Sour Sop – Anti Cancer Agent?
Sour sops, also called ‘prickly custard apples’, have prickly dark green skins and are pear- shaped. Their flesh is white, juicy and hasa tangy flavour. In tropical countries such as Thailand, it is used for making drinks and sherbets.
All parts of the Soursop tree including barks, leaves, roots, fruits, and seeds, have been used in natural medicine in the tropics. The fruit and fruit juices are taken to increase mother’s milk after child birth, while benefits of the leaves include its powerful anti inflammatory effects.
Soursop tea is used in traditional medicine to heal wounds, for soothing knee pain and reducing mucous in colds and sinuses.The roots are known for their sedative effects.Today in the United States and Europe, sour sop is sold as a popular adjunct to chemotherapy for cancer patients. This use has stemmed from scientific studies and published research on its naturally occurring compounds and anticancer properties.
Scientists have found a compound, acetogenins, in the leaf, stem, bark, fruits and seeds of sour sop. These compounds have demonstrated selective toxicity to tumour cells at very low dosages, without harming healthy cells.
So encouraging were the results that in 1997, Purdue University published news that several acetogenins are not only effective in killing tumour cells that have proven resistant to anticancer agents, but also have special affinity for cells which are resistant to conventional therapy.
According to the 'Cancer Association of South Africa' (CANSA), it is suggested that Soursop is 10,000 times stronger in slowing growth of cancer cells compared to chemotherapy, without the side effect of the latter. However, it clearly says it is should not substitute, medical advice. Studies on sour sop shows benefits in 12 types of cancers including pancreatic cancer.
In the meantime, many cancer patients and health care practitioners are adding the natural leaf and stem of sour sop as a complimentary therapy to the cancer treatments. After all soursop has a long history of safe use as a herbal remedy for many other conditions.
There is however a word of caution, a study published in 2006 in the Journal of Neural Transmission showed that sour sop contains a compound that may also damage the neurons (brain cells) that control movements. The study linked their discovery to the high occurrence of Parkinson's like disease in the Caribbean Islands where the fruit is commonly consumed. Other contraindications and precautions include its interaction with other drugs in pregnancy, low blood pressure and its effect on gut flora.
Sour sop certainly exhibits anticancer activity. However, more large-scale human studies are needed and must consult a medical professional before including sour sop to their daily diet.
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