Acerola Cherry – Malpighia emarginata

Description

Acerola cherry (Malpighia emarginata), most commonly called Acerola (pronounced oz-uh-row-la) wild crepe myrtle, semeruco, manzanita and several other popular names, is a fruit native to Central America, Mexico, the North of South America and the Caribbean, that comes from a small tree and is one of the best natural available sources of vitamin C (1).

This small fruit is very similar to cherries and gets an intense red color when ripened. Besides being rich in vitamin C, it also possesses several important vitamins and minerals for our health, such as anthocyanins, phenolics, carotenoids, and flavonoids (2).

Thanks to its many properties, acerola has been used for many years to treat diarrhea, coughs, colds, dysentery and liver conditions (3). However, its true value lies in its high levels of vitamin C – up to 50 to 100 times than oranges or lemons.

Acerola has been demonstrated to provide skin lightening (topical in creams) and to be a high antioxidant food, which can aid to offer anti-aging and nutritional benefits – since it’s a great source of protein, fats, minerals, calcium, phosphorus, carbohydrates and vitamins (4).

Parts used

The fruit (berry) can be used in different stages of ripeness. Studies have shown that the more ripened fruit contain less vitamin C and less antioxidant activity (5).

Since acerola cherries tend to perish quickly, the best way to preserve their multiple properties is by turning them into supplements that can be consumed over longer periods of time.

Constituents

Acerola is a superfood packed with diverse bioactives and phytonutrients that can benefit your health.
Its main beneficial nutrient is ascorbic acid – also known as vitamin C; the content may vary between 1000 and 4500mg per 100g, which is over 50 to 100 times higher concentration than oranges or lemons offer.

Acerola also contains several important phytochemicals such as pro-vitamin A, phenolics, vitamins B1 and B2, carotenoids, niacin, albumin, iron, phosphorus and calcium.

Medicinal uses

Acerola has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Conversely, modern medicine only recently discovered its valuable and potential benefits for several health conditions.

Here are some medical uses for acerola:

  • First of all, acerola is a great helper to fight vitamin C deficiency and its related conditions such as scurvy.
  • Also rich in Vitamin A, acerola can helps your overall health, since it’s a good source to support lungs, kidneys, heart, immune and reproductive system health, and healthy vision.
  • As a potent source of antioxidants and phytonutrients like phenolics and carotenoids, acerola stands as a potential complementary treatment for many conditions related to oxidative stress, like inflammation and free radical damage.
  • Anthocyanins, a pigment found in the acerola, offer many health supporting properties such as anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antidiabetic and anti-obesity effects, as well as cardiovascular enhancement properties. They may also provide pain relief in health conditions such as arthritis.
  • Studies also state that acerola can be used as a complementary treatment to avoid cancer tumor growth, as well as helping you prevent cancer (6).
  • Research also states that acerola is an outstanding helper to prevent hyperglycemia (7), as well as possessing antimicrobial activity, which can make acerola juice an excellent mouth wash (8).
  • Acerola also aids to protect our liver from oxidative stress, and harmful dietary choices (9).
  • Acerola juice is packed with vitamin C, which helps to fight and prevent colds, and flues.
  • The vitamin C of acerola also plays a vital role in the biosynthesis of carnitine, collagen, corticoids, and catecholamines (10).
  • The nutrient composition of acerola can also support the maintenance of tissues, bone growth, as well as protection for teeth and muscles.
  • One study showed that children fed with apple juice supplemented with acerola showed higher growth, and development for their age and weight.
  • Acerola can also be used as a complementary treatment to prevent age related degenerative conditions like hypertension and cancer, thanks to its high antioxidant capacities.
  • Acerola juice can also be an important cardiovascular ally to prevent atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction since its phytochemicals prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins, which has also been demonstrated crucial for postmenopausal women.
  • It also has anti-fungal properties.
  • Additionally, acerola’s astringent properties make it good to avoid and treat skin blemishes and increase skin elasticity.
  • Support your immunity, thanks to its high vitamin C levels.
  • Rich in pectin, acerola can aid to manage blood sugar, thus reducing the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • Traditionally used to treat diarrhea and stomach aches, acerola juice can improve your digestive system by controlling inflammation and providing important minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium.

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking herbal or nutritional supplements.

Flora Force Products containing Acerola

Domestic & culinary uses

Acerola can be consumed raw or through juices; however, these are not the most common ways to use it. To preserve its benefits and make it more edible, acerola can be turned into marmalades, jellies, jams, and liqueurs. In South America, acerola is commonly used as a flavoring for ice creams, drinks, and cocktails.

Acerola is also used to fortify the benefits of other fruit juices such as pineapple juice with a 10% of acerola juice, which increases vitamin C concentration up to 5 times.

Finally, the pectin present in the acerola has been used for decades in the food and beverage industry as a gelling and thickening agent, as well as a colloidal stabilizer.

Cultivation

  • Acerola can be grown in warm and subtropical climates such as Texas, Mexico, Brazil and even India. It is an evergreen shrub which flowers from April to November and it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the cherry-like fruits to reach maturity.
  • It grows best in partial shade and well-drained soils, and it can reach a high of 8 feet. US Department of Agriculture classifies acerola hardiness in zones 8 and 9 (11).
  • The Barbados cherry roots easily from stem cuttings or by air layering.

Photo credits

  1. Image by GIVALDO GUILHERME SANTOS from Pixabay

References

  1. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-608/acerola
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6098779/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/acerola-cherry
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6770011_The_Acerola_fruit_composition_productive_characteristics_and_economic_importance
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22834960/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15103668/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16926491
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21503669
  9. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_lookup?journal=Free+Rad+Antioxid&title=Effect+of+the+pretreatment+with+acerola+(Malpighia+emarginata+DC.)+juice+on+the+ethanol-induced+oxidative+stress+in+mice-+Hepatoprotective+potential+of+acerola+juice&author=NFG+Rochette&author=EF+Mota&author=DCS+Nunes-Pinheiro&author=CF+Bezerra&author=MLMD+Oliveira&volume=3&publication_year=2013&pages=S16-S21&
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9781845697341/postharvest-biology-and-technology-of-tropical-and-subtropical-fruits
  11. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/propagate-barbados-cherry-41858.html
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.