Graviola, also known as soursop or Brazilian paw paw, is a small evergreen tree. Native to tropical areas of Central and South America, it serves as a dietary supplement that people use to treat many conditions.

Graviola is gaining popularity as a natural remedy for viruses, pain relief, and even some types of cancer. Keep reading to learn if the research backs the hype.

Hand rips off organic Guanabana Fruit (Soursop) from the tree. Point of view.Share on Pinterest
Andrei Nasonov/Getty Images

Research suggests that graviola has a number of health benefits:

Antioxidant properties

Antioxidants keep the body’s cells healthy by hunting disease-causing free radicals in the body and destroying them.

According to a 2014 study, graviola extract has many compounds with antioxidant abilities.

These include:

  • tannins
  • saponins
  • phytosterols
  • flavonoids
  • anthraquinones

Antioxidants help people stay healthy overall. However, more research is necessary to determine if graviola’s antioxidants prevent specific diseases.

Anti-inflammatory properties

According to a 2014 study on rodents, graviola features anti-inflammatory properties that may relieve pain. The study’s researchers supported its use as a folk remedy for pain and inflammatory conditions.

A 2010 rodent study found graviola blocked pain receptors and reduced inflammation in rats.

Still, researchers cautioned more studies are necessary to determine if it is safe for humans. It is unclear if the herb would have the same pain-relieving effects in people.

May help lower blood sugar

The results of a 2008 rodent study suggest graviola may help people regulate their blood sugar if they have diabetes. The research found that it significantly reduced blood glucose levels in rats with diabetes.

In addition, despite the rats consuming less food and water, they did not lose weight. Researchers believe this may be the result of better glucose control.

May help lower blood pressure

People often use graviola as a folk remedy to lower blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

A 2012 study on rats found graviola helped reduce blood pressure without increasing heart rate. According to researchers, the herb’s hypotensive abilities are due to its effect on calcium ions.

May help prevent ulcers

Ulcers are painful sores that develop in the stomach lining, esophagus, or small intestine.

According to a 2014 study on rodents, graviola showed antiulcer abilities. It also helps protect the stomach’s mucous lining and prevents free radical damage to the digestive tract.

Helping treat herpes

Herpes is a viral infection that occurs due to the herpes simplex virus. It may appear on the genitals or mouth.

Health experts consider graviola an alternative treatment for herpes, but the supporting evidence is still inconclusive. However, a 2012 study showed it had some antiherpes activity in the laboratory.

Additionally, according to an older study from 1999, graviola extract may have antiviral effects against herpes simplex 2 virus (HSV-2). HSV-2 is responsible for most cases of genital herpes outbreaks. Using an in vitro technique, or outside a living body, graviola was toxic to HSV-2 cells.

Anticancerous properties

There is some evidence that graviola may help against some types of cancer. According to 2016 research, graviola extract was toxic against some breast cancer cell lines.

It also increased T cells, which are lymphocytes in the body that kill cancer cells, and other damaged cells.

A 2012 study found graviola may be beneficial against some pancreatic cancer cell lines by inhibiting cellular metabolism.

Still, researchers caution graviola alone is insufficient to eradicate pancreatic tumors, and doctors should not use it as a primary treatment. Studies are ongoing to evaluate the efficacy of graviola as an adjuvant therapy for pancreatic cancer.

While graviola is available in capsule or extract forms, there is not enough research to determine a safe, standardized dose.

In general, manufacturers recommend taking 500–1,500 milligrams via capsule daily or 1–4 milliliters of extract daily.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these dosages. The agency also does not monitor the production, quality, or purity of supplements and herbs.

Some health practitioners recommend avoiding graviola due to the risk of neurological side effects.

Graviola may cause nerve damage and movement problems, especially with long-term use. It may also cause serious neuropathy that leads to Parkinson-like symptoms, such as tremors or stiff muscles. If someone has Parkinson’s disease, graviola may worsen their symptoms.

Graviola may be toxic to the kidneys or liver with repeated use. Therefore, people should not use it if they have liver or kidney conditions.

Those considering using graviola should first talk with their doctor if they:

  • have high blood pressure or take blood pressure medications
  • have diabetes
  • are pregnant
  • are breastfeeding

Although graviola could be effective against some health conditions in animal studies, there are few human studies on the herb.

Users have offered anecdotal evidence, but more scientific study on humans is necessary before researchers can say that graviola is effective in treating certain conditions.

If someone is interested in adding graviola to their routine, they can consult their doctor. They can advise them on the risks and potential benefits of the herb and answer any questions they may have.