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West African Miracle Berry: A Flavor Trip for the Taste Buds

Updated on September 1, 2013

The West African miracle berry has the ability to turn sour tastes into sweet ones. Learn more about this mystery fruit and its incredible flavor-tripping properties.

The West African miracle berry in nature.
The West African miracle berry in nature. | Source

Amazing Taste Switch

Miracle berry, miracle fruit, flavor berry, magic berry, and sweet berry. These are just some of the common names for Synsepalum dulcificum, an evergreen shrub that is native to West Africa.

The plant's berry, which looks like a cranberry, is named for its "miracle" properties: the ability to change sour flavors into sweet ones.

This fascinating "taste switch" stems from a protein called miraculin, a natural chemical that affects your tongue's taste receptors. While this chemical is considered a natural sweetener, its taste is not sweet itself.

Miraculin binds to the sweet taste receptors on your tongue. When acidic or sour foods come into contact with the protein, it changes its shape and stimulates the sweet receptors. This creates an ultra-sweet taste sensation. Your tongue now perceives acidic and sour foods as sweet ones. The effect can last for up to an hour.

Are you intrigued? Keep reading to learn more about the West African miracle berry, from its 18th century discovery to its potential health benefits.

Miracle Berry Discovery

Chevalier des Marchais, a French navigator and cartographer, documented his discovery of Synsepalum dulcificum in the 18th century.

The European explorer discovered the plant during a West African expedition, when he observed the locals as they picked the berries and chewed on them before meals.

An attempt to commercialize the fruit for its natural sweetening abilities failed in the 1970s, when the United Stated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified miraculin as a food additive and not a sweetener.

For a short period of time, American dieters could purchase the substance in pill form. This sparked the initial idea for a "miraculin party."

The phenomenon has experienced a revival among modern food enthusiasts, with popular "flavor-tripping parties." Tasters consume a wide variety of sour foods -- lemons, limes, grapefruit, pickles, and beer -- to experience the incredible taste changes. Flavor trippers describe the miracle berry as a psychedelic for the taste buds.

Miracle Berry Benefits

Although people have recognized the mysterious properties of Synsepalum dulcificum for centuries, the miracle berry is somewhat of a novelty today. Researchers believe the real mystery is discovering the plant's health benefits.

Some research suggests that the miracle berry may help diabetics and dieters. Miraculin is a natural, low-calorie sweetener that could serve as a sugar substitute.

The fruit may also benefit cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Scientists are investigating the effect of miraculin on the metallic taste, appetite loss, and malnutrition that are often associated with cancer treatment.

Dr. Mike Cusnir, a Florida oncologist, is currently researching the health benefits of Synsepalum dulcificum. He is waiting for FDA approval to test the berry's effects on patients.

Meanwhile, a world-renowned inventor, chef, and molecular gastronomer named Homaro Cantu is on a mission to end world hunger with the West African miracle berry.

Growing Miracle Berries

Are you ready to grow your own miracle berries? You can buy miracle fruit seeds and plants from many different online retailers.

The seeds are grown in containers of acidic soil. The shrub is grown outdoors in partial shade or indoors in bright light.

Fresh miracle berries have a shelf life of two or three days. You can also buy miracle berries as freeze dried pulp, or in granules or tablets.

Reference Sources

Medical Disclaimer

The information presented in this article is not intended as health or medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional.

© 2011 Annette R. Smith

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    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Greetings to FullOfLoveSites! The miracle berry is a wonderful idea for people who take bitter medicines. And, it's use for those going through cancer treatment could really make it a miracle fruit. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and votes. Your readership is a blessing to me!

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 

      5 years ago from United States

      Maybe the FDA's decision was influenced by sugar companies? I bet they feared that their business would plummet had the miracle berry been commercialized.

      I wish to try this curious berry. I'm having a hard time swallowing bitter medicines sometimes especially if they're not coated. Good thing for diabetics and cancer patients, it's a blessing for them. I hope one day that this fruit will be marketed worldwide in line with other common fruits. It's not impossible....

      Voted up, interesting and awesome. :)

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      It's a pleasure to meet you, Deborah, and I'm glad liked the article. Keep us updated and let us know how your miracle fruit garden grows!

    • osaeoppongde profile image

      Deborah L. Osae-Oppong 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Wow! This is amazing! My husband is from Ghana, but he's never mentioned these! Thanks for sharing! I especially liked the ending to your post! I'm excited to grow my own now!

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thank you, Princess Daffy! I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. Your comments and social "likes" are appreciated more than you know. Have a blessed and beautiful Wednesday!

    • princessdaffy profile image

      princessdaffy 

      5 years ago

      This IS very interesting! I would to give these miracle berries a try.

      Thanks for sharing the info, Annette.

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hello, ignugent17. Or may I call you Meldz? I'm so glad you stopped by! The West African miracle berry sounds fascinating, doesn't it? What unsual properties for such a little fruit. Thank you for the votes up!

    • profile image

      ignugent17 

      5 years ago

      I heard about this berry but I did not know that it is true. Thanks for the information Annette R. Smith. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Annette R. Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette R. Smith 

      6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thanks, Danette. I had not heard of the berry, either, until I read about it in the news recently. It was an interesting topic to research.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Interesting information here. I have never heard of this berry before. I wonder if this could be found in a health food store. Voted up and interesting.

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