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Does Graviola Cure Cancer?
A discussion of the health benefits of graviola, a plant touted as an alternative treatment for cancer.
Health Benefits of Graviola (Paw Paw) in a Nutshell
Preliminary studies as well as indigenous folk medicine suggests that Graviola may have the following health benefits:
- may lower blood pressure
- may have antibiotic and antifungal properties
- may fight cancer
What is Graviola?
Graviola is a fruit bearing plant which is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest of South America, as well as some Caribbean islands. It is also cultivated in some parts of Asia.
Graviola is the name given to the plant by the Portuguese speaking people of Brazil. However the plant goes by a number of different names in various parts of the world, including paw paw and soursop. Its scientific name is annona muricata.
Among indigenous people, graviola is used as a cure-all for a number of seemingly unrelated conditions including arthritis, depression, to increase milk production in breast feeding women. It is also said to have significant antibiotic and antifungal properties, to kill intestinal worms, and to cure a number of other ailments. In recent years, graviola has been promoted as a possible cancer cure by a number of websites and practitioners of natural and alternative medicine. As a health supplement, graviola is sold as a powder, in pill form, or as a liquid tincture.
You may also be interested in these sites which discuss graviola. We do not control the content of these sites. Links to these external sites are provided as a convenience only and do not constitute endorsement of their content or any recommendation.
- CancerDefeated.com - Article about "The Cancer Cure that Grows on Trees" (graviola) with a lot of references to medical journal publications.
- Paw Paw Alternative Cancer Treatment Comparison - this website is not a scholarly site and some of the assumptions that it makes about various alternative treatments are not supported by solid medical evidence
- Rain-Tree.com - an online source of many Amazon herbs and plants including graviola.
Graviola and Cancer
Many websites claim, with little factual foundation, that not only is graviola is a cure for cancer but that this cure has been suppressed by drug companies because the cure cannot be patented since it is a natural product. According to one conspiracy theory which is circulating on the internet in various forms, a U.S. drug company discovered that graviola cured cancer but since it was unable to develop a product that could be patented, it abandoned the project and suppressed the results. According to the same conspiracy theory, the truth about the effectiveness of graviola was later leaked by an employee or in some versions an executive of this unnamed company who had a crisis of conscience.
In fact, while there is some cause for optimism, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that graviola is a cure for cancer. There have never been any studies on humans, and in particular there have never been any double blind studies to determine its effectiveness. Double blind studies are considered the gold standard of scientific and medical testing to determine the effectiveness of a drug. In these studies a group of patients is given a placebo (a sugar pill) while the other group is actually given the compound or drug being tested. Not even the doctors and scientists administering the test know which patients belong to which group, in order to prevent any tainting of the results. If the patients receiving the real drug do better than those receiving the placebo, then this is an indication that the drug actually works.
In the case of graviola, there have been some studies which show that it has anti-cancer effects similar to some commonly used chemotherapy agents. However these tests were only conducted in vitro, which is to say in a test tube, and on mice, rather than on living people. So while graviola was found by some studies to kill cancer, there is no way of knowing if it would work in humans or against a larger colony of cancer cells that has taken root.
Health Risks of Graviola
Proponents of graviola say that it is a "miracle" tree which can cure a number of ailments. They base these claims in large part on very limited studies which point to potential benefits but which have not been confirmed by any large scale studies. However it should be noted that some preliminary studies also suggest that graviola may have harmful effects. In particular, a study of populations where graviola is consumed as a regular part of the diet found that these populations have a higher rate of a certain form of Parkinson's disease, which suggests that graviola may be a cause or contributing factor to developing Parkinson's disease. Of course, this is only a preliminary study but anyone considering taking graviola simply on the basis of those studies which suggest a health benefit cannot at the same time ignore the health risks of graviola.
Health Benefits of Graviola
Despite the lack of any human studies, preliminary research suggests that graviola may fight cancer without damaging healthy cells, at least not as much as chemotherapy.
Here are summaries and links to some of the published research. It is important to note however that none of these studies is proof that graviola cures cancer or that it would have any benefit.
- A study conducted by Virginia Tech and published in a peer reviewed article entitled "Selective Growth Inhibition of Human Breast Cancer Cells in Graviola Fruit Extract in Vitro and In Vivo Involving EGFR Expression" [Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(5):795-801. Epub 2011 Jun 22.] found that graviola inhibited a certain growth factor receptor which is associated with high mortality in breast cancer cases, and which gives certain breast cancers protection against chemotherapy. It is thought that reducing this growth factor receptor might improve survival and the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. Note that this study does not at all claim that graviola cures cancer in and of itself.
- An article by B. Cassileth of the prestigious Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center noted that "Graviola demonstrated anticancer effects in vitro, but has not been studied in humans. Despite the lack of human data, many websites promote graviola to cancer patients based on traditional use and on the in vitro studies. Caution is required as there is no evidence of safety or efficacy."
- A number of studies at Purdue University in the United States have confirmed that graviola contains a phyochemical (plant chemical) known as annonaceous acetogenins, which have a powerful anti-cancer effect against a number of cancers including breast, lung and pancreatic cancer when tested in the lab. Here is the link to one study which finds that the compunds in graviola "have chemotherapeutic potential."
In these videos below, Dr. Jerry McLaughlin of Purdue University lectures about his research into the effectiveness of Paw Paw (the American plant version of graviola) for treating cancer. He describes his research using various human cancer cell lines. According to Dr. McLaughlin, paw paw is many times more potent than its cousin graviola.
This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended for the mitigation, cure, or treatment of medical conditions. Videos and Links to external sites are provided for convenience only and are not endorsed or recommended by the author of this article. I am not recommending that you use graviola. Always seek the advice of a qualified medical professional. This article does not provide any medical advice.
A number of studies suggest that graviola may have the potential to inhibit or cure cancer. However there have not been any studies on humans and the studies that have been published were limited to using rats or simply testing the graviola extracts on cancer cells growing in a test tube.
The history of cancer research is unfortunately full of promising compounds which upon further investigation have led nowhere. The reason is that many compunds and plants seem to kill cancer when tried on rats or in a petri dish, but they do not work when tried on real people. The reason is that the human body is extremely complex and cancers and drug therapies behave differently in the body than they do in the lab. Graviola may live up to its early promise but it may also be a false hope.