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Is Graviola a Cure for Cancer?

Is Graviola a Cure for Cancer?

Is graviola (or soursop), which comes from a tropical evergreen tree, a cure for cancer? Today we take a closer look at the online rumors.

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About Graviola

Graviola is a tropical evergreen tree which grows in parts of Central America, South America, the Caribbean,  Southeast Asia, and West Africa. Apparently the fruit, leaves, and stems of the tree have been used to create various traditional/folk medicines. In recent years, there have been some claims that graviola medicine is a potential cure for cancer which is 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy.

Graviola fruit kills cancer graphic

Graviola graphic circulating on social media sites.

While we can’t completely dismiss claims that graviola may help fight cancer, it is premature at best to spread unverified information about its effectiveness as a cancer fighter in humans.

Graviola Cancer Claims

The excessive claims in relation to graviola’s cancer-battling properties are being shared on social media. Some of these claims have also been perpetuated by vendors selling graviola extract and people with strong beliefs in alternative medicine.

Below are a list of the major claims in question:

  • Graviola effectively destroys multiple types of cancer cells without the negative side effects of chemotherapy
  • Graviola is 10,000 times stronger than the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin
  • Legitimate science studies have shown evidence that graviola fights cancer
  • The evidence that graviola cures cancer is being suppressed

Most of the cancer-fighting discussion originated from Purdue University studies that have shown some positive anti-cancer properties of graviola. While it is true that there have been some studies showing possible cancer-fighting properties, these studies have either been in mice or in test tubes – meaning it hasn’t been tested on human subjects yet. Further, there is evidence of potentially serious side effects.

Addressing Graviola Claims

The information below is a collection of reliable sources which attempt to address the above-mentioned claims attributed to graviola.

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10,000 Times Stronger Than Chemo – Thanks to a commenter, we were led to a 1996 science study which is where the claims that Graviola is “10,000 times stronger than chemo” originated.  Though the study does in fact use the phrase “10,000 times the potency of adriamycin” this was referring to an isolate known as cis-annonacin – a compound which was isolated from Graviola seeds. These were laboratory experiments, and these compounds were not given to human subjects. Eating graviola fruit – unless you were to eat the seeds – would not provide you with this compound. Also note that it wasn’t reported how much of the compound was used or how much of it exists in a single seed. Additionally, graviola seeds are known to be somewhat toxic.

Other Science Studies – The stories in circulation about graviola mentions that studies were done, but they don’t actually cite or link to any. Below are a few examples of science studies focused on graviola research.

American Cancer Society – A brief January 2014 article from the Chicago Tribune responded to a reader question about the ability of soursap or soursop to fight cancer. The article claims that the director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, Colleen Doyle, had written an email which made the following statement:

A few lab studies have been conducted that suggest that extracts of the fruit may kill some types of cancer cells, but at this point in time, there is no evidence from human studies that consuming soursop — or supplements made from it — is beneficial for treating cancer.

FTC and FDA – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Food and Administration (FDA) have both issued statements in regards to graviola.

In September of 2008, the FTC issued a press release entitled “FTC Sweep Stops Peddlers of Bogus Cancer Cures“. The release details the law enforcement action taken against several companies selling false cancer cures. One of these companies, Bioque Technologies, Inc., was fined for claiming that their “soursop” or “guanabana tropical fruit tree” could cure melanoma. Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, was quoted as saying, “There is no credible scientific evidence that any of the products marketed by these companies can prevent, cure, or treat cancer of any kind.”

Similarly, the FDA forbids companies from making claims that are not backed by solid scientific evidence and selling unapproved drugs. In April of 2014, the FDA publicly posted a letter to a company which sold graviola extract as a cancer cure. The letter can be viewed here. Below is a quote directly from the letter:

Your product is not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses and, therefore, the product is a “new drug” under section 201(p) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 321(p)]. New drugs may not be legally introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce without prior approval from FDA, as described in section 505(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 355(a)]; see also section 301(d) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(d)]. FDA approves a new drug on the basis of scientific data submitted by a drug sponsor to demonstrate that the drug is safe and effective.
Furthermore, your product Graviola Extract is offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use this drug safely for its intended purposes. Thus, this drug is misbranded within the meaning of section 502(f)(1) of the Act, in that its labeling fails to bear adequate directions for use [21 U.S.C. § 352(f)(1)]. The introduction of a misbranded drug into interstate commerce is a violation of section 301(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 331(a)].

WebMD – This popular conventional medical website appears to have a mixed opinion on graviola. First, it is stated that there is “insufficient evidence” that graviola can be used to fight cancer, yet the following sentence claims, “There is evidence that some of the chemicals in graviola may keep cancer cells from removing anticancer drugs. This may help the drugs work better. Some chemicals in graviola may also kill cancer cells directly.”

The website later, however, describes graviola as an unsafe product in a section on side effects, “Graviola is UNSAFE. It can kill nerve cells in the brain and other parts of the body. It may cause movement disorders similar to Parkinson’s disease.”

Dr. Andrew Weil – Dr. Weil, a champion of integrative medicine, combining alternative and traditional practices, wrote about graviola claims in 2007 . He points out that the Purdue study actually used a substance from a related tree, the annona glabra (AKA Pond Apple), and testing was done in vitro (not on human subjects). At the end of the article, he concludes by saying that he does not recommend taking graviola extract. Below is a quote from his writing:

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.

Cancertutor.com – This website is strictly for alternative cures, and it compares graviola to another of its cousins, Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) in which the following is stated: “Paw Paw is clearly more powerful than graviola when treating cancer… 

This site does suggest that graviola is accepted by the alternative medical community, but only as a weaker cousin to Paw Paw.

Cancer Research UK – We also looked to a non-US cancer center for info and found similar opinions on graviola. Among their findings about graviola, they state, “We know very little about how graviola affects the body. But we do know it can cause nerve changes, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease… We do not support the use of graviola to treat cancer.”

Bottom Line

We could not find glowing endorsements of graviola from conventional, integrative, or alternative medicine.

Claims of graviola’s anti-cancer claims cannot be completely dismissed, though glowing endorsements are also perhaps premature. Further, despite early anti-cancer findings, there are almost equally disturbing results that graviola may do as much harm as it does good, potentially causing Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

Other Names for Graviola

According to WebMD, graviola is also known by the following names:

Annona cherimola, Annona macrocarpa, Annona muricata, Brazilian Cherimoya, Brazilian Paw Paw, Corossol, Corossol Épineux, Corossolier, Durian Benggala, Guanabana, Guanavana, Nangka Blanda, Nangka Londa, Soursop, Sour Sop, Toge-Banreisi.

Updated January 16, 2015
Originally published September 2012

  • Kary

    My father was cured from bladder cancer using just Graviola leaves.

  • Doug

    After I was diagnosed with a very large lung tumor in 2008, I took graviola for two years along with chemo and radiation. The tumor died within four months. Was it the conventional medicine, the graviola, or a combination of both? I’ll never know for sure, but have been in remission for over five years now. Graviola can be bought in tablet form throughout the internet; five years ago I could find almost no information on it, now it seems to have exploded and there are studies being conducted all over; even Sloan Kettering has a page on it on their website. I experienced NO SIDE EFFECTS and took the tablets three times daily. I have to say, however, that I find the concerns re: Parkinsonian symptoms to be kind of amusing; if I had my choice of dying a slow and painful death from lung or liver cancer or some Parkinsonian symptoms, I think I’d definitely pick the latter.

  • Domingo

    I am taking graviola leaves in capsules of 450mg. 3 capsules 3 times a day since about a month to try to heal a possible prostate cancer, but only recently did a psa test, result 18. Because I also have an infection could be that the psa is because of the infection. will post again in about 3 weeks. Anybody knows of anyone cured? what happened to Robert D. Hardison that was going to let us know of the psa results?

  • brigit

    I have been taken capsules graviola for 2 months (carcinoid tumor lung), it is definitely helping with my health in general, side effects , same as with antibiotics (bowels) but much less then I had, by taken antibiotics for 5 treatments. So for me, its definitely helping with my lung infections.

    Is it fighting the cancer? no prove.

  • Gian

    Making reference to the article of M.P.Torres et al. and sceptically using quotes for the “promise” against pancreatic cancer means having little clue about clinical trials and … about the article itself. Please read it. And keep in mind how recent it is.

    • waffles

      “Promising” was used in the study’s title. It wasn’t meant to be skeptical.

  • Mike Kline

    Is there anyone that has had success with graviola or paw paw for treatment of a GBM brain tumor? Are there any data or case histories that I can become familiar with? I’ve had a GBM brain tumoor for over 22+ mnths treatment with standard chemo-radiation along with some homeopatic pills including AHCC. Pls comment back to me if you think these above products can help long term

    • Suso

      Hi Mike. How are you?

      My mother has also a GBM brain tumor and we are considering to use Graviola. Did you find out if it is a good treatment for this kind of tumor.

      I hope you are doing well.

  • Jill

    It’s not saying it causes Parkinson’s, but similar effects, which means it most likely attacks the central nervous system in some way causing neurological problems in some cases. It is very possible. Many exotic fruits, cactuses, etc. aren’t meant for human or even animal consumption because they can have averse side effects on that area of the brain or other adverse effects on health. Usually over prolonged use, sometimes right way. I think if someone is dying of cancer, l just lost my sister in law to pancreatic cancer, it might be worth a shot. It’s up to the person suffering. But they should not be preventing it, you can prevent cancer by using an anti tumor growth product. Cancer doesn’t work like that. Looking forward to more research later on!
    Jill,
    Soon to be Registered Dietitian

    • waffles

      Thank you for your comment. And good luck in your career as a dietitian!

  • Anonymous

    Its a fruit. It is very healthy. Who in the world is giving these misleading facts that there is a possibility of parkinson’s disease? Hell you can even turn this fruit into a smoothie and enjoy it that way. I’m not sure if it kills cancer but my argument is this, it a really good fruit, very tasty specially when you make it into a nice cold beverage and very healthy.

    • waffles

      The claims cited in the article were from WebMD, Cancer Research UK, and a Department of Neurology at a French University in the Lesser Antilles.

    • Wilder One

      Who would put out misleading info about it? If anything, the study about neurological side effects (along with the FDA going way out of its way to declare a fruit a ‘new drug’, a ridiculous stipulation given its been consumed in many parts of the world for millenia) only led me to believe there must be a REAL threat to one of the pharmaceutical industry’s bottom line; which is to say this fruit must WORK. I only wish this information was available soon enough to save my parents, grandparents and countless others.

  • Russell

    Luke,
    Speaking as someone who is taking care of someone who is bed ridden due to cancer, the hope that this fruit could cure cancer without the side effects and just the possibility of Parkinson’s, I think that it is worth it to try it anyway.

  • Luke

    Robert why are you taking this? Did you not read the warnings about parkinson’s disease?

  • punith.p

    Is this Graviola tree’s action is scientifically proved or not or it’s only a rumor. What is the active content of this tree?

    • waffles

      I think it’s safe to say nothing has been proven. There was a study that found an extract of the SEEDS worked in a lab, but not on humans. There are also side effects to consider.

      • waffles

        It’s my understanding that those are possible side effects. There are many people who eat it without issue, so it seems like it is probably OK if you have been eating it that long. You may want to read some of the studies more closely regarding long-term consumption, as that was not the focus of this article.

  • Robert D. Hardison

    I’ve been taking Graviola for about 3 weeks now for prostate cancer. My improvement that I have notised is: Before, I had to urinate every hr. at night and every 2 hrs. in the daytime–carry a jug in my car all the time. After now 3 weeks, I only have to get up ,at night 3 times in about 9 hrs., every 4 to 5 hrs. in the daytime. I have no symptoms at all of having cancer. I have a strong feeling that graviola is helping me a lot. My last PSA was 7. What it is now, I will not know for about another 10 days. I hope to tell you then. Bob

    • Catrina

      Where did you find it? Was it affordable?

      • Nana

        Hello,
        i grew up in Haiti and this tree is everywhere. I live in Central Florida now and they sell them at some foreign grocery store “cuban store”. If you really want this fruit i would suggest going to Miami and most of the Haitian store will have it, it is also called “Corossole” it is not expansive at all, less than $10 per fruit

        Best of luck

    • Keenya

      Hi Bob,
      My mother has breast cancer for the 2nd go around, and I am looking for an alternative to assist her. I was wondering if you got your results back. Was there an improvement? Please let me know.

      Sincerely,

      Keenya

    • Milton Lee Walling

      Are taking a graviola extract in juice? I am drinking a graviola juice and taking pawpaw pulp. Any info on how you are taking it will be appreciated.
      Thank you
      Milton
      Amarillo, Texas

      • Shaun Freeman

        I am in Amarillo too. Hoping you are alive and well… and can tell me where you got your Graviola. I am only 5 mo into naturally trying to take care of breast cancer. I don’t say “fight”… just my outlook. But a lady I know just this week sent me the information her brother got inspired by and he has shown cancer free his last 2 appt. They live in another town and he buys his frozen from a Mexican market… hope this actually makes contact with you!

  • waffles

    Some individuals have claimed this to be the case, but those are not scientific or controlled… or even proven. Keep in mind that the studies cited refer to a chemical extract of the seeds and not the fruit itself.

  • Diane

    Where do I buy this fruit ? I live in the Midwest of the USA

    • Catrina

      Did you ever find a source? I have been looking in WI and no one seems to know what it is. I am really interested in this Graviola….if I could only find it!

      • Val

        Hello:

        I was reading and saw your response and thought I’d inquire.

        How can I get this fruit from you and how much? Do you freeze because it spoils quickly?

        Thank you
        Val

      • Val

        Hi

        Did you ever find this fruit? I live in Ft. Washington if so where please?

        Thanks.
        Val

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