advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Graviola: A Worthwhile Botanical Against Cancer?

I read about a South American herb called graviola, which supposedly boosts immunity and has anti-tumor properties. Are there any scientific studies supporting these claims?

A
Answer (Published 11/1/2007)

I've seen Internet hype on graviola, which is being widely promoted as a cancer-fighting herb. Some Web sites claim that it is 10,000 times stronger than the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin, and that it is effective against prostate, lung, breast, colon and pancreatic cancers. None of this is true.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Cancer Support - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Do you or a loved one have cancer? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide has simple, effective preventive health information and tools including an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. Join today and get 14 days free!

I asked Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of education at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine here at the University of Arizona, about graviola. Dr. Low Dog, an expert in botanical medicine, told me that it is the common name for Annona reticulata, also known as custard apple, a tree that grows in South America and the Caribbean islands and is prized by locals for its delicious fruit and medicinal properties. She explained that the unripe fruit is used traditionally to treat diarrhea and dysentery. The leaves are taken internally to eliminate worms and other parasites and are also applied topically for poorly healing wounds. The root bark is used to reduce fever.

The idea that graviola is an effective cancer fighter comes from research at Purdue University's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences on the active components of the tree, unique substances known as annonaceous acetogenins. The Purdue investigators found them to be potent inhibitors of cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone. They also found the compounds to be effective against drug-resistant cancer cells.

But these were in vitro results - that is, the results of adding the annona derivatives to cancer cells growing in test tubes. This is a long way from clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of these compounds in people with cancer. In fact, I have found no human studies at all of graviola, for treatment of cancer or anything else. We do not even have basic safety data on graviola extracts. What's more, there is no way to tell whether commercially available graviola contains any of the compounds studied at Purdue. Indeed, the compounds used in the test tube studies didn't come from the custard apple tree at all, but from the leaves of annona glabra, a related tree that grows in Florida and produces a fruit called pond apple.

Dr. Low Dog says she wouldn't take or recommend graviola or its extracts as a dietary supplement. I agree.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here