Soursop Leaves: Benefits, Nutrition, And Side Effects

Reviewed by Madhu Sharma, Registered Dietitian
by Swathi Handoo

Soursop is a Brazilian flowering tree. Its fruits and leaves are known to offer potent benefits. Certain claims also state that the leaves are 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy (1).

The leaves have a powerful nutritional profile. But how true are the claims made? In this post, we will see what research tells us about soursop leaves and the plant in general.

What Are Soursop Leaves?

Soursop (Annona muricata), also known as Graviola or Brazilian paw-paw, is a flowering evergreen tree. It is native to Central America, Mexico, Cuba, and parts of India. It is now widely distributed from southeastern China to Australia and Eastern and Western Africa.

Traditional medicine uses soursop leaves for treating several diseases and ailments. This plant is primarily used for treating inflammation, rheumatism, hypertension, diabetes, parasitic infections, and other similar conditions (2).

The soursop fruit is edible and has good therapeutic value. It is popular as an anti-arthritic agent. Its extracts fight parasitic and worm infections. The leaves work on treating hypoglycemia and inflammation and also possess antispasmodic properties (2).

These properties can be attributed to the plant’s metabolites. Saponins, alkaloids, coumarins, terpenoids, tannins, and several other active phytochemicals have been identified in this miracle plant.

In the following section, we will look at the possible health benefits of soursop leaves.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Soursop Leaves?

The leaves of the soursop plant are well-known anti-inflammatory agents. They also have antipyretic, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, cardioprotective, and anti-parasitic properties. Soursop extracts can positively affect the vital systems in your body.

1. May Aid Cancer Treatment

Studies demonstrate antiproliferative and cytotoxic effects of the extracts of soursop plant against cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, lung, blood, liver, cervix, ovary, the mouth, and the skin (3).

The active bio ingredients that may be beneficial are called annonaceous acetogenins (AGEs). These AGEs are involved in the anticancer properties of soursop. They kill cancer cells by inhibiting the mitochondrial complex I, a cancer cell protein (2).

However, more rigorous studies are needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of soursop and its leaves (3).

2. May Control Inflammation

Studies have identified more than 117 compounds in soursop leaves that have anti-inflammatory properties. More research studies are required to understand the leaves’ anti-inflammatory effects (4).

The leaf extracts of soursop showed anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound-healing properties in rat studies (5).

The decoction of the leaves is applied topically for its anti-rheumatic and neuralgic effects. It also reduces/heals abscesses and wounds. The leaf extracts can relieve inflammatory conditions like cystitis, rheumatism, arthritic pain, fever, diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, parasites, and skin rashes (4).

Soursop leaf extract inhibits inflammatory mediators like IL-6, TNF-α, IL-1β, and nitric oxide (NO). A dose of 100 mg/kg of this extract proved to be anti-nociceptive (blocking pain) in rats (4).

The leaves could also heal ulcers, lesions, open wounds, and edema with almost no toxicity in rat studies (4).

3. May Help Treat Insomnia

Traditionally, soursop leaves have been used to treat insomnia (6). The leaves have a smooth muscle relaxant activity and act as sedatives. Taking a glass of soursop leaf tea may also help ease stress (7).

4. May Help Regulate Diabetes Symptoms

Daily administration of 100 mg/kg of aqueous soursop extract to rats exhibited strong glycemic control. The leaves of the plant may help improve glucose metabolism (8).

Prolonged soursop treatment (for 28 days) in the rats reduced blood glucose levels and serum creatinine levels. It also balanced the activity of liver enzymes (AST, ALT, etc.). The levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides were also restored (8).

5. May Possess Antiviral Properties

Soursop extracts show antiviral properties against selective viruses. The plant interferes with the replication of HIV-1 in the host cells. Also, these extracts keep the virus from attaching to the host cell. The bark and stem extracts of soursop were noted to act against herpes simplex virus (HSX) (7).

Though there is no direct research indicating similar effects with the leaves, the results of the aforementioned research may be extrapolated to the leaves as well.

The virucidal effect of the soursop plant could be attributed to its polyphenols (7).

6. May Protect Oral Health

Soursop leaves were found to be bactericidal and fungicidal. They inhibited the growth of Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus mitis, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Candida albicans (1).

Studies show that soursop leaf extracts can be used against oral microbes to an extent. The extracts have antimicrobial and fungicidal properties (1).

These strains were found to cause periodontitis, gingivitis, and other oral diseases. Lab experiments report an antimicrobial effect of the leaves. They were most potent against the fungus Candida albicans. These results show the potency of soursop leaves in treating oral disorders (1).

Soursop leaves have a powerful phytochemical profile. In the following section, we will further look into the nutrients responsible for their benefits.

Phytochemical Composition Of Soursop Leaves

Soursop plants contain several kinds of phytochemicals, including alkaloids, phenolics, and terpenoids. However, a few species of soursop are rich sources of annonaceous acetogenin compounds (AGEs). AGEs are considered crucial for their antimicrobial, antiprotozoal, antiviral, and anthelmintic properties (6).

Annomuricin, annomutacin, annohexocin, muricapentocin, anonaine, isolaureline, xylopine, gallic acid, epicatechin, quercetin, catechin, chlorogenic acid, kaempferol, annonamine, norcorydine, vomifoliol were identified in these leaves (6).

They also contain rutin, blumenol, solamin, epomuricenin, reticuline, coreximine, coclaurine, stepharine, atherosperminine, and anomuricine. The seeds, fruits, roots, and other aerial parts contain these (and a few other) phytochemicals in varying proportions (6).

Soursop leaf oils also contain sesquiterpenes. The most abundant compound is β-caryophyllene. These volatile oils have β-pinene, germacrene-D, α-pinene, β–elemene, δ-cadinene, epi-α-cadinol, and α-cadinol (6).

A cognitive effect of all these phytochemicals results in the benefits discussed above. Here’s how you can use these leaves to reap their benefits.

How To Use Soursop Leaves

The best way to use these leaves is to brew tea with them. This is because there is no information on how safe it is to ingest raw soursop leaves.

Does that mean you have to brew its tea only in a certain way? Well, not really. You can brew it in two ways:

1. Regular Brew For Flavor 

  1. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite soursop tea blend to a teapot. You can find a good one here.
  2. Add boiling water and let it steep for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Strain the leaves.
  4. Serve hot/warm or cold.

If you are using whole soursop leaves,

  1. Use 2-3 soursop leaves for one to two cups of tea. You can buy the leaves here.
  2. Set a pot of boiling water ready.
  3. Add these leaves to water and let them simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Strain the leaves before serving.

If you want to skip through these steps, just get the soursop tea bags here. Dip and enjoy!

2. Prolonged Brew For Health 

  1. Set up a boiling pot with 1 liter of cold water.
  2. Add the whole soursop leaves or the soursop blend.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.
  4. Boil it uncovered until the water has been reduced by half.
  5. Turn off the heat, and let the tea steep for about 20 minutes.
  6. Drink it hot/warm/at room temperature.

To make it taste better, add about half a teaspoon of lime juice, 2-3 mint leaves, and some honey (if you want it sweet).

There is some evidence that soursop leaves may cause adverse effects.

What Are The Side Effects Of Soursop Leaves?

  • May Cause Neuron Dysfunction

Soursop and its leaves contain alkaloids. Studies show these may cause neuron dysfunction and degeneration in those with Parkinson’s syndrome (9), (10).

  • May Lower Blood Pressure Way Too Much

The plant and its leaves may also lower blood pressure way too much (11). Hence, individuals on blood pressure-lowering medications must exercise caution.

There is no set dose for soursop leaves/tea yet. Neither are there any reports of toxicity. Animal studies showed no signs of toxicity – even at doses as high as 2 g/kg (12).

However, we suggest you talk to your healthcare provider about the dosage.

Conclusion

Most of the studies done are on animals, and more human studies are needed to establish positive results. Also, there is no evidence of a patented preparation of this extract. Hence, consult a healthcare professional before consuming soursop leaves (in the form of tea).

There is no recommendation for eating raw soursop leaves. The best way to ingest them is as a tea. You may steep the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, drain the tea, and consume it.

12 sources

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Swathi Handoo

Swathi holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and has worked in places where actual science and research happen. Blending her love for writing with science, Swathi writes for Health and Wellness and simplifies complex topics for readers from all walks of life.And on the days she doesn’t write, she learns and performs Kathak, sings Carnatic music compositions, makes plans to travel, and obsesses over cleanliness.
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