My interest in this plant was first raised when a customer at my Sunday morning market asked me if I sold Soursop leaves or know where he could obtain some. He was from Thailand and I asked him what he wanted it for and he explained that it was for his brother that had stones in his gall bladder. I provided him the leaves the following week and for a few more weeks after that and he told me that it helped improve his brother's condition. Something so simple!
Based on my research on this tree and its fruit, I am quite astounded to learn about its benefits. The whole tree - stem, bark, leaves, flower and fruit - are purported to have many therapeutic and medicinal properties. The extracts from the leaves and stems are reported to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties in attacking the malignant cells, In some traditional medicine, the leaves and bark are crushed and boiled and the resulting mixture is strained and consumed. It is also purported to prevent cancer by consuming it periodically such as once a week. There appears to have been many studies conducted specifically in the treatment of cancer. Based on a study by Purdue University, the phytochemical Annonaceous acetogenins has demonstrated its ability to attack cancerous cells whilst not affecting healthy cells.
In Brazil, their traditional medicine men have used the plant to treat hypertension, influenza, rashes, neuralgia, arthritis, rheumatism, high blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea, dyspepsia, ulcers, ringworm, scurvy, malaria, dysentery, palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, fever, boils, muscle spasm. In Thai and Malay traditional medicine, the leaves extract that was obtained by boiling the leaves have been consumed to treat liver and gall bladder ailments.
This tree grows tall and is not "rounded" - it just seems to get taller. However, by pruning the branches, it encourages new branches to form. The flower has an interesting shape and unless you are looking for it, you can easily miss it, hidden amongst the leaves. The petal is a light green and the inner part of the flower is almost a light peach colour.
This flower then becomes a brown colored bud-like shape that if you didn't know, would think that it has dried-up.
You might even be tempted to remove it. However, that would be a mistake as it is the beginnings of the fruit. At a glance the fruit may appear like a durian but it does not have the sharp points. The fruit is green in color that will turn into a lighter shade as it ripens. To harvest, cut the fruit from the fruit stem. I find that if you try to twist it off the stem, it may injure the branch and this can adversely affect the tree.
Based on research by USDA:
- It is an excellent source of vitamin C
- Has a high fiber content which can prevent constipation
- Contains half the potassium in bananas which can help prevent leg cramps
- Its high magnesium content can help prevent water retention especially for women who experience this in PMS.
- Good source of thiamin, the B vitamin needed for aerobic energy production, the process where oxygen is used to convert sugar into usable energy
- Loaded with the trace material copper which is essential for healthy bones. It also helps boost the effectiveness of vitamin D, which promotes the absorption of calcium.
- A good source of niacin which studies have shown to have significant benefits on levels of HDL, the good cholesterol
- Good source of folate which is a mineral that is recommended to prevent deficiencies during pregnancy for pregnant women.
- Good source of iron, an essential element in the body producing healthy red blood cells
- Rich in riboflavin where studies have shown can help prevent migraines.
As with anything good, over-consumption can lead to fatigue so based on my research, moderation is recommended and the consumption rate is three leaves as a tea, once a day. At the farm, we produce soursop tea so that it can be easily stored and be ready on-demand. It can be air-dried the chopped leaves and and to make tea, just steep it in just-boiled water for about 10 minutes. It produced a golden-brown tea with a distinct smell of soursop. The tea has a slightly sweet taste with the soursop flavor. I enjoyed drinking it warm. As a farm produce, we produce the tea using a dehydrator to dry the leaves.
If you have a soursop tree and would like to make the tea yourselves, select mature leaves (starting from the the third or fourth leaf of the stalk) and you can either dry the leaves before or after "chopping" them to pieces. As with harvesting of the fruit, use garden scissors to cut the leaves at the leaf stem. You can also make an infusion by simmering the fresh leaves in a pot of water for about 10-15 minutes. The drinks can be consumed hot or cold. Happy growing the tree and trying the fruit and teas.
Updated: 25 July 2017