].
11) Immune Function & Pain
Scientists are investigating the effects of guanabana leaf extracts on immune activity in macrophage cells and its involvement in the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. They are also researching the extracts in human liver and red blood cells exposed to arsenic [109, 110].
The effects of guanabana on fertility and allergies in humans are completely unknown.
Doses of 80, 400, and 2,000 mg/kg of guanabana juice per day for 60 days in rats increased sperm count and movement .
Guanabana leaf extracts reduced symptoms of skin allergies in rabbits .
Guanabana Side Effects & Dangers
Guanabana’s acetogenins can be toxic to nerve cells and cross the blood-brain barrier .
Studies on populations in the West Indies suggest a potential relationship between high consumption rates of guanabana fruit and tea, and a higher incidence of movement disorders like atypical parkinsonism [114, 115, 116].
After 12 months, guanabana juice consumption in mice increased the production of reactive nitrogen species, molecules that can damage cells .
Dietary supplements, including guanabana and other Annonaceae plant species, increased cell death in human brain cells .
Guanabana juice and leaf extracts may intensify the effects of the venomous pit viper snake .
Guanabana fruit is typically eaten raw and ripened and can be incorporated into drinks, smoothies, and desserts. The fruit may also be jarred as a puree or as a juice. Seeds should be avoided due to their toxic nature. Guanabana can also be roasted or fried like a vegetable.
Guanabana supplements are available through suppliers but have not been evaluated for potency, effectiveness, or toxicity in humans.
Recommended dosing of guanabana fruit, leaves, stems, or bark has not been established due to the lack of human trials.
Several users found that guanabana supplements helped boost their immune system.
Another reviewer found the supplement improved skin boils, digestive health, and energy.
A woman going through menopause found guanabana supplements to be highly effective in regulating mood, stress, hormones, and blood pressure.
One user reported that guanabana tea and supplements caused severe headaches, tinnitus, and tremors.
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